A small but telling thing
When I watched the vice-presidential debate, something about this exchange went right past me at the time. Biden was talking about the economy and he said: (Transcript from the Commission on Presidential Debates, or you can watch this exchange here. )
We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that -- when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, "No, let Detroit go bankrupt." We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, "No, let foreclosures hit the bottom."This is Ryan's response, after a bit of back and forth about their home towns and unemployment:
But it shouldn't be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently in a speech in Washington said "30 percent of the American people are takers."
Look, did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely. But we're going in the wrong direction. Look at where we are. The economy is barely limping along. It's growing a 1.3 percent. That's slower than it grew last year and last year was slower than the year before.At the time, I focused on the "I always say what I mean. And so does Romney"; on the insistence that this is a horrible recovery (as Krugman notes, it's pretty normal though it could certainly be better); on the feeble attempt to make the 47% a misstatement instead of something Romney doubled down later; on the "five-point plan" which is a listing of goals with no indication of how we're going to get there (as if I said "my retirement plan is to be rich"); the definition of "giving to charity" as "giving to your church", one very much used by the right; and on the bizarre notion that because Romney offered to pay for college for a couple of his fellow Mormons that means ... what, actually? These folks aren't "takers" because they were lucky enough to know a rich man? It was a weird story and it was obviously one Ryan had prepared, because it doesn't belong where it is. Helping some people in Northborough has zip to do with Detroit. And even in the telling, there's no real segue: "Detroit - Mitt's a car guy - Car crash family story!"
Job growth in September was slower than it was in August, and August was slower than it was in July. We're heading in the wrong direction; 23 million Americans are struggling for work today; 15 percent of Americans are living in poverty today. This is not what a real recovery looks like. We need real reforms for real recovery and that's exactly what Mitt Romney and I are proposing. It's a five-point plan. Get America energy independent in North America by the end of the decade. Help people who are hurting get the skills they need to get the jobs they want. Get this deficit and debt under control to prevent a debt crisis. Make trade work for America so we can make more things in America and sell them overseas, and champion small businesses. Don't raise taxes on small businesses because they're our job creators.
He talks about Detroit. Mitt Romney's a car guy. They keep misquoting him, but let me tell you about the Mitt Romney I know. This is a guy who I was talking to a family in Northborough, Massachusetts the other day, Sheryl and Mark Nixon. Their kids were hit in a car crash, four of them. Two of them, Rob and Reed, were paralyzed. The Romneys didn't know them. They went to the same church; they never met before. Mitt asked if he could come over on Christmas. He brought his boys, his wife, and gifts. Later on, he said, "I know you're struggling, Mark. Don't worry about their college. I'll pay for it."
When Mark told me this story, because, you know what, Mitt Romney doesn't tell these stories. The Nixons told this story. When he told me this story, he said it wasn't the help, the cash help. It's that he gave his time, and he has consistently.
This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined. Mitt Romney's a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. And with respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way.
BIDEN: But I always say what I mean. And so does Romney.
So I missed something very telling.
Who the hell tells a story about a family in a car crash to Joe Biden? Who tries to use that in a debate with Joe Biden? Who comes prepared with this story to use like that? What do you hope to gain? We already know that Romney is capable of great generosity (I'll give it to him, though the phrase 'widow's mite' comes to mind) with people like him, people he knows; surely there was some other story Ryan could have used. What about that missing daughter story, the guy who worked for Bain Capital? Or when his neighbor's son died?
But no; Ryan brings out the car crash.
That story says something about Mitt Romney. But that Ryan chose to tell it here says something far less flattering about him.