In a move that reduces political coverage to the level of playground taunts, Newsweek attempted to stir up controversy this week by calling Mitt Romney a wimp. The struggling magazine's cover is emblazoned with the headline "Romney: The Wimp Factor," and asks the question, "Is he just too insecure to be president?" Newsweek famously called George H.W. Bush a wimp in 1987 with a cover that generated a fair amount of controversy by tapping into the perception that Bush was less than manly. But Romney has already laughed off Newsweek's cover, saying he wouldn't lose any sleep over it, as has the media, mostly because the tag doesn't really resonate. Here, 5 ways Romney is not a wimp:
1. He insults his hosts
Newsweek's Michael Tomasky asserts that Romney's wimpiness was on full display during his recent visit to London, when he enraged many Britons by suggesting the they were unprepared to host the Olympic Games. The episode, Tomasky says, highlights the fact that Romney is both "lame" and "annoying." He keeps saying these "incredibly off-key things," then either apologizes insincerely or complains about subsequent attacks on him. "The one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps." The problem with Tomasky's argument, says Jonathan Chait at New York, is "that gratuitously insulting your hosts while subtly implying you could do their job better, whatever else is wrong with it, is the opposite of wimpiness."
2. He's an (alleged) bully
Tomasky cites an alleged incident from Romney's youth in which he "beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors." If true, the story would certainly indicate that Romney was a pretty mean kid, says Chait. "But not really a wimpy one." Tomasky's "premise here, again, is that nastiness and aggression are evidence of wimpiness, which distorts the term beyond all plausible meaning."
3. He destroys his political opponents
You're not really a "wimp if you punch back," says Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine. And Romney "laid the wood on Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum" during the Republican primary, carpet-bombing them with attack ads that killed their candidacies. Indeed, six months ago Newsweek portrayed Romney as Spartacus during his primary fight with Gingrich.
4. He destroys businesses
If you were to believe the Obama campaign's story, Romney is a "heartless vampire capitalist who eats businesses, chews up workers, and also buries his opponents in a slew of unfair, out-of-context attacks," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. And all of a sudden this "heartless uber-rich juggernaut" is a wimp?
5. He's confident to a fault
Romney is a pretty confident guy, so much so that it can get him into trouble, says Mirengoff. "His conspicuous consumption — the fancy new home with the car elevator, etc. — during the campaign tells me that Romney is not the least bit uncomfortable" about flaunting his wealth. It would have been politically shrewder — and a lot wimpier — to hide it.
Full disclosure: Sir Harold Evans, editor-at-large of The Week, is married to Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast.