Wishing for One Hundred Percent

The main problem with Mitt Romney’s statement about the forty-seven percent is that it gives up on a big group of Americans.

This is not the conservatism of Reagan or Burke. It is isn’t even the conservatism I find attractive. Like Mr. Obama’s comments about bitter Bible-clingers, it was off-the-cuff and foolish.

Great leaders, in their hearts, believe that most decent people are persuadable. Excellent representatives find it hard to “give up” on any citizen, because they hope that every citizen is persuadable. Mr. Romney sounds as if he has “written off” almost half of the American population.

If you are not George Washington, you know as a pragmatic matter that a huge number of Americans are not “reachable,” but you never much think about it. That is the job for your political strategists, a breed that hardly is tolerable to a leader. Instead, a good President is a teacher . . . a great teacher . . . and in his heart thinks any good person is reachable.

For all his faults, Bill Clinton like Ronald Reagan projected that trait all the time. It can become pride, leading Clinton to talk too much, but it is more endearing than off-putting most of the time in a leader.

Put it this way: every teacher knows statistically that a big chunk of the class in front of her will fail and has bad habits. A good teacher, even after many years, finds it hard to believe anyway . . . every class will be awesome. She tries to win them all. Romney projects a “giving up” on others and that is offensive.

I never met a student I don’t hope will love Plato if I just work harder.

Mr. Romney comes across as callous and as “giving up” on half the nation. I don’t think he is hard-hearted and anybody who goes on a mission’s trip to France cannot be pessimistic, but Mr. Romney blew it in this fundraising pitch.

Finally, Mr. Romney conflates all forms of “help” and argues all contribute to making a person a dependent. Surely, this is not true of our veterans or most Americans on Social Security.

Mr. Romney’s comments should not be blown out of context of his life of service or out proportion to the other issues we face. I think they are awkward and conflate all kinds of issues. . . but Joe Biden proves saying silly things is not incompatible with political success and Romney has used up far few passes than Obama or Biden. Some of what he implies or says is defensible, but the good will be lost in the bad. Most Americans in a Facebook era know that tolerance for folly or off-hand comments must come with the territory.

The off-hand Romney comments were foolish, but not fatal anymore than President Obama’s off-hand follies are fatal.

Most of us are fortunate not to be followed by cameras. But in dealing with friends and families in an on-line world, we need to remember that folks sometimes say things they don’t mean in informal situations. I have no reason to think people speak their “deep truth” in off the cuff moments anymore than I think that “in wine there is truth.” People’s best selfs are usually what they use to make their important decisions. All of us say remarkably careless, hurtful things when we are “just talking.”

That doesn’t make it right, but it does mean that when I vote for Mr. Romney I will not do so because I think he has never said or done a wrong thing. My friends voting for Mr. Obama must acknowledge the same! Meanwhile, the world is in turmoil and we are slipping back into a recession. My thought: let’s vote for the team most fit to deal with those issues.

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