WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Romney Not Concerned About Poor People, New Housing Plan From POTUS (VIDEO)

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss Mitt Romney’s recent comments about not being concerned about the poor, dividing Americans among class lines. Plus President Obama unveils a new housing plan to help struggling Americans.

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Karen Finney, Dr. Chris Metzler, Deborah Simmons and Cornel Belcher.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Let’s get right to it.  Interesting week.  Lots of things in the news.  Let’s talk about poor folks.


MR. MARTIN:  Mitt Romney – here’s what he had to say about poor folks in this country.


MR. ROMNEY:  I’m not concerned about the very poor.  We have a safety net there.  If it’s need repair, I’ll fix it.


MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.


MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Pretty interesting there!  Now, of course, also he said that – that he wasn’t concerned about poor folks, safety net.  He wasn’t concerned about rich folks, but he was concerned about the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who’re having a rough time.  But if you do the math, 15 percent of the people in America live in poverty, and that’s $22,000 for a family of four.

MS. FINNEY:  But here – th- — here – there’re a couple of problems with what he said.  Just tactically, the problem is he went off script; and every time he goes off script, he says something either like this, or he talks about corporations are people –

MR. MARTIN:  I don’t think –

MS. FINNEY:  — or he says –

MR. MARTIN:  — he went off script, Karen.

MS. FINNEY:  — no, no.  I’m – well, he went off the script that he was supposed to be on, that his people wanted him on –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. FINNEY:  — last week in terms of going after Newt Gingrich – is my point.

So, [the] point being if you’re a vo- — if you’re a donor, and you’re looking at that, you’re saying, “That’s not a disciplined candidate.  I’m not that” – you can’t say stuff like that, which is why [with] his own Republicans, there was backlash.

The other problem with it is I agree with you.  I think, in his own mind, he – he didn’t think there was anything wrong with what he said.  It’s so disrespectful, though, to low-income people, because it makes an assumption that poor people don’t vote.  That’s really what he was saying.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, what bothers me – and, look, I’ve been critical of Pres. Obama for not using “poor,” [for] not even mentioning it in [his] State of the Union speech last year or this year.  I’ve talked about how politic- — pl- — political folks always say “middle class,” “middle class,” “middle class” – like nobody else exists.  But do you think this is going to hurt him down the road as well?  Because it further says in somebody’s mind, “Man!  This is a really rich dude runnin’.”

MR. CORNELL BELCHER:  Well, s- — it builds on a narrative.  I mean that’s the —

MS. FINNEY:  Right.

MR. BELCHER:  — I mean it builds on a narrative with people – with, you know, “corporations are people,” et cetera.  It’s building a narrative of – of him out of touch.  And, in – in fact, you know, Rick Santorum right now – Sen. Santorum i- — right now is using that – that line, that he’s out of touch.  It is building on a narrative that we will absolutely latch onto and – and – and – and build upon i- — i- — in – in the fall, whe- — when – when – if – if – if he does become the nominee.  It is building in his narrative he’s o- — the narrative that he’s a flip-flopper; that he’s coreless[?] has already been built in – the narrative that he is now someone who is n- — out of touch is beginning to build in as well.

MR. MARTIN:  Deborah –


MS. DEBORAH SIMMONS:  Well, wait –


MR. MARTIN:  — interesting.  But let me ask Deborah this question.  George W. Bush ran in 2000 on the platform of being a “compassionate conservative,” and in many ways, that was a faith-based initiative – talking about the poor and others.  And so it’s interesting how the GOP has basically jettisoned that.  I mean that’s so old-news to them.  And he makes this kind of comment.  Do you think it raises a problem as to how folks are perceiving him and who he will represent if he beats Pres. Obama?

MS. SIMMONS:  — no.  That’s the short answer to your question.  And he’s not out of touch.  Mitt Romney is in touch with himself, the – the person he’s always been, whether –

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

MS. SIMMONS:  — it was before he got –


MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles, crosstalk.]

MS. SIMMONS:  — wait a minute.  That’s my point!  Before he got into the governorship, the statehouse in Massachusetts, and afterward.  See, Mitt Romney isn’t running to the right, and he’s not running to the left.  He’s where he’s always been.  Even Democrats have said, “He’s more like us than he is like them.”  So, he’s exactly where he needs to be.

What it is is this – [makes a gesture mimicking talking] – problem, where it’s clear he needs a Tony Blankley or somebody to sit down with him and say, “Okay, Mitt.  These are the words you should never use.  And you should never say you’re not concerned about anything” – particularly ha- – when it has to do with Mitt’s number one issue in this race, in – with the musical chairs –

MR. MARTIN:  Right, right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — he’s playing with Newt and company, and that’s the economy.

DR. METZLER:  Well —

MR. MARTIN:  Chris.

DR. METZLER:  — the – the problem is it make him look like an idiot.

MS. FINNEY:  [Laughs.]

DR. METZLER:  And it makes him look like an idiot in large part because it’s a safety net.  Obviously, if a s- — if – if it’s a safety net, there’s a problem.  So, it just makes him look like a complete idiot, in addition to which what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to play to Cornell’s idea of the middle class and the “war” on the middle class.  He’s bought into that narrative – except he can’t do it as skillfully as Cornell and company can do.  And so as a result of that, he just looks like a bumbling idiot.

MR. MARTIN:  Chris, he did sound like a bumbling idiot, but – but the biggest issue that I have is that if you want to be President of the United States, you should say, “I’m concerned about all Americans, and I want people to get out of poverty.  I want to have programs that move them out of that.”  But to say “90, 95 percent of the people” –

MS. FINNEY:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — the wo- — “those who are really hurting” – how can you essentially say somebody who is in poverty isn’t hurting?

DR. METZLER:  Well –

MS. FINNEY:  Right.

DR. METZLER:  — and – and he- — and here’s the problem.  So, what – it – so, on the one hand, what you’re doing is – what he’s been doing is accusing the President of dividing people among class –

MS. FINNEY:  Right.

DR. METZLER:  — lines, and he’s done exactly –

MR. MARTIN:  He divided –

DR. METZLER:  — the same –

MR. MARTIN:  — everybody

DR. METZLER:  — thing.

MR. MARTIN:  — in that one –



MR. MARTIN:  — statement.

DR. METZLER:  — a- — and tha- —

MS. FINNEY:  Saying –

DR. METZLER:  — and that’s –

MS. FINNEY:  — ins- —

DR. METZLER:  — the problem.

MS. FINNEY:  — instead of saying, “I want to be President” –

DR. METZLER:  Of all the people.

MS. FINNEY:  — “but I’m going to focus on the middle class” – even that would’ve been a little bit better.  But Deborah’s right.  He needs somebody to say, “Here are the list of words and phrases you must never talk about.”  I think they tried to do that, and that’s why they had some success in their fight against Mi- — against Newt this week, but then he got tired, and he went off script, and –

MR. MARTIN:  And –

MS. FINNEY:  — he –

MR. MARTIN:  — Cornell, the ne- —

MS. FINNEY:  — went back – [chuckles] – to –

MR. MARTIN:  — and the next day –

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — he gets to stand with –

MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — Mr. Bluster himself, Donald “Chump” Trump.  I mean that just further reinforced the whole narrative in terms of [a] rich –

MR. BELCHER:  Rich guys.

MR. MARTIN:  — guy kickin’ it with a rich guy.

MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. BELCHER:  Well – a- — and – and it’s pro- — and it’s [a] problem back[?] on several fronts.  If – if you look at the – the – the last round of polling that CNN did with Ro- — Donald Trump when Donald Trump had a 64 percent unfavorable rating, and you look at the sort of problems that – that Mitt is beginning to show up with independent voters in – in battleground states with his unfavorable r- — ri- — rising as he’s far- — further to the right, I – as a Democrat, the only person I would’ve liked to have seen him embrace more yesterday would’ve been Dick Cheney.  I –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. BELCHER:  — mean it is s –


MR. BELCHER:  — blessing to us.


MS. FINNEY:  That’s great[?].

MR. MARTIN:  — I w- — I want to talk about –

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]


MR. MARTIN:  — another issue that – that – that has been vital.  The President again talks about his housing plan.  Romney wins Florida.  Housing foreclosure is a critical issue.  I’ve been saying for a long time that this is going to be an Achilles heel for this president, because this is probably the fourth housing plan they’ve put forth.

MS. SIMMONS:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  The other three have absolutely failed.

MS. SIMMONS:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  He’s going to have an issue in Nevada and Florida when it comes to home foreclosures, when his programs have not worked.

MS. FINNEY:  Well, he – I mean, look.  I think he admitted this week that the programs hadn’t worked as he had hoped, and I think we all – that was not news to most of us – and he’s now trying it again.

But here’s the thing that I keep hearing – or, not hearing from Mitt.  There – he has no ideas.  It’s not that he’s saying, “Here’s what I would do.”  He’s attacking the President, and at some point he’s going to have to come forward with his own ideas about what it is that he would do.  And in Nevada, remember he said, “Let’s just let everything go under.”

MR. MARTIN:  Right, but –

MS. FINNEY:  That’s –

MR. MARTIN:  — but –

MS. FINNEY:  — not going to –

MR. MARTIN:  — but –

MS. FINNEY:  — work.

MR. MARTIN:  — if you’re – you’re f- — you’re underwater, and you’re in Nevada, or you’re in Florida –


MR. MARTIN:  — and if you see the President’s housing programs have not worked, it’s going to be hard to make an argument as to why they should support you again.


MS. SIMMONS:  Exactly.

DR. METZLER:  Absolutely.

MS. SIMMONS:  Exactly.  And th- — the other thing is that Mitt Romney isn’t necessarily running against Gingrich, or Rick Santorum, or f- — the next month, the next four caucuses and primaries are going to determine who emerges in March, when it really matters.  And all Pres. Obama is doing, with his economic plan in general, and housing in particular, is warming over the grits.  And I don’t know nobody up here who really likes warmed-over grits.

DR. METZLER:  [Chuckles.]

MS. SIMMONS:  More importantly – more importantly, Obama knows his plans haven’t worked and that – and – and said, promised us four years ago – all Americans – that we – he – he would have turned this economy around by now –

MR. BELCHER:  Thank you.


MS. SIMMONS:  — that he –

MR. BELCHER:  Thank you.

MS. SIMMONS:  — would have turned –

MS. FINNEY:  But wait a second.

MR. BELCHER:  Thank you for –

MS. SIMMONS:  — this economy –

MR. BELCHER:  — opening this up.

MS. SIMMONS:  — that[?] – turned –

MS. FINNEY:  But wait a second.

MS. SIMMONS:  — this economy –

MR. MARTIN:  Cornell, go ahead.

MS. SIMMONS:  — around, so Mitt and Ro- — Mitt Romney is running against Obama.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.  Cornell?

MR. BELCHER:  — well, thank you, ’cause – ’cause you know what?  We’ve been talking – you – you always talk about sort of – sort of what hasn’t happened.  Look at what has happened:  243,000 new jobs.  You know, we’ve got 24 quarters of – of growth since this – since this man put his – his economic plan i- — in – int- — into Congress.  We’ve got un- — unemployment drops from 8.5 to 8.3.  We’ve got the ship of state –

MS. FINNEY:  Well –

MR. BELCHER:  — moving in the right direction –

MS. FINNEY:  — three –

MR. BELCHER:  — because o- — because of the po- — the policies of – o- — of this man, despite with the Republicans fighting –

MS. SIMMONS:  And then[?] –

MR. BELCHER:  — him every –


MR. MARTIN:  Hold on tight!

MR. BELCHER:  — every step of –


MR. MARTIN:  Hold on!

MR. BELCHER:  — the – of – of the way.


MR. MARTIN:  Hold on!  I gotta –


MR. MARTIN:  — time out!

MR. BELCHER:  If you’re going to – [crosstalk] –

MS. FINNEY:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  Time out!  Hell-o!  Hello!


MR. MARTIN:  Hello!

MS. SIMMONS:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  Time out!  Time out!

MR. BELCHER:  If you’re going to – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  This is a –


MR. BELCHER:  — the bad, you’ve got —

MR. MARTIN:  — Jason Garrett –

MR. BELCHER:  — you’ve got to blame[?] – [crosstalk] –


MR. MARTIN:  — time out.  This is a Jason –


MR. MARTIN:  — Ga- — Cornell.  Cornell, Cor- –


MR. MARTIN:  — everybody, calm down.

MR. BELCHER:  — you’ve got to give him[?] credit –

MR. MARTIN:  Cornell –

MR. BELCHER:  — for good.

MR. MARTIN:  — calm down.  Time out.

MR. BELCHER:  I’m calm.

MR. MARTIN:  I’m going to a break.  Settle down.