Obama to Romney: You’re rich

The president proves class warfare can be very effective, when executed correctly

Topics: U.S. Economy, Business, 47 percent, 2012 Elections, Presidential Debates,

Obama to Romney: You're rich (Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

At the very end of the second presidential debate, Mitt Romney stuttered in a voice that was half incredulous and half the bleating of a stunned ox: “Government does not create jobs, government does not create jobs.”

It was a little bit of an odd pitch for a guy whose entire premise is “vote for me because I’ll create more jobs,” but whatever. By the end of the debate, Romney was off his game and rattled. He appeared flabbergasted at what had just happened.

As well he should have been. On the economy, Romney stuck to exactly the same script that had worked so well in the first debate — he repeatedly emphasized his favorite unemployment talking point: “23 million Americans are out of work.” At every opportunity he stressed how “the middle class” had been “hammered” and “crushed.” He noted how this year’s economic growth rate was slower than last year’s. He delivered some of his most effective lines of the night in response to a question from an African-American man who had initially asked President Obama why he should be excited about the prospect of a second term. Romney said the questioner shouldn’t be excited at all, because, “if you elect Obama you know what you are going to get … The president has tried but his polices haven’t worked.”

You Might Also Like

And yet, there he was, in the end, looking red-faced and angry.

Part of the reason for this had nothing to do with the economy at all. Romney stumbled badly on Libya, immigration and the issue of equal pay for women in the workplace, giving both Obama and the moderator, Candy Crowley, ample opportunity to fact-check him. I lost count of the number of times in which Obama basically said Romney was a liar, and the cumulative effect of the presidential put-downs clearly got under his skin. Instead of looking assured, Romney looked arrogant.

My guess is that this is not a moment in time when Americans are amicably disposed toward rich people acting uppity. A key interchange came after Obama had accused Romney of investing in Chinese companies. Romney responded that the investments were part of a blind trust that he had no control over, and tried to turn the tables by noting that Obama’s pension probably included the same investments. “Have you looked at your pension?” he badgered the president. “Have you looked at your pension?”

At first, Obama refused to respond. Then he smiled: “You know, I — I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.”

It was a cheap point, but telling. As was, during a mostly cumbersome exchange on tax policy, Obama’s direct attack on how little Romney paid in taxes.

Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on “60 Minutes” just two weeks ago and he was asked: Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 year? And he said, “Yes, I think that’s fair.”

The coup de grace came during the closing statements, when Romney made a huge unforced error by asserting that he cared for 100 percent of Americans, thus offering Obama the perfect opportunity to frame his own closing statement around Romney’s 47 percent comments. With the last word in the debate, the president reminded viewers that Romney had already written off half of all Americans.

On the economy, Obama’s weakest point is the unavoidable fact that the economy has performed poorly over the last four years. But Romney’s weakest point is that he is a representative of the economic class that has flourished through good times and bad, and that has benefited most from changes in tax structure and deregulation. In the second presidential debate, Obama managed to effectively place Romney in that framework. He waged class warfare, and he won.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>