The story going around is that Mitt Romney, while meeting with some flooding victims in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, told one to call the 211 public service number.
I’m not going to bash Romney for that. The people working on the 211 line may well be able to help the woman he was talking to, and though it’s a good point that the woman didn’t have a home left from which she could make the call, it is the age of cell phones, and someone can probably put her in touch with 211.
Instead, I’d like to use this whole hubbub as an example of what American political culture has been reduced to.
The nontraditional media is the variety of media spreading this story – it comes originally from Huffington Post, a source long identified as a “liberal” news source. Other news sources have largely not picked up the story, though there are also no indications that the story is false. Nevertheless, as long as it’s only Huffington Post and other “liberal” sources that are running the story, it will not be believed.
To the extent that the traditional media have picked up the story, they have largely avoided commenting on the 211 comment. The story I have linked here is the Chicago Tribune’s. The Trib is, as all of its readers know, a conservative newspaper. However, since it is a traditional newspaper, it will be considered what they call on Wikipedia a “reliable source” and be believed. Consequently, most people in the US this morning will gloss over the 211 comment, and if they encounter it at all, it will largely be through someone like me, a committed “ideological” type. Because of that, they will dismiss the comment’s importance.
The reason I picked up on the Chicago Tribune version of events is because I read a right-wing blog pointing out that the same individual to whom Romney made the 211 comment seems, in the Chicago Tribune version of events, either pleased or at least noncommittal about what Romney had said to her. In this woman’s words: “He said that he was going to do the best that he could for us.”
That does seem to imply that Romney didn’t come off to this woman as being callous or unconcerned, as the “go home and call 211” comment Huffington Post quoted seems to imply.
Nevertheless (and if this comment makes you want to turn me off as a “liberal”, fine), even in the Chicago Tribune version, we have this chestnut, regarding a conversation with a man about the strength of the local levees: “At the end of the conversation, Romney encouraged people in the area to ensure the man’s needs were taken care of.”
Romney encouraged _people in the area_ to ensure the man’s needs were taken care of? Excuse me, Mr. Romney, but if that’s the solution, why are you paying a visit? If this is just something for Louisiana to handle on its own, or for the Jean Lafitte city council to handle on its own, or the local churches to handle on their own, or the local families-kin networks to handle on their own, then why would anyone feel the need to even be talking to you right now, in the middle of a crisis situation?
The reason people were talking to you is because, as someone they thought might have an outside chance at being elected president of their country, they thought you might be able to help them. You. Not a thousand points of local light. You, someone running to lead the big bad state in Washington.
We shouldn’t distort things to suggest that the 211 comment was the only thing he said to the citizens of Jean Lafitte – but it is pretty clear, from everyone’s interpretations, that Romney peddled the same Republican BS while he was in town. He wasn’t in town to help you, people. He was in town to smile, wave and look concerned. He wants you to fix all this yourselves, locally.