I don’t much like the attention that has been paid recently to Mitt Romney’s comment about the poor. I don’t much like Mitt either, but this is too much. It hasn’t been that long since a staffer for an agency in Washington D. C. complained that a particular budget item was “niggardly.” Among the people who called for his head were people who didn’t know that niggardly is an English word derived from several Scandinavian languages and that it mean “scanty” and “inadequate.” Others apparently knew what it meant, but thought the staffer should have had better sense than to use a word that could be abused by others. He was “insensitive,” according to this line of attack. Not as bad as “racist,” of course, but bad enough to get you fired.
Let’s just agree first on what Gov. Romney said. He said: I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. … I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine. … I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who, right now, are struggling. …
That’s what he said. When the Obama campaign releases its response ridiculing those lines and focusing especially on the “I’m not concerned about the…poor” fragment, I say, “Oh well, that’s politics.” When news organizations seize on the same fragment in the same way, I say, “Wait a minute. Aren’t you supposed to be “reporting” the news?”
To my mind, this is not a test of Mitt Romney. He is going to continue to say things that bring attention to just the parts of his campaign he wants to mute. This is about the piling on. This is about who is a part of the campaign to re-elect President Obama and who is part of the news business.
Here’s a scene from a western that came to my mind as I was reflecting on this episode. The western is Blue-eyed Devil, by Robert Parker. General Laird is running for mayor of the town of Appaloosa. He has hired a gun hand, Chauncey Teagarden, to make sure his opponent doesn’t get nasty. The opponent does get nasty, of course, since he is the novel’s principal villain. Here’s the way the scene goes. A heckler in the crowd yells at General Laird”
“I say you are a back-shooting, barn-burning, gray-bellied coward. Anybody gonna tell me no?
“I am,” Chaucey said.
“And who the hell are you?”
“General Laird is a gentleman,” Chauncey said. “He is not a murderous thug. He is not going to descend to a street fight with you.”
“And you?” the man with the black beard said.
“I am a murderous thug,” Chaucey said.
That is the distinction that interests me at the moment. I know what Gov. Romney said. I know what he meant and so does everyone else. I want to see Mitt’s plans, as they affect “the very poor” examined and I wouldn’t mind seeing them ridiculed. I am sure they will continue to be ridiculed. That’s the job of the Democratic Party, of Newt Gingrich (currently) of the committee to re-elect President Obama, and liberal interests all over the country. They are the murderous thugs. They have a job to do and boy are they doing it.
But in the interest of public debate, could we just have the news organizations stand pack a couple of feet? It might give them a little perspective and there will still be room for the murderous thugs.