As has been noted, the most remarkable thing about Mitt Romney’s line expressing his lack of interest in the poor was not that it managed to confirm, for the 10,000th time, the caricature of him as an out of touch plutocrat. It is that he managed, in the span of just 20 words—“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it”—to say something that was substantively offensive to people on both the left and the right. From the left came the retort, expressed as well by Jonathan Cohn as anyone, that the very poor in fact remain in need of our concern, that the problems of Romney’s vaunted middle class in fact blur a lot more with those of the poor than his glib formulation suggests, and that his own proposals would hurt both groups. From the right comes alarm that Romney is so accepting of the status quo of the safety net—he should be proposing a vision of growth that will lift up even the poor: ending poverty with wealth, as it were.
This leads me to the first Stump contest of the 2012 campaign: a challenge to readers to come up with another 20 word utterance that would have managed to offend both left and right and been completely politically tone deaf at the same time (by that I mean, not some poll-tested centrist namby pamby like: “We must hold teachers to higher standards but also must pay them more.”) I mean a full-on gaffe that is highly irritating to both ends of the spectrum, all in just 20 words.
TNR subscribers can simply offer their entry in the comments below. Other contestants can send them to me by email at email@example.com.
To the winner goes a carton of Romney’s favorite chocolate milk.
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