Not entirely heartless

Romney told a flood victim to go home and call 2-1-1. But at least he didn’t tell her to borrow from her parents to rebuild.

Yes, Mitt Romney told a woman in New Orleans whose home was entirely submerged by floodwaters that she should “go home and call 2-1-1.”  And no, he didn’t explain how she was supposed to use a telephone from a house under water, or offer her the use of a yacht, or even his cellphone.

But he didn’t suggest that she borrow from her parents to buy a new home.

That means something. The man is making progress. He’s not totally uneducable. With persistence, he might learn to perform simple, repetitive tasks.

No, being President isn’t among them. But Romney needn’t be unemployed.  Rupert Murdoch runs a sheltered workshop for empathically challenged Red Team veterans, and I’m sure he’d find a job for such a worthy beneficiary somewhere in his operation.

UPDATE The story linked above from the HuffPo is marked “AP/Huffington Post.” This by-lined AP story from the Orange County Register omits the reference to 211 and quotes the flood victim as saying nice things about Romney. On the other hand, this story from the right-wing  news aggregator CNS has the same by-line and includes the 211 remark but not the favorable comments from the victim, which the BBC also reports. Bloomberg/Businessweek has the reference to calling 211, but without the “go home and call,” and does include praise for Romney from the flood victim.  I hope someone asks Kasie Hunt, the reporter, what actually happened.

FOOTNOTE  If this were the Romney campaign, I’d just shrug and say “We’re not going to let our blog be dictated by fact-checkers.” But I’m not prepared to follow Romney’s lead into postmodernism.  The story points to what I think is a larger truth about Romney’s lack of empathy; after all, as the AP story points out, disaster relief is one of the targets for budget-cutting under the Ryan plan. But truthiness isn’t truth.

If Romney actually told the woman to “go home and call 211,” that was a remarkably dumb thing to say, and the fact that he came across to her as “caring” is neither here nor there. But if he didn’t say it, he didn’t.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

3 thoughts on “Not entirely heartless”

  1. Mitt’s advice makes perfect sense if you realize that only her primary home was underwater. She can call 211 from whichever of her vacation homes is most conveniently reached by private jet.

  2. I don’t know why you would assume that the line being edited out of some versions of the story reflects, in any way, doubt about whether it was said. Journalists tell stories to sell soap; they are not trying to record all truths for some grand archive.

    1. That’s right. AP stories, particularly of some length and encompassing multiple content, are often edited locally. It is common for major newspapers, for example, to combine multiple AP stories (crediting the reporters in the trailing byline rather then the opening one) with local versions and/or angles. For example, an AP story about SAT scores might be adopted by a Chicago paper to reflect primarily the changes in Illinois scores, adding local trivia on how SAT and ACT takers are distributed in the state, etc. The same story in Texas would only mention the national trend and the Texas scores, etc. But some stories are also edited for length and content. If the story contains a description of Mitt’s visit to LA and also talks about what Ryan is doing, it’s OK for most newspapers to edit out the Ryan material, especially if the space is tight (not an issue on-line, but the electronic version should reflect the print version of the paper, not the AP original). So you may end up with a cut-and-paste monster. This says nothing about the veracity of the original quotes, but it may say a lot about the biases of the news editors.

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