[h/t Greg Sargent]
Mitt Romney was given at least two opportunities to walk back his "politics of envy" remarks from his New Hampshire speech last night, but instead chose to affirm it this morning on The Today Show. Here's what he said:
QUESTIONER: When you said that we already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy, I’m curious about the word envy. Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or fairness?
ROMNEY: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. The American people, I believe in the final analysis, will reject it.
QUESTIONER: Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?
ROMNEY: I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the President has made it part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail.
I realize that Mitt Romney has no clue what it might be like to have limited opportunity in this country, but the politics of envy? Really? I also realize he's trying to frame himself as the heir apparent for the nomination and run against the President now, but the fact is, people are really concerned about where we are, and the fact that the money boys control far too much wealth and opportunity in this society.
And then there are quiet rooms, where tax policy should be discussed, because clearly the common people shouldn't be concerning their precious selves over something like tax policy? Mitt Romney's problem is that he truly doesn't understand any perspective but his own.
Not a gaffe. It’s what he believes. Last week he said “productivity equals income.”
But the point is, it hasn’t for the typical American worker over the last three decades, and, particularly, over the last decade.
This is the central challenge of our time, and he doesn’t get it.
It appears as though the election is shaping up to contrast the messages of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, provided, of course, we confine the tax policy to quiet rooms where the elite discuss tax policy.
And, as was noted in the clip above, by framing Barack Obama as the fomenter of envy-laden politics while also painting him as a European-style socialist, he gets to insinuate that the guy in the White House isn't a real American, like Romney is.
I somehow doubt this message will resonate with too many people as the campaign wears on. It's just difficult to imagine Mittens telling us he feels our pain while he's also telling us we envy others who have no pain.