Washington Watch Roundtable: Romney Thinks You Might Be Envious Of His Money, Is FLOTUS An Angry Or A Strong Black Woman?

Has President Obama put free enterprise on trial, does Mitt Romney think you are envious of him and is First Lady Michelle Obama a strong or an angry Black woman?

This week’s roundtable discussion features Heather McGhee, Washington director of DEMOS, Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University professor, Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times” and Politico’s White House correspondent, Joseph Williams.

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

I want to play a sound bite from Mitt Romney, because I think it speaks to this topic we’ve been talking about, and we’ll chat about it in a moment.  So, here’s what Mitt Romney had to say about this whole issue of envy.


MR. MITT ROMNEY:  Pres. Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial.  And in the last few days, we’ve seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him.

This is such a mistake for our party and – and for our nation.  The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.  We have to offer an alternative vision.  I stand ready to lead us down a different path where we’re lifted up by our desire to succeed – not dragged down by a resentment of success.


MR. MARTIN:  See, here’s what’s interesting when you hear that particular comment over a 15 or so period [sic], top 1 percent, 270 percent in terms of [the] amount of money they earn – the growth.  The rest of us – 40 percent.  I think people are saying, “Look, I” – “I get rich guys.  I get that.  But when I’ve gotten poor” – when you’ve had people literally drop from one class to another, they’re saying, “That’s the problem – when there’s such a wide gap between what you have and what I don’t have.”

DR. WEST:  I mean Ro- —

MR. WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk] –

DR. WEST:  — Romney ought to be ashamed of himself.  That’s ridiculous!  I mean the idea of confusing righteous indignation in the face of un- — injustice versus envy for the rich.  That’s just his way of trivializing the suffering of poor people and trivializing the suffering of working people.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Well, it’s also a hollow argument coming from a guy who’s worth, you know, upwards of 120, 150, hun- — $170 million when people are struggling to hang on, when job security is at its lowest, when children are expected to do less well than their parents, and the – there was a study released yesterday, I believe, that showed that it’s harder to move from one economic class to the other than it’s ever been in the entire nation’s history.

MS. SIMMONS:  Or, to rise up from –

MS. MCGHEE:  And what does he say –

MS. SIMMONS:  — one –

MS. MCGHEE:  — to that?

MS. SIMMONS:  — yeah –

MR. WILLIAMS:  Absolutely.

MS. MCGHEE:  “You’re just jealous” –

MS. SIMMONS:  — to the other.

MS. MCGHEE:  — “of me.”


MS. MCGHEE:  That’s what he’s saying!  “You’re just jealous of me.”

I just – I hope he keeps saying it, because I just think it is a complete and total loser.  It allows us to heep [sic] – keep having these conversations about what kind of economy we really want to have.  I mean it’s just – it’s such a terrible thing –

MR. MARTIN:  I – I –

MS. MCGHEE:  — for him to go out there, saying.

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I –

MS. MCGHEE:  “You’re just jealous.”

MR. MARTIN:  — I’ve made the point on this show when – ’cause whe- — when – because I think part of the problem that I have is that when we have conversations like this – especially when you watch these other Sunday morning news shows, these cable news shows – it is always framed in the ideological position of Republican or Democrat.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  But the reality is people are just so angry today, they’re saying, “Look.  I’m mad at the left.  I’m mad at the right.  I’m mad at the GOP and the Dems,” and I think you do not have somebody who is saying, “Look.  Forget ideology.  This is simply not right.”

MS. SIMMONS:  Right!  And that’s –

MR. MARTIN:  “This is unjust.”

MS. SIMMONS:  — that’s the very argument that’s going on now, which is one of the reasons why there’s so much in- — inbred brickering [sic] – bickering going on among the Republican Party, ’cause it ain’t goin’ on among the Democrats right now, than – than it – but it probably will when we get –

MR. WILLIAMS:  Well, not –

MS. SIMMONS:  — to the congressional session.

The thing is this.  Mitt Romney is trying to not channel so much a – a conservative point of view as he is trying to channel Ronald Reagan’s –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — point of view, which is, “Money is money.  Don’t be mad at me because I’m rich.”  The problem is it’s not an ideological point of view, because there’re more of us in the middle class who are pissed and angry than that time when the angry White man brought Ronald Reagan into the White House.  What Mitt Romney – my man Mitt – has to try to figure out is how does he tap into the independents and the college graduates who are now in a position –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — where they ain’t got two nickels to rub –

MR. MARTIN:  Now –

MS. SIMMONS:  — together.

MR. MARTIN:  — I’m glad you brought up “angry,” because First Lady Michelle Obama – she spoke to this whole issue.

MS. MCGHEE:  Oh, yeah[?] – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  There’s a new book out –

MS. MCGHEE:  — [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — called The Obamas, by Jodi Cantor of “The New York Times,” and this whole idea of the angry, Black woman.  And so here’s what she had to say to Gail King.


FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA:  You know, I guess it’s more interesting to imagine – [chuckles] – this conflicted situation here and a strong woman and a – you know – but that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since, you know, the day –


MS. OBAMA:  — Barack announced – that I’m some angry, Black woman.

MS. KING:  Yeah.

MS. OBAMA:  And –

MS. KING:  How do you –

MS. OBAMA:  — you know.

MS. KING:  — deal with that – tha- —

MS. OBAMA:  You know, m- —

MS. KING:  — that image?

MS. OBAMA:  — I – I just try to be me, and – and my hope is that, over time, people get to know me, and they get to judge me for me.


MR. MARTIN:  Now, here’s what’s interesting.  I read the book, finished it in – in two days this week, and the clear theme is that here is a woman who was upset with how the President’s staff was handling policy.  They – she felt they were not prepared.  They were not doing their job.  The communications was horrible.  And here’s someone – and I’ve said this to the President directly – “She can articulate your vision much better than anybody in this White House, including you!”

MR. WILLIAMS:  Absolutely.

DR. WEST:  She was right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Well – well –

DR. WEST:  She’s right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — absolutely.

DR. WEST:  She was telling the truth.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Abso- —

DR. WEST:  But that’s – [crosstalk] –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — -lutely.

DR. WEST:  — the culture, you see.  They don’t really have a category for a brilliant, charismatic, strong, Black woman.

MS. SIMMONS:  Uh-oh!

DR. WEST:  That they have to reduce it –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Chuckles.]

DR. WEST:  — down to a stereotype.  The culture’s still too immature to really deal with brilliance, charisma, strength in one, Black woman’s body – even when she’s in the White House, as it were.  And so we end up having to have this kind of conversation.  This is – [unintelligible] – selling out books and so forth and so on.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Well, there also – it’s – it’s an easy stereotype to get to, and I think Dr. West is right in that you can look back and see where the communication was horrible, where the policy was kind of muddled.  The healthcare fight was – was a prime example.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  And, you know, to a – a lesser point, yeah, the stereotype is just really frustrating; but there also – it occurs to me, I think, why wouldn’t Black women be angry?  They earn less, on – you know, per capita –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. WILLIAMS:  — than most people in the workplace.  They live shorter lives.  They don’t advance as quickly as even Black men, who have a hard time advancing.  I mean so there’s a lot of legitimate reasons, but it’s not necessarily a stereotype.

MR. MARTIN:  I also think something has to change as well in terms of how we respond to it.  I think at some point, Black folks have to say, “White folks, that’s y’all’s problem.”

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MS. MCGHEE:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  That’s first.  But – but, secondly, if I – if I demand excellence, that’s not “angry.”  That’s demanding excellence.  If I believe something is not being done appropriately, then I’m going to say so.

And so I’ve dealt with the exact, same thing and [people] saying, “Oh, my God.  The angry Black guy.”  I’m not angry.  The White guy over here who’s cussing you out, throwing stuff, slamming doors, kicking trash cans – that’s angry.  I’m simply asking a pointed, direct question.  Now, you ain’t never had somebody Black ask you that question like that before.  That’s part of the problem.

So, I think at some point, Black folks have to push back on White folks by saying, “Look, I’m not playing this game, and you’re not going to get a rise out of me because of your insecurities.”

MS. SIMMONS:  “Yeah, but you’re not” –

MR. WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk] –

MS. SIMMONS:  — “going to get the rise” –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — strategy.

MS. SIMMONS:  — “you expect out of me.”

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  “You might get a rise, but not the” – and that’s the thing with the Michelle Obama stereotype.  Whatever this stereotype – and it’s on Black women – it’s being misread and misinterpreted.  We might be a- — Black women got a lot more to angry about than what –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — yeah, exactly.  But the thing is – is that we don’t necessarily express it the way we’re expected to express it, whether it’s because there ain’t no man in the home, and we got babies there; whether it’s because we know that people are trying to k- — kick Barack Obama out of the White House, which means Michelle” –

MR. MARTIN:  “Pres. Barack” –

MS. SIMMONS:  — and Grandma –

MR. MARTIN:  — “Obama.”

MS. SIMMONS:  — Robinson – yeah, Pres. Barack Obama out of the White House, and that means Michelle and Grandma Robinson [go], too.  See, we look at – a lot of times – this might be a stereotype – Black women just don’t look at what y’all want us to look at.  We’re looking at – at other surface things, whether we – we have a family of our own or not.  And that’s not being taken into account, because if Michelle Obama were really angry, I don’t think she would’ve been sitting down so calmly –

DR. WEST:  [Chuckles.]  Absolutely.

MS. SIMMONS:  — with another strong, Black –

DR. WEST:  Exactly.

MS. SIMMONS:  — woman.

DR. WEST:  Exactly.


DR. WEST:  But in a culture shaped by White supremacy, Black self-confidence is always viewed as arrogance.

MR. MARTIN:  Absolutely.

DR. WEST:  Black strength is viewed as somehow –

MR. MARTIN:  Absolutely.

DR. WEST:  — anger; and, yet, we got good grounds to be – have a righteous indignation.

MS. SIMMONS:  Gotcha[?].

DR. WEST:  Like Jesus at the temple, we have grounds for righteous indignation!

MR. MARTIN:  Right.  Joseph.

MR. WILLIAMS:  And – and the big picture, again, here is Laura Bush was incredibly assertive.

MS. SIMMONS:  Absolutely.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Nancy Reagan was incredibly assertive.

MS. SIMMONS:  Absolutely.

MR. WILLIAMS:  We still have not entered this “post-racial society.”


MR. MARTIN:  Well, I’ll tell you right now.


MR. MARTIN:  I – I think – I think Dr. West’s point is very simple – and I tell Black folks all the time – “If they want to call you ‘arrogant,’ fine, but you be confident.  You be strong.  You be assertive, because that’s a hell of a lot better than being weak.”


DR. WEST:  [Crosstalk] – you, brutha.

MS. SIMMONS:  [Chuckles.]

DR. WEST:  You – you hit it.  You hit it.

  • Out right racism.  Why don’t you take off the mask Roland and change your name to Sharpton.  I can’t believe such intelligent people are living their lives being a color instead of adding to society.  Not one of my friends (I’ve talked to 4 of them today), with distant roots in Africa, feels the animosity you 5 do. Shame, what a waste.