The Washington Post

Mitt Romney and the Etch a Sketch

Amazing how quickly you can attain stardom. (This isn’t the one I interviewed.) (Bill Haber/Associated Press)

On Wednesday morning, Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney adviser, likened the fall campaign to an Etch a Sketch. “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom said. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”


The comment has been blowing up on Twitter and among the commentariat and pretty much everywhere else it is possible to blow up.

After talking to Satan about Rick Santorum, I was lucky enough to secure an interview with an Etch a Sketch about Mitt Romney.

All this should be taken with a grain of salt, of course. There are many Etches a Sketch, and the views of one do not necessarily represent the views of all. I found a broken Etch a Sketch that had been unable to shake and change its picture since 1993 sometime, and it was an adamant supporter of Rick Santorum and said that the Romney campaign was full of lies. Then it tried to burn me at the stake as a witch. But that’s another story.

I haven’t found any Etch a Sketches supporting Newt Gingrich, although several eggs of Silly Putty were adamantly in favor of him, and I found a hula hoop that favored Ron Paul.

That being said, here’s what it told me.

Q: So, Mr. Sketch.

A: Please, call me Etch.

Q: Oh, so it’s going to be one of those awkwardly jokey interviews that are only mildly funny and don’t resemble real dialogue at all.

A: Yes. Why do you think they compared me to the Romney campaign?

Q: I thought it was because of your flexibility of position.

A: No. Have you ever used an Etch a Sketch?

Q: Er, not in the past decade.

A: Do you realize how hard it is to get an image out of one of us?

Q: Hard?

A: Somewhat hard, in my experience. One must shake vigorously, sometimes exciting comment among passersby. I don’t know when Eric Fehrnstrom last used an Etch a Sketch, but it seems to me that if you’ve shaken and reset as many times as Mitt has, you’d be sort of stuck with your image at this point.

Q: Ah.

A: But there are other reasons to link me with Romney. He named a son after me, after all.

Q: Er.

A: Is there not an Etch Romney? I really thought there was.

Q: Afraid not.

A: Sketch Romney?

Q: No.

A: Ah. Well. Hmm. Pity.

Q: Tell me about yourself.

A: The Etch a Sketch is red, gray and full of aluminium. We were a favorite pastime of baby boomers. Like Mr. Romney himself, we were never unduly hip, not even in our heyday. We come of honorable, if vaguely French lineage, and it distresses me that to be compared to one of us would strike the campaign such a blow. Why not say, I don’t know, Newt Gingrich is like Silly Putty — he tends to pick up newsprint and has been spotted on the moon?

At this point Etch a Sketch became so shaken with emotion that it forgot the interview, and we had to start again from the top.

Q: Do you think this is damning? A lot of people are saying it’s damning to be compared to an Etch a Sketch by someone in your own campaign.

A: Are you kidding? To be compared to an Etch a Sketch is the greatest compliment one can bestow. The true mark of greatness is the ability to forget, as someone once said. I forget who.

Q: But do you think voters might fear that if they approached Mr. Romney and shook him vigorously, he might try to nationalize health care or shoot the Federal Reserve chairman?

A: Well, look here, that’s a stereotype.

Q: I mean, that is what happens when you shake an Etch a Sketch. You —

A: It’s not like he’s been called a yo-yo or a pog.

At this point Etch a Sketch became so shaken that we had to start from the top again. But I felt that we already had all the information required.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Sketch.

A: Please, call me Etch.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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