Romney Town Hall Shows Risks Of Handing Voters The Mic

In an age when presidential campaigns are typically heavily scripted, town-hall style meetings are anything but.

The upside is that you get the informality of the candidate interacting with regular voters as he or she fields their questions and seems accessible. The downside is you never know what a voter handed the microphone will say.

Mitt Romney, who appears well on his way to becoming the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, got a taste of that risk at a Monday event at a Euclid, OH manufacturing company.

A woman asked Romney accused Obama of taking extraconstitutional actions and asked Romney what he planned to do to “restore balance” between the branches of government. Of course, she didn’t also throw into the mix, after being prodded by someone else in the audience apparently, that she thought Obama should be tried for treason.

In his answer, Romney sidestepped the whole treason issue, and ridiculed the president for a statement Obama made some weeks back in which the president appeared to call into question the Supreme Court’s by now well-established power to nullify acts of Congress..

Later, when a reporter asked him why he hadn’t rejected the woman’s call for a treason trial a la Sen. John McCain four years ago correcting a woman who said Obama was Muslim at a similar town-hall style event, Romney shook his head, said “no” and added that “I don’t correct all the questions that get asked of me. I obviously don’t agree he should be tried.”

(Some of the online response from those defending Romney’s action or inaction falls into the category of “both sides do it.” Some defenders point to an unverified report that Romney was called a traitor by someone in the crowd attending an Obama campaign event in Ohio over the weekend.)

Anyway, the Obama campaign saw an opportunity and it took it it. Ben LaBolt, press secretary for Obama for America, tweeted:

“Once again today, @MittRomney stood by silently as his surrogates and supporters made extreme statements & attacked the President’s family”

LaBolt’s mention of family was a reference to a comment by the man who introduced Romney at the event, Ohio auditor Dave Yost. That Buckeye State Republican criticized the president and Michelle Obama for a trip to New York early in the presidency for a night out on the town.

Yost didn’t stop there. He also belittled Obama’s role in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, likening the president to a famous fast-food clown.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this about Yost’s comments:

“A Romney backer, Yost told a crowd of more than 500 that giving the president credit for bin Laden’s death would ‘be like giving Ronald McDonald credit for the Big Mac you had for lunch. Everyone knows it’s the man working the griddle, not the man on TV.’ “

Then there was the man in the audience who asked Romney to explain why he paid taxes abroad.

MAN: “Thanks for taking my question., In this age of tough foreign competition, I think you would agree that we need to invest smart in America to help our country grow and get stronger. Based on that, I’d appreciate your comments on an investing strategy that seems to have resulted in several million dollars of your personal income taxes being paid to foreign countries instead of ours. And I’m referring to page 169 of your 2010 income tax return where you took over $1.5 million in foreign tax credits in ten years. Appreciate your comments.”

ROMENY: “I’ll look at it. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I didn’t think I paid any foreign income taxes. But I’ll be glad to take a look at it.”

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