Washington Watch Roundtable: Income Inequality, Can Voters Trust Mitt Romney, Who Has American’s Best Interest At Heart? (VIDEO)

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the impact of income inequality in the 2012 Presidential race, who has American’s best interest at heart and can voters trust Mitt Romney.

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney; Michael Fletcher, national economics correspondent for “The Washington Post”; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and, new to our roundtable, Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Hughes.

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, welcome back to the show.

Michael, to the point you were making, I have long said on this show that the Obama Administration is making a critical mistake by not confronting that issue head on.  If I’m Vice President Joe Biden, if I’m Pres. Obama, I know Kentucky is in a swing state.  I know Mississippi and Alabama – they’re not swing states.  But I do believe that you want to show a contrast.  You go to – to the poorest people with the least education, with the least healthcare, and you stand before them, and you say, “Ask me a question:  ‘Who is fighting for better healthcare for you, for better education, for more jobs?”  Is it me, or is it Mitt Romney?

Now, I understand they might say, “We’re still going to vote GOP, but I believe when you force that conversation, you then have an income inequality discussion that you want to have, and you’re having a discussion that’s more on your turf, and you’re making them defend their actions compared to what you want to do.

MR. FLETCHER:  I – I think you’re right, but I think what – what you’ve seen the President do over these many months is muddy the discussion just a little bit.  You know, he’ll stay, “Well, you know, the federal budget’s a little bit like a household budget.”  You know, “We have to live” – “live within our means.”  And you know he doesn’t believe that.  He doe- — he knows that it’s a lot different, but I think his political people tell him that’s what people want to hear.  So, I think that, in a way, muddies the message.

MS. FINNEY:  [Crosstalk]- —

MS. SIMMONS:  Hold up.  So, the Democratic president – if we’re going to do Democrats and Republicans, the Democratic presidents get away, or – without having this discussion that we all know is worthy of discussion.

MR. MARTIN:  Which discussion?

MS. SIMMONS:  This discussion about poverty and equality –

MR. MARTIN:  No.  No.

MS. SIMMONS:  — and –

MR. MARTIN:  I b- —

MR. FLETCHER:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I – no, I’ve been saying from d- — I’ve been saying from day one that Democrats and Republicans –

MS. SIMMONS:  — right, but –

MR. MARTIN:  — need to have –

MS. SIMMONS:  — we’re at the – we’re at the –

MR. MARTIN:  — this conversation.

MS. SIMMONS:  — three and-a-half-year mark now.

MS. FINNEY:  — but he’s been talking about income inequality.

MR. FLETCHER:  No, he’s talked about income inequality.

MS. SIMMONS:  And – and – and –

MS. FINNEY:  [Crosstalk] – fair to say he’s not been talking about that.

MS. SIMMONS:  — policies o- — it’s ti- — but shouldn’t they have been in law – being enforced by now?

MR. MARTIN:  Okay, I’m – I –

SEN. HUGHES:  He’s o- — he’s only been blo- —

MS. SIMMONS:  If – if he –

SEN. HUGHES:  — he’s only been blocked by Co- —

MS. SIMMONS:  — President three and-a-half –

SEN. HUGHES:  — he’s o- —

MS. SIMMONS:  — years.

SEN. HUGHES:  — he’s only been blocked by the Congress.  He tried to move these things forward.  He –

MS. SIMMONS:  Well –

SEN. HUGHES:  — tried to do –

MS. SIMMONS:  — isn’t that because –

SEN. HUGHES:  — infras- —

MS. SIMMONS:  — Congress is[?] –

SEN. HUGHES:  — he tried to do [an] infrastructure program.

MS. SIMMONS:  [Claps her hands.]

SEN. HUGHES:  Blocked by Congress.

MS. SIMMONS:  Senator –

SEN. HUGHES:  The s- — the – the s- — the truth of the matter is these Republican governors –

MS. SIMMONS:  — Senator –

SEN. HUGHES:  — in these states are thwarting the economic turn- —

MS. SIMMONS:  — that’s not –

SEN. HUGHES:  — -around.

MS. SIMMONS:  — the way it works.

SEN. HUGHES:  That’s – tha- — yeah, it’s – absolutely

MS. SIMMONS:  You know as well as I –

SEN. HUGHES:  — is – is [how it] works.

MS. SIMMONS:  — do –

MR. MARTIN:  A- — actually –

MS. SIMMONS:  — you know as we- —

MR. MARTIN:  — actually I –

MS. SIMMONS:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — actually, I will say, Deborah –

MS. SIMMONS:  — no, would –

MR. MARTIN:  — it wasn’t –

MS. SIMMONS:  — say that –

MR. MARTIN:  — it w- — one second.  One second.

MS. SIMMONS:  — the legislatures and Congress are the ones who implement laws, and it’s up to the President or the governor –

MR. MARTIN:  Right, but what happened – but ha- —

MS. SIMMONS:  — to carry –

MR. MARTIN:  — but, look.  But – but –

MS. SIMMONS:  — them out.

MR. MARTIN:  — but with the stimulus bill, —

MS. SIMMONS:  Is that right?

MR. MARTIN:  — but with the stimulus bill – we saw it in Louisiana, in South Carolina, in Texas – we saw governors – because the mistake the President made was that they sent the money to the states –

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — via the governors, when the mayors were saying, “Send to us, ’cause we know how the governors are going to respond.”

MS. FINNEY:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  That’s a fact!

MS. SIMMONS:  Poverty –


MS. SIMMONS:  — is – is everywhere in this country.  It’s not just in those states.  Those states stand out.  There’s no doubt about –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — that.  I understand that, but my point is it has nothing – poverty has nothing to do with who your governor is at the time.

MS. FINNEY:  Absolutely it does!  If you –

MS. SIMMONS:  No, it doesn’t.

MS. FINNEY:  — have –

MS. SIMMONS:  No, it doesn’t.

MS. FINNEY:  — if you ha- —

MR. FLETCHER:  [Crosstalk] – it does.

MS. FINNEY:  — if you live in Wisconsin, it sure does, and you’ve got a governor who is busting the unions, who is passing anti-woman –


MS. FINNEY:  — anti-immigration –

MS. SIMMONS:  — Karen.

MS. FINNEY:  — who is also saying, “You know what?  Women don’t need equal pay.  Forget that.”

MR. FLETCHER:  Absolutely it does.

MS. SIMMONS:  No, Karen.

MR. MARTIN:  I – I –

MS. FINNEY:  Absolutely it does.



MR. FLETCHER:  — cut aid to public schools.

MS. FINNEY:  But I want to make –

MS. SIMMONS:  No, it –

MS. FINNEY:  — a point.

MR. FLETCHER:  You know, cutting –

MS. SIMMONS:  — doesn’t.

MR. FLETCHER:  — cutting – raising tuition to –

MR. MARTIN:  One second.

MR. FLETCHER:  — colleges.

MR. MARTIN:  One second.

MS. FINNEY:  Or – or – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  Se- — Sen. Hughes, you’ve dealt –

MS. SIMMONS:  No.  No.

MR. MARTIN:  — with appropriations in –

SEN. HUGHES:  Well –

MR. MARTIN:  — Pennsylvania.  Speak to this point.

SEN. HUGHES:  — I – w- — w- —

MS. SIMMONS:  Because that makes it sound like –

MR. MARTIN:  One second, Deborah.

MS. SIMMONS:  — Republican governor –

MR. MARTIN:  Deborah, Deborah, one –

MS. SIMMONS:  — now a Democratic government – [crosstalk]- —

MR. MARTIN:  — second.  One second.

Sen. Hughes.

One second.

MS. SIMMONS:  — [crosstalk] – come on, man.

SEN. HUGHES:  — let’s – let’s look at the facts.  Let’s look at the facts.  In Pennsylvania – swing state – Gov. Corbett offers a budget that cuts out human service programs for women – all right – a support service program for disabled people; raises tuitions for – for college-going students probably about another 8 percent, cuts out a billion dollars in education spending; and so, consequently, classroom sizes are growing.  Tuitions are going up.  Schools are crumbling.  Cities are crumbling, and – and – and he is fundamentally tied to Romney.  Romney – you s- — ha- — the message to the American people – and you’re right, Roland.  The message to the American people is, “Who’s going to take care of you in this time” – “time of” – “of difficulty?”  Is it Mitt Romney, who is part of the class of folks who caused this problem?  He’s the only one who’s made out in – in – in – with the Wall Street crew, the only one that’s made out in this process.  Or, is it Pre- — Pres. Obama, who’s tried to steer a course to try to recover the economy?

MR. MARTIN:  [Crosstalk]- —

MS. FINNEY:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — hold tight –

SEN. HUGHES:  That’s the deal!

MR. MARTIN:  — one second.  Hold tight, because I want the panel to weigh in on this week’s…


MR. MARTIN:  Now, look.  All politicians lie to some degree – all – but there is a developing narrative driven by some liberal commentators that Mitt Romney seems to lie a lot.  Richard Cohen wrote this about Romney in “The Washington Post” this week:  “What his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self – that what he does is not who he is….  Business is business.  It’s what you do.  It is not what you are.  Lying isn’t a sin.  It’s a business plan.”

And here’s Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last month.


MS. RACHEL MADDOW:  This is not a normal amount of politician lying.  Mr. Romney lies about himself.  He lie about the President.  He lies about policy.  He lies about everything.


MR. MARTIN:  Which brings us to this statement that Gov. Romney and his surrogates have been repeating over and over again.


GOV. MITT ROMNEY:  These are just some statistics which show just how severe the war on women has been by virtue of the President’s failed policies.  The number of job- — this is an amazing statistic.  The percentage of jobs lost by women in the President’s three years – three and-a-half years:  92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women.


MR. MARTIN:  An Associated Press fact check called that statement “dubious, at best.”  According to the nonpartisan Factcheck.org, “Diana Furchgott-Roth, a chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor under George W. Bush says … she couldn’t think of any Obama policies that have led to a slower recovery for women.  ‘Obama’s policies have been anti-growth,’ she said, ‘but if anything, they have been anti-male jobs.’”

So, Mitt Romney, the self-proclaimed expert on the economy who keeps repeating this lie labeled “dubious”  by the AP and mostly false by PolitiFact.org, you are the winner of this week’s …


MR. MARTIN:  Now, to our panel, if you have Mitt Romney making these kind[s] of comments, and then he has to deal with the flip-flop back and forth, does he face a problem of being labeled as someone who is not telling the truth?  And what impact could that have in the minds of voters when it comes to the issue of trust

SEN. HUGHES:  Just play the comments of Gingrich, Santorum with the “Etch A Sketch” comment.  I – you know, I wish I could’ve u- — come up with that one.


SEN. HUGHES:  Ron Paul – all of them – they have set up the narrative that Mitt Romney is not someone who is trustworthy.

MS. FINNEY:  I – I think Mitt Romney has done a better job than anybody.  I mean play the comments of him saying, “I’m going to protect a woman’s right to choose,” “We’re going to do” – you know, “I’m going to s-” – go the other way.  Like, I mean time and time again, there – footage keeps coming up of him saying one thing, and then this campaign, saying another thing.  And let voters decide for themselves.  Poll after poll shows they don’t trust him.

MR. MARTIN:  Deborah, I – I – first of all Mitt – sorry.  Mitch Daniels made this comment.  He’s the governor of Indiana.  He said, quote:  “You have to campaign to govern, not just to win.  [Spend] the precious time and dollars explaining … a constructive program to make life better….  Look at everything through the lens of folks who have yet to achieve.  Romney doesn’t talk that way.”

That’s going to be a[n] issue for him, if a Mitch – if a Mitch Daniels, a supporter, is saying –


MS. SIMMONS:  And it’s –

MR. MARTIN:  — he’s got an –

MS. SIMMONS:  — always –

MR. MARTIN:  — issue.

MS. SIMMONS:  — it’s always been an issue for him.  I re- — we know from four years ago – five years ago, even when he was running for Massachusetts governor, he tried to turn ’im[self] into a Clinton-like candidate by being sort of moderate; and he, indeed, became a moderate Republican when he – when he won the Massachusetts statehouse.

So, there’s no doubt that he is trying to position himself – look.  Mitt Romney does not have the charisma, personality, je n’sais quoi – whatever it is we want to put on it – that –

SEN. HUGHES:  [Unintelligible] – policies.

MS. SIMMONS:  — he d- — he has what?

SEN. HUGHES:  You[’ve] got to have the policies.

MS. SIMMONS:  Well –


MS. SIMMONS:  — well –

SEN. HUGHES:  [Crosstalk] – policies.

MR. MARTIN:  I gotcha.

MS. SIMMONS: — forget about policies.  When you –

MR. MARTIN:  Fifteen seconds, Deborah.

MS. SIMMONS:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  Debora, fif- — Deborah, 15 –

MS. SIMMONS:  — no, I say – I say –

SEN. HUGHES:  You can’t.

MR. MARTIN:  — seconds.  Go ’head.

MS. SIMMONS:  — forget about policies –

SEN. HUGHES:  You can’t. 

MS. SIMMONS:  — only bec- — only because –

SEN. HUGHES:  You can’t.

MS. SIMMONS:  — he has not — he has not won the – the – the race yet.  But, we can look at his Massachusetts policies, if you will, and find out where he stands –

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

MS. SIMMONS:  — on a lot of issues.

MR. MARTIN:  Michael, final comment.

SEN. HUGHES:  [Chuckles.]

MR. FLETCHER:  Well, I think –

MS. SIMMONS:  He has a record.

MR. FLETCHER:  — Romney’s – Romney’s rhetoric is at war with his biography.  I mean he was a moderate governor in many ways.  Now he wants to be the most conservative guy, and he’s –

MS. FINNEY:  Extreme conservative –

MR. FLETCHER:  — he – right.  That’s right.

MS. FINNEY:  — in America.

MR. FLETCHER:  He’s the most –

MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. FLETCHER:  — extreme conservative in America, and it’s – like you said, I think people can’t trust that.  How could you trust that?

MR. MARTIN:  Well, trust is all – what –

MR. FLETCHER:  [Crosstalk.]

MR. MARTIN:  — it’s all about.

We certainly appreciate it.  Karen, Michael, Deborah, and Senator –

SEN. HUGHES:  All politicians –

MR. MARTIN:  — we appreciate it.

SEN. HUGHES:  — don’t lie, brutha.  All politicians don’t lie.

MR. MARTIN:  Some –

MS. SIMMONS:  Uh-oh.

MR. MARTIN:  — do stretch the truth a little bit, though.

SEN. HUGHES:  All right.

MR. MARTIN:  All right, then.

SEN. HUGHES:  [Chuckles.]