Political Animal


September 26, 2012 4:04 PM Message: I Don’t Care

By Ed Kilgore

It’s probably not the best sign for Mitt Romney that his campaign is having to spend money and time convincing voters that he’s not an ogre. But that’s what it seems to be doing with a new ad entitled “Too Many Americans,” that includes this money quote from Mitt speaking direct-to-camera:

President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is that my policies will make things better for them.

Mitt was well enough rehearsed that he didn’t make the mistake George H.W. Bush did back in 1992, reading a campaign notation to an audience in New Hampshire by saying: “Message: I care.”

But that’s the idea. And it would have been a bit more compelling had it come a couple of years, or at least a few months, earlier. How hard is it to say, even if it’s a complete pretense, as a matter of deeply ingrained habit, that your proposed policies are always good for every single citizen? If Romney, of course, had a healthier, more trusting relationship with his conservative base, he would have never had to go over the brink into the politically perilous gambit of claiming to dislike the lazy looters of the 47%, instead of
promising them the tough love of enforced self-reliance. Even Paul Ryan knows how to play that game, as evidenced by his famous AEI speech expressing concern for the moral fiber of the poor.

So now Mitt’s got to re-establish his membership in the human race less than six weeks before Election Day. Since he’s very likely to resort to some seriously nasty attacks on Obama in the stretch run, I doubt it’s going to take. Maybe he should take his chances with expressing loyalty to the 53%, and forget the compassion.

Here’s a suggested theme song for the stretch run from Fear (warning: not family-friendly!):

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • boatboy_srq on September 26, 2012 4:13 PM:

    “Too Many Americans” is the GOTea position in a nutshell. The problem stems from what the GOTea wants to do about "too many Americans."

  • Leopold Von Ranke on September 26, 2012 4:24 PM:

    Must be somewhat discouraging when you've never been poor or middle class, and are trying to pretend to care about the poor and middle class, that you have to refer to us as "them."

  • jjm on September 26, 2012 4:30 PM:

    Has there ever been a con man who was less able to sound sincere?

  • Double D on September 26, 2012 4:35 PM:

    I watched the ad and it is the usual Mitt nonsense - the economy sucks, I have plan to fix it but I am not going to tell it what it is. I keep expecting Mitt while discussing the number of people who are unemployed and on food stamps to start cackling and then say, "Is it wonderful!!"

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on September 26, 2012 4:38 PM:

    Even Paul Ryan knows how to play that game, as evidenced by his famous AEI speech expressing concern for the moral fiber of the poor.

    Why is the "moral fiber" of the poor even a topic. I'm more concerned about the moral fiber of the uber-rich. I don't know if anyone has noticed, but rich can really fuck up a country (see Bain Capital, Koch & Co., the Great Recession 2008, BP oil spill, etc.). Just saying...

  • flwrshpgrl on September 26, 2012 4:40 PM:

    Policies?? What Policies? Haven't heard any details of your policies.

    So what makes you think I should trust you to help those you clearly disdain.

    Wolf or Shepard for the sheep - I bet wolf

  • Peter C on September 26, 2012 4:50 PM:

    It's too late; he's already said we're the 47%. He's already said he doesn't care.

    We know he's the 1%. We know how much the 1% 'cares'. They'll give themselves bailouts and huge tax break and then say, "There! All better now!"

    The Republicans have spent the past 4 years saying, "We can't do things to make things better; we can't AFFORD it. We've got DEFECITS! It would be Keynesian SOCIALISM - a sugar high - broken windows without a micro-foundation!

  • June on September 26, 2012 5:07 PM:

    What policies, Romney? The one that adds $5,000,000,0000,000 to the deficit so that you can reduce your tax burden to 1% or less? Or the one that "repeals Obamacare" and makes sure millions of middle-class and lower-income Americans get the shaft from insurance companies -- and that student loan debt once again becomes an overwhelming prospect. And on and on. And by the way, if you care about "them" so much, why didn't you so much as say boo to your wealthy CEO donor about his commanding the miners in his employ to lose a day's pay in order to try to make you look good?

  • Lucia on September 26, 2012 6:23 PM:

    He didn't have to "claim" to dislike the 47% if he didn't want to. The conventional wisdom on left and right seems to be that he was just putting on yet another mask to please yet another audience. I'm with Chait on this one: he was among the nearest thing he has to friends, and we saw the nearest thing he has to a true face.

  • caphilldcne on September 26, 2012 10:22 PM:

    Wow - Props for best use of Fear in a blog posting!! So true for Romney.

    I miss hardcore. Of course that's a musical style destined to burn itself out. who can keep it up all these years?

  • exlibra on September 26, 2012 10:32 PM:

    It's hard to thread a needle when you're blind, isn't it, Mitt?

  • Ben Hosen on September 26, 2012 11:05 PM:

    Nice work, Mr. Kilgore! I came here for the politics, but I stayed for the Punk Rock.

    OK, sarcasm, but a perfect song for Mitt nonetheless.

    Humbly I'd suggest "Kill the Poor" as anthem for the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver.

  • notoriousJRT on September 27, 2012 1:39 AM:

    Oh, Ed, do you really think Paul Ryan makes himself appear credibly to care about the struggles of poor people by concern trolling in a speech (in before the effing AEI, no less) about their "moral fiber"? What a load of crap. I know how I would respond to a politician who tells me his concern for my moral fiber is reason for me to trust and consider voting for him/her. It is simply the same lament as Romney's assertion that (try as he might) he will never be able to convince the 47% to take responsibility for and care about their lives. More moral fiber! Less whining and mooching!

    I also agree with those above who don't buy "the base" (aka devil) made Romney harsh on the 47%. That is how a "have" often views all "have nots." Romney is nothing if not a raging have. Don't get me wrong, he does much to play his voters, whom he views as pawns and for who he has absolutely no respect. I haven't heard him do it much this cycle, but in the 2008 primaries he regularly expressed disdain for his former constituents in Massachusetts. It was disgusting and my first clue that Romney is a person without political principles. He pursues the presidency as a personal entitlement. He would be a total joke if he weren't actually a viable candidate for that office. I know I am to your left, but, good grief, this race reveals more of the holes in this guy's character (such as it is) every day. I am convinced that what you see is what you get with this bastard. His moral fiber has never coalesced into a core. He is a political amoeba - with apologies to amoebas. He makes Dubya look good. Charlie Pierce is right. Romney cannot help himself because he thinks of the general public as the hired help - almost literally the great unwashed. He is about as craven as they come.