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Posted at 01:00 PM ET, 01/11/2012

Mitt Romney’s irksome rhetoric in New Hampshire


After congratulating Mitt Romney on his historic win last night, I wrote that there was so much irksome rhetoric in his victory harangue that I would come back to it later. Well, later has arrived. While Romney’s words were optimistic, his tone was grating, angry even. And there were three specific passages from his TelePrompTer-assisted address that were particularly bothersome.

‘Politics of envy’

ROMNEY: This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.

Matt Lauer of the “Today” show pushed Romney on this point this morning: “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?” When Romney said it was “about envy” and “about class warfare,” Lauer correctly asked, “But envy? Aren’t there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?”

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You know, I think it is about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. . . . I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and tax policy and the like. But the president made it part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking millionaires, billionaires, executives and Wall Street. It’s an envy-oriented approach and I think it will fail.

Fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms? Au contraire, as the fluent-in-French Romney might say when no one is looking. Income inequality must be debated openly, loudly and as frequently as possible until something is done to stop the yawning gap between the mega-rich and everyone else.

Obama has been talking about income inequality since he was a senator with his eyes on a presidential run. “While some have prospered beyond imagination in this global economy,” he said in Iowa in November 2007, “middle-class Americans — as well as those working hard to become middle-class — are seeing the American dream slip further and further away,”

Since then, reports have come out that starkly illustrate what he was talking about. A Post “special report” on breakaway wealth last June focused on how executive pay is driving the widening gap “between those with the highest incomes and everyone else.”

A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last month showed “the highest level of income inequality in more than three decades,” according to The Post. “The United States, Turkey and Israel have among the largest ratios between the incomes of those at the top and the bottom, roughly 14 to 1.”

Republicans who deny the phenomenon or its ill effects would do well to recall the admonition of Mr. Obama’s predecessor. “We have an obligation to help ensure that every citizen shares in the country’s future,” George W. Bush said in 2007. “The fact is that income inequality is real....And the question is whether we respond to the income inequality we see with policies that help lift people or tear others down. The key to rising in this economy is skills, and the government’s job is to make sure we have an education system that delivers them.” That is closer in spirit to Mr. Obama’s message in Kansas than to the anti-government rhetoric of this year’s Republican candidates.

After last night and this morning, Romney made it clear that he is fine with denial.

‘Appeasement’

ROMNEY: Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy. He believes America’s role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. I believe a strong America must – and will – lead the future.

You know what, I’ll let the president speak for himself on this one. I draw your attention to the video below of Obama in the White House Briefing Room on Dec. 8.

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Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever’s left out there. Ask them about that.

‘Apologizes for America’

ROMNEY: He apologizes for America; I will never apologize for the greatest nation in the history of the Earth.

This is the ugly cousin of birtherism that feeds on the myth that Obama is an “other” who hates America and is illegitimately sitting in the Oval Office. Glenn Kessler, The Post Fact Checker, gave this nonsense four Pinocchios last month. “The apology tour never happened,” wrote Kessler, who picked apart all the specious “Obama’s ‘Apology Tour’” claims.

There are a few other things the all-but-certain-to-be nominee Romney said last night that deserve highlighting. And I might come back to them at some point. But I highlight these because nothing strikes emotional chords in a skittish electorate like “envy,” “appeasement” and talk of their president who “apologizes” to other countries. Distorting the president’s statements and record are to be expected. That the ideologically promiscuous Romney would go to these lengths this early and this quickly shows once again that he’ll do anything to get elected.

By  |  01:00 PM ET, 01/11/2012

 
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