The latest from the country club

    At first glance, Mitt Romney’s latest gaffe du jour – “I’m not concerned about the very poor” – seems quite minor. During his morning chat on CNN yesterday, he explained that the very poor are protected by a safety net, and “if it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” He then proceeded to emphasize, several times, that his 2012 focus is on helping the middle class.The problem, however, as cited by many on the right as well as the left, is that Romney continues to demonstrate that he has a tin ear. When he is unscripted, he keeps revealing his true self, the self that is emotionally distant from the travails of average people. In that sense, he is not a particularly good politician.Instinctively, a good politician running for president would not voluntarily say that he’s writing off a huge segment – roughly 15 percent – of the American people. He’d say instead that he wants to be president of all the people, regardless of age, race, or income. A good politician would insist that he wants to better the economic lot of all Americans; even a cliche like “a rising tide lifts all boats” would suffice. At minimum, a good politician would find a way to communicate empathy, to feel the pain of the very poor – as opposed to dismissively saying: “We will hear, from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor.”By the way, Romney was intellectually dishonest when he said that his dearth of concern for the very poor was prompted by the presence of a safety net. Who among us really believes that if the safety net needs repair, this guy would actually “fix it?” Romney has already declared his support for the Paul Ryan budget plan – which would potentially shred the safety net, starting with Medicaid.But the bigger problem is that Romney’s latest remark is part of a pattern. As the conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg lamented yesterday, “His language makes him seem like a caricature of a conventionally stiff country club Republican.” Rush Limbaugh also flipped out: “He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. And it’s gonna make it harder and harder and harder and harder to go after Obama because this turns around on him.” Rush is on to something. When Romney is unscripted and spontaneous, he sounds like who he really is: a one percenter who can’t relate to the 99.Which is why, in a casual debate moment, he offered to bet $10,000, an amount that would be coveted by the very poor; and why he dismissed his speech income of $374,000 as “not very much”; and why he sought to break the ice with some unemployed people by joking that “I’m also unemployed” (though jobless, he makes $57,000 a day from his investments); and why he said there was a time when he too dreaded getting the “pink slip” (though his campaign couldn’t cite an example); and why he said “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me” – yet another revealing choice of words, because that’s how an entitled guy worth $250 million thinks and talks.This latest flareup will soon burn out, only to be added to the lengthening list, suitable for retrieval when Mitt reveals himself again. I do question whether this pattern will damage him politically in an autumn campaign, especially if the jobless rate stays north of 8.5 percent, but there’s something disturbing about a master of the universe who grudgingly exhibits his capacity for empathy in one single passing phrase:”There’s no question, it’s not good being poor…”It’s almost enough to make you pine for some serious anti-poverty talk. But I guess John Edwards is unavailable.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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