Thursday, October 18, 2012

Character Really Does Matter

 “And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can't we—can't we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” - Mitt Romney, debate #2

The comment by Mitt Romney in the latest presidential debate about "Binder's of Women" has created a thunderstorm of controversy. It's all over my Facebook friends pages and twitter is all a-twitter with comments about it. What this statement has cemented for me is something that I never really believed in before: character really matters.  Now this doesn't mean that I never thought it was important before, but that I just never put it on the same level as competency. When Republicans would state that character is really the most important thing in a presidential candidate, I would just turn off.  I thought it was a cop-out. But now I actually see the merit of this reasoning.

When Romney said that he didn't have any qualified women to fill cabinet positions during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, that right there is a very telling comment. The fact that it didn't happen the way he said it is not as material to me as politicians change past events all the time to fit their version of the story (though this is problematic as well).  He was in business for 25 years and didn't meet and get to know 5-10 women who could fill those positions?! We're not talking about 1965, we're talking about the mid 1990's. There should have been loads of women whom Romney knew at least professionally, that should have been able to fill those posts; he should have been able to name 3 or 4 off the top of his head!  This is a character issue. Say what you will about Bush II, but his friends were of many hues and cultures. He was loyal and supported them with high visibility posts. They were hispanic, black, and female…Kanye wasn't accurate when he said George Bush didn't like black people.

Nonetheless, Romney's limited exposure to people outside his wealthy business lifestyle really concerns me. Maybe he can fix the economy, but for whom would he fix it? He talked about his having given his chief of staff flex time so she could go home and "fix dinner for her kids". I'm going to leave that alone because many women, including my mother, worked a full-time job(s) and fixed world class meals for their children. But there are many positions in today's workforce that can't have flextime. The money IS the important thing. Equitable pay means more take home pay for her and her children, which eventually means more churn in the economy; from the bottom up. 

Romney's limited familiarity with people outside his experience means that if he becomes president, he will have very little clue how his legislation will affect the rest of us who don't have parents who have enough money to send their kids to college or to help start a business. The fact that he has difficulty connecting with average people outside of his church is not because he's rich…it's because that's who he is! There are plenty of people of means who have been able to connect to people outside of their sheltered existence.  When creating legislation and consulting with different parties about how to go about crafting them, one's empathy and understanding of people's needs affects the decision-making process. 

So I say again, maybe Romney can fix the economy. But who's he gonna fix it for?! 

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