Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Politics of Soundbites.

I hate “gotcha” politics.

I long for a mythical era when people of good intent could discuss their differences rationally, and not look for every sound bite that can be taken out of context and used to bludgeon their opponent.*  I want people to be judged on the content of their ideas, not the particular phrasing of their statements.

I never thought that I would be saying this, but Mitt Romney is being treated unfairly.

In an interview after the Florida primary, Romney was quoted as saying “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”  Shocking! Cold-hearted!  And this from a man who aspires to be President!

Republican opponents, Democrats and liberals (the last two are not interchangeable) jumped all over this.  People were quick to make metaphorical political hay while the spotlight shone brightly on the beleaguered Republican frontrunner.

The problem is that that statement was part of a larger sentence that puts Romney in a different light.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor,” Romney said… and then went on “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. "

That is a much different statement.  Does Romney have a grasp on just how tattered the safety net is and what poor support it offers for people who depend on it? Probably not.  Will whatever solution he has to fix the holes work? Given his views, I think probably not.  But believing that the safety net takes care of the very poor so that we don't need to concentrate on them as much is not the same as saying that the very poor can go hang.

I don’t necessarily think Romney is a cold-hearted man.  I think he may be out of touch with how most people live,** but then I think that of all of the GOP’s candidates.  He is the only one that I think is rational, which quite frankly counts for more than his occasional missteps.

And seriously, compared with Gingrich hinting that millionaires are eligible for food stamps and that one could go to Hawaii on them, or that young people have a bad work ethic and that students should be made to serve as janitors in schools (ignoring the real, hard, full-time work that goes into being a janitor) – who is more out of touch? And more to the point, who is likely to hurt the country less? A man who believes in fixing the holes in the safety net, or someone who questions whether it should exist at all?

*I know this is mythical: see Wikipedia on  the 1824 and 1828 elections.  In some ways, the nastiness of today’s politics has nothing on that period of American history.
**That betting Perry 10K thing?  I still can’t understand what people find so offensive about that.  Romney has the money, Perry has the money, and unless you find gambling inherently sinful, that money is theirs to do with as they please. Do people really not know how wealthy these guys are?

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