Mark Twain's great line: "Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel" is clearly dated in the Internet age.
But it was hard not to think of that line Friday morning when reading The Wall Street Journal editorial board's reaction to potential Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's big health care speech in Ann Arbor in which he tried to explain that looking, walking and quacking like a duck doesn't necessarily make something a duck.
In his case he was trying to distinguish the individual mandate-containing health overhaul he signed into law as Massachusetts governor in 2006 from the federal health overhaul President Obama signed into law four years later.
Not only does the Journal dismiss Romney's speech as a failure but it also dismisses Romney's brief response to an earlier truly harsh Journal editorial bashing him mercilessly on the issue as a failure too.
It's hard not to get the feeling that this fight with the WSJ's editorial board is one Twain might have warned Romney away from.
The WSJ gives us a simile that may come to haunt Romney. They liken his attempt to stand behind his Massachusetts effort and oppose what he derides as "Obamacare" to daredevil Evel Knievel attempting to jump the Snake River on what he called his "sky-cycle," a jet-powered sled.
We won't be surprised if some Romney opponent starts sending someone wearing a red, white and blue crash helmet to Romney appearances.
Many people have tried to talk Mr. Romney down from this daredevil campaign act, but Mr. Romney privately says he doesn't want to reinforce the rap he had in 2008 that he had reinvented himself too often. As a political matter, however, we think it's better to change positions than to try to defend the intellectually indefensible.
Mr. Romney is not taking our advice, as his nearby letter shows. He even said yesterday that he would do it all over again in Massachusetts, which means he is in for a year in which Republicans attack him on policy while Democrats defend him on policy but attack him as a hypocrite. Who knows what GOP voters will make of all this, but we won't be surprised if Mr. Romney's campaign suffers as many broken bones (433) as Knievel.
Clearly, some of those Republicans who will be attacking Romney on policy over the next year if he decides to run, which seems a pretty small if right now, are the members of the WSJ editorial board. He can't say they didn't warn him.
Say this for Knievel, even though his stunts were insane, it was difficult not to watch him flirt with death. Maybe Romney, likewise, will keep people's interest as they watch to see if he can pull this one off.