In an interview last Thursday with Reno, Nevada, station KTVN, Ann Romney said her chief concern with her husband winning the presidency would be his "mental well-being," adding, "I have all the confidence in the world in his ability, in his decisiveness and his leadership skills, in his understanding of the economy, in his understanding of what's missing right now in the economy - you know, pieces that are missing to get this jumpstarted. So for me I think it would just be the emotional part of it."
Obviously, in context, she was not suggesting her husband couldn't handle stress well, just that she knows the presidency is a stressful job and would be emotionally taxing on the man she loves. But to MSNBC's Martin Bashir, it was an opportunity to run a segment on his October 1 program where he strongly suggested that Romney may not be mentally fit for duty as president. [MP3 audio here; video embedded at bottom of post]
Opening his segment entitled "Being Willard Romney," Bashir asked Ana Marie Cox of the left-wing British paper The Guardian:
Mrs. Romney has expressed concerns about her husband's mental well-being, but do you get the feeling that perhaps there's more to this than she's saying?
For her part, Cox seemed a bit taken aback by Bashir's query:
Well, well, Martin, I actually think this is sort of one area where I'm hesitant to mock too much.
Bashir quickly jumped in by adding that he was dead serious:
I'm not asking you to mock, Ana Marie, I'm asking you a serious question. No, I'm not asking you to mock.
His wife has said, and volunteered, that her number one concern for her husband is his mental health and mental well-being. I'm asking you do you think that she knows things about him that provoke that kind of concern?
Rather than attack Bashir for taking Romney out of context or for hitting below-the-belt with a nakedly-partisan cheap shot, Cox gave a diplomatic response where she noted that Romney seems to handle campaign stress pretty well and that he certainly handled well the incredible stress of the world of private equity finance. Cox held out that Romney "seems like the kind of guy who's really hard on himself, so, maybe she is concerned for him."
Bashir tried again with his other guest, the Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart:
Jonathan, as this campaign has progressed, I've noticed that Mr. Romney has become increasingly impatient and testy, particularly when asked polite questions by the media. Is it therefore fair to assume that Mr. Romney does have difficulties when the pressure on him increases. Cause we've heard David Axelrod describe the presidential campaign as an MRI for the soul.
"I don't fault him for being testy," the liberal Post writer answered, chalking up Romney's demeanor to troublesome polling data. Capehart didn't seem to outright accept Bashir's premise that Romney was not mentally suited for the pressures of the presidency, but he also failed, like Cox, to chastise Bashir for his low blow.
Earlier in the October 1 program as well as at the close of the same, Bashir dismissed the notion that the media are biased against Republican, going so far as to suggest -- during his Clear the Air commentary -- that if anything the media are biased in the GOP's favor.
Bashir's deliberate ripping of Mrs. Romney out of context -- and his rampant, baseless speculation about Mitt Romney's mental health -- show that it's Bashir who's the one who's sick in the head.