The headlines just hours after Mitt Romney's trouncing of Newt Gingrich in Florida could be better. Romney is getting a lot of attention for a line from his interview with CNN this morning. He said:
"I'm not concerned about the very poor."
So of course everyone is flipping out. Two points in defense of his comment. The full context absolutely makes it better. The full quote:
"We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."
Reporters should stop ripping lines out of context and publicizing them under the banner "This could look bad." They should just report the news, not tell people what to think about it. Further, the idea that the very poor are taken care of by an extensive safety net is what the vast majority of Democrats have been saying for decades. That the media would be so upset when Romney says it annoys me.
And yet, this line also shows why so many of us are not exactly excited by a candidate Romney. Even if it weren't ill-advised to let these words come out of your mouth, ever, it's the underlying sentiment that gets me.
It bothers me both that a president would say "if" the safety net needs fixing, he'll look at it, suggesting that he believes the welfare state actually does a good job taking care of the poor.
As The Weekly Standard's John McCormack points out, "The safety net DOES need repair. The poor DO need jobs. The Obama economy and debt hurt the poor too. Stupid thing to say. As Paul Ryan says, when a debt crisis hits the elderly and the poor are hit the worst and the first. If it needs repair? Like we're not on the verge of a debt crisis? Like Medicaid in its current form is smart?"
I want a president who wants to reform our welfare state because he is worried about the very poor in our midst and he recognizes how poorly the federal government has handled their plight, frequently making it worse. I want a president who always thinks that a man should have a job over a safety net and remembers to talk about that at every opportunity.
I know that Mitt Romney didn't mean to sound cavalier and heartless. I don't think it was a sparkling moment of presidential politics to announce on national television that he's not concerned about the poor. But just last night he gave a speech with a powerful message about jobs and the future of the country. He should have remembered a few of those lines for his morning interview with CNN.