The Tone-Deaf Romney Gaffe

Ken AshfordClass Warfare, Election 2012Leave a Comment

If you haven't seen it yet, here is the interview in which Romney said he's "not concerned with the very poor."


As an sidenote, kudos to Soledad for actually hearing Romney say those words and asking him about it.  Good journalists listen, and Soledad is a good journalist.

The Romney camp, as well as Romney himself, seem perplexed by this.  "What's the big deal?" they seem to cry. "He didn't say that he doesn't care about the very poor.  Take what he said in context – he's saying there's a safety net (unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc), and he'll fix any problems if there are any in the safety net."

Yeah, we know what he said.  We know what he said in context.  It's still a problem.

First of all, the comment (even in context) suggests that the very poor are just fine with the safety net.  They're not.  As one TV commentor said, "Romney apparently thinks that the safety net is a hammock; it's not."  

As president, Romney should be concerned with the very poor, even if they have a safety net.  It's no fun being very poor, and the objective of any president is to see that there are as few "very poor" as possible.  It's the moral and responsible thing to do.  The "very poor" don't like being a burden on the rest of society, and the rest of the society (quite frankly) would prefer not to shoulder the burden of the "very poor" if at all possible thankyouverymuch.

Secondly, the comment plays into a narrative that already exists about Romney, i.e., that he is an out-of-touch elitist with an agenda that is heavily stacked to help the better-off within society.  Romney has to know this is the common perception of him, so why would he begin any sentence that has the words "I'm not concerned about the very poor"?  How dumb is that?

Even conservatives are scratching their heads about the sheer stupidity of the comment. The Weekly Standard's John McCormack called the former governor's comment "the most stunningly stupid remark of his campaign."

It's obvious that Romney's statement that he's "not concerned about the very poor" is incredibly tone-deaf. A candidate can say he's "focused" on the middle class without saying he's "not concerned" about the very poor, just as a candidate can say he's "focused" on the economy without saying he's "not concerned" about national security or even less vital issues like education.

But Romney's remark isn't merely tone-deaf, it's also un-conservative. The standard conservative argument is that a conservative economic agenda will help everyone…. Had Mitt Romney picked up his conservatism sooner, perhaps he would know these arguments by heart.

McCormack wasn't alone. Michelle Malkin was dismayed, as was The American Spectator and Rush Limbaugh. One conservative joked that Romney came across as "a really bad Stephen Colbert parody of a Republican," while Jonah Goldberg simply asked, "What is wrong with this guy?"

Good question.