The Politics of Soundbites.

I hate “gotcha” politics.

I long for a mythical era when people of good intent coulddiscuss their differences rationally, and not look for every sound bite thatcan be taken out of context and used to bludgeon their opponent.*  I want people to be judged on the content oftheir 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 quotedas saying “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”  Shocking! Cold-hearted!  And this from a man who aspires to bePresident!

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

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

“I’m not concerned about the very poor,” Romney said… and thenwent 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 tatteredthe 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, Ithink 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 acold-hearted man.  I think he may be outof touch with how most people live,** but then I think that of all of the GOP’scandidates.  He is the only one that Ithink is rational, which quite frankly counts for more than his occasionalmissteps.

And seriously, compared with Gingrich hinting that millionaires are eligible for food stamps and that one could go to Hawaii on them, or thatyoung 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 intobeing a janitor) – who is more out of touch? And more to the point, who islikely to hurt the country less? A man who believes in fixing the holes in thesafety net, or someone who questions whether it should exist at all?
*I know this is mythical: see Wikipedia on  the 1824 and 1828elections.  In some ways, the nastinessof today’s politics has nothing on that period of American history.
**That betting Perry 10K thing?  I still can’t understand what people find sooffensive about that.  Romney has the money,Perry has the money, and unless you find gambling inherently sinful, that moneyis theirs to do with as they please. Do people really not know how wealthythese guys are?
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