Depending on whom you read — and whether or not you listen to Mitt Romney himself — the Republican candidate is not doing well in the race for the highest office in the land. He spends a great deal of time these days taking his large foot out of his mouth and trying to unsay the stupid things he either did or did not say. He seems inept on such a large stage. As some wag recently noted, it’s remarkable that even with the golden spoon he was born with in his mouth he still finds room for his foot.
In any event, a recent editorial in the New York Times was speaking to this point when it mentioned in two key paragraphs what seem to be the central issues in Mitt’s slippage.
To some extent, Mr. Romney’s diminishing stature is because of two recent statements that revealed his deficiencies to a newly interested audience. He falsely suggested that the Obama administration was sympathetic to the violent Muslim protests in Libya and Egypt, illustrating his ignorant and opportunistic critique of foreign policy. And he was caught on video belittling nearly half the country for an overreliance on government handouts.
These moments, though, were not fumbles or gaffes. They were entirely consistent with the dismissive attitude Mr. Romney has routinely shown toward non-Americans or the nonrich. Now even long-undecided voters are starting to catch on and dismiss him.
The two points referred to in the first paragraph have received a great deal of attention, as well they should. But it is the reference to the “dismissive” attitude that caught my interest. I think this is right on. Apologists for Romney have been quick to explain that Romney’s comments have been taken out of context and that may well be the case. But the attitude that is reflected in the comments doesn’t require a context: it reappears in numerous off-the-cuff remarks and even in prepared statements and they reveal a man who really doesn’t care about those who are different from him and his wealthy friends. Such people don’t seem to appear on his radar — except as something to avoid as much as possible. And this is deeply disturbing.
We cannot expect politicians to be compassionate, I suppose, or to care for all of the people in this country — given the extreme heterogeneity of our teeming masses. But one can expect that a man or a woman who runs for the highest office in the land would include under the umbrella of his or her concerns large numbers of the people who will make up their constituency. I speak about the poor and disadvantaged. And the president assuredly must also be vitally interested in and knowledgeable about those in other countries whose fate is closely woven into the interests of the country he or she hopes to lead into a shrinking world. One would like to think that even politicians can show concern for people different from themselves.
But Mitt Romney does seem to give off the aura of a man who has led a protected life with all the advantages enjoyed by the wealthy in this country — with his tunnel vision focused on jobs and the economy and his delusions about how the rich make it on their own and the poor must lie on the bed of their own making. And this despite the fact that he likes to present himself as one who worked his way through college and knows how the other half lives. If in fact Romney is slipping in the polls and in the end he loses this election, this editorial comes as close to anything I have read to an explanation as to why the undecided voters in this country are finding it hard to cozy up to this man and think of him as the one they want leading their country in uncertain times. And this despite the fact that a weak economy has historically meant a change in leadership in this country. We seem to be witnessing something new in American history.