During an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, Ann Romney, wife of the presumed Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, made what most would consider to be an “Oops!” moment, when answering a question posed by Roberts about the Romney’s and the conditions behind their decision to release only 2 years of tax returns for public review. Through the course of the response to Roberts’ question, Mrs. Romney practically admits that there would be, within additional years’ tax returns, “ … so many things that will be open again for more attack ...” But that phrase, while it will most likely bear a great deal more scrutiny in the near future, wasn’t the one that made internet and talk radio ‘headlines’ within minutes of their utterance. No. What will be remembered, this day, is she then went-on to refer to the news media (and possibly Robin Roberts specifically) as “you people” … “We've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life.”
It deserves mentioning that the phrase “you people” has long been considered to be a racial slur, particularly when the words are directed toward someone of African American descent. It essentially delineates a social distinction that the person utters the words is believed to hold toward those who lack wealth or a lower social order (rich vs. poor, white vs. black). With respect to Mrs. Romney and her interview with Roberts, It is also worth mentioning that Roberts is, in fact, African American.
I don’t believe that Mrs. Romney is a racist, or is bigoted towards others of different ethnicities. I do believe, however, that Mrs. Romney does suffer from a similar kind of ‘elitism’ that plagues her husband. What is surprising about her “slip-up” is that up to this point in the campaign Mrs. Romney has been given a pretty significant degree of latitude with regard to her public comments and interview responses. Most Americans admit that, while Mrs. Romney is part of the very wealthy Romney family, it has been a safe bet that she was not used to the level of scrutiny that presidential candidates and their spouses receive from the news media and the voters. And so, when she would say something ‘inarticulately,’ or when she would make an ‘inartful’ comment, it has been largely shrugged-off. Not anymore.
The days of giving Mrs. Romney credit for facing an inordinate amount of intrusiveness by the news media, and allowing her to make verbal gaffes without calling her on the content of what she has said. No. Disdain for those who do not “measure up,” money- and class-wise, is now going to be hung squarely around both Romney’s necks from this point forward. As well they should be. While I’ve no doubt that Mrs. Romney does not think Robin Roberts of ABC News, as an African American, is any less of a human being as she herself is, I also do not doubt that Mrs. Romney firmly believes that people like herself and her husband … people of significant wealth … are “better people” than those of lesser means. Mrs. Romney most likely feels that people of wealth have undertaken a great deal of effort by which they have been able to amass their money; that they deserve to be regarded as “special” because they’re smarter than the “average person,” and are willing to do whatever it takes to garner those financial resources. It’s fine that she feels that way. It’s not likely that anything anyone says will change her myopic and “stuck-up” views. It’s not fine that she, even if she were not the wife of a presidential candidate, publicly holds herself and those like her and her husband to be somehow “above” most everyone else.
I consider myself a pretty reasonable individual. I am happy to give a person a break when they get tripped-up by a question posed to them by a member of the news media. But I cease being quite so reasonable when I get the very strong impression that the person who is “slipping-up” is doing so while they’re looking down their nose at “the rest of us.” I do not care what someone thinks about me within the confines of their mind. But I do care if they publicly express a conclusion they hold about me that is not a true reflection of who I am. Mrs. Romney can hold as much disdain and disregard for us “poor folk” as she would like. But she should do so within the confines of her mind, or within the company of others like herself. Not in public. And certainly not as the wife of a presidential candidate … the person that is essentially auditioning as “America’s mom.” She can be a stuck-up boor. But I would prefer that she not do so while she is trying to convince voters that she cares … she really, really cares about “all of us.” She doesn’t. And to suggest otherwise is simply dishonest.