Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the 2012 Presidential election, income inequality, Mitt Romney and his wealth.
This week’s round table features, Joe Williams, April Ryan, George Curry and Robert Traynham.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
It’s time for our roundtable discussion. Here with us today: Politico’s White House correspondent Joe Williams; April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks; MSNBC political analyst Robert Traynham; and syndicated columnist George Curry.
All right, folks. On Friday, Pres. Obama releases his tax returns, and talk about a waste of a conversation. Check this out. John Sununu, who is a supporter of Mitt Romney, said, quote, “It would be nice to see some contributions to charity that are significant out of Pres. Obama and Joe Biden.”
Now, here’s what’s interesting. As a percentage of gross income, the Obamas gave 14 percent of their income to charity in 2010, the same percentage Mitt and Ann Romney gave to charity in the same year. The Romneys gave, of course, a lot more ’cause he made more – 2.9 million. The Obamas gave $245,000.
Now, give me a break. That little diff- — a percentage – to me, this is one of those things where, if you’re John Sununu, you sound like an idiot; because what you’re doing is you’re simply reinforcing that the guy you’re backing made $20 million a year and is a rich guy. At some point, when does this campaign learn that’s probably not a good strategy if you want to win the election in November?
MR. JOE WILLIAMS: Well, so far, they haven’t learned it yet. I mean it’s been consistent theme throughout the primaries – is that they’ve been making statements that inadvertently call attention to Romney’s wealth and then have to back off of it 24 hours later.
MR. MARTIN: Here you have Mitt Romney, who wants to portray Pres. Obama as this elitist, if you will, when the reality is this is a guy who is a walking, talking definition of “elitist” in this country.
MS. APRIL RYAN: Mitt Romney –
MR. WILLIAMS: [Crosstalk] – work[?] for the –
MS. RYAN: — is not –
MR. WILLIAMS: — 1 percent.
MS. RYAN: — an average American person – at all. His family – they are rich beyond measure, beyond our minds’ comprehension. How many zeros?
But the bottom line is you have to be very careful, in his shoes, trying to deal with financial issues; trying to make the President, who may be wealthy, but not to the extent of his wealth.
MR. ROBERT TRAYNHAM: I guess what I’m –
MS. RYAN: You’ve got to be –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — sure.
MS. RYAN: — careful. You’ve got to be careful, because he will be perceived –
MR. TRAYNHAM: My – my point –
MS. RYAN: — as elitist.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — my point in all this is – I’m trying to get my arms around this. Wealthy people have [run] for President before: John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Mitt Romney. I don’t think the average American begrudges someone because they’re wealthy. I think what they begrudge –
MS. RYAN: In a hard time –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — if I could fini- —
MS. RYAN: — in a bad economy, and people are still looking –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — if I could finish –
MS. RYAN: — for jobs, that is an issue.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — I’m not saying it’s not an issue, April. What I’m trying –
MS. RYAN: Okay.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — to say is – is that the – I think the average American out there that I speak with [is] saying, “You know what? You have your wealth. That’s fine, but I wanna be” – “I wanna be like you. I wanna be able to have my wealth as well” –
MR. MARTIN: But you’re[?] –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — “but in addition to that, what I also want is I want fair taxes, and I want to be able to pare [sic] – pay my fair share.”
MR. MARTIN: And I’m glad you brought that up because, George and Joe, this is what – this is what I think when you talk about – when you deal with the wealth question. When you have a candidate like Mitt Romney, who, frankly, is talking about extending more tax cuts to the wealthy; when you have an income equality gap in this country, when the richest 400 Americans in this country make – have more money than 180 million Americans; whether we like it or not, this – the i- — the issue of wealth and Romney versus Obama is going to be a – I believe, a critical issue come November in terms of the narrative of talking to the American people.
MR. GEORGE CURRY: You – you’re right, and the difference is this. People don’t begrudge someone being rich, and – and I mean you’ve seen rich people like Robert Kennedy and – and John F. Kennedy who have a compassion for [the] poor, who were able to connect. The difference here – and this is what people point out – is this guy is rich, and he has no connection to those people, and that’s the issue he’s facing.
MR. WILLIAMS: And one of the reasons why he doesn’t have the connection is part and parcel because of who he is. I mean he was raised in fairly exclusive surroundings. He went to a school were all the other people were like him. I mean they weren’t all necessarily rich –
MR. WILLIAMS: — but BYU is not a school where you’re going to find people like you and me. BYU is not a school where you’re going to – [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: Unless we play ball –
MR. WILLIAMS: — well –
MR. MARTIN: — but go ahead.
MR. WILLIAMS: — unless you play ball. But – point taken. But unless you go to the campus pub, or hang out, or do things that a vast percentage of the American people do, you are not going to be able to understand that.
MR. MARTIN: April, the reason I’m raising this is because we heard for three – nearly three years [the] Tea Party talking about – over and over and over again – “debt,” “debt,” “debt.” Occupy Wall Street changed the conversation to income inequality. I still believe that income inequality and the issue of – when you have a candidate who’s talking about more tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts; getting rid of a number of things for the wealthy, compared to the President, it is going to be a different conversation that will drive this nu- — this election.
MS. RYAN: It is definitely – you – you’ve hit the nail, but it’s even deeper than that. It’s definitely a different conversation, because this – this whole Republican campaigning process is leaving out a large group. Okay? They’re leaving out the – th- — those who are the – the least of these. They’re also leaving out a particular sector of the minority population who is feeling the brunt of the economy, and that minority population is the Black community. And we have to find out more so where Mitt Romney stands in the Black community – not just giving us a statement on Trayvon after he’s forced to because Pres. Obama said something, but we need to find out. We also – as reporters, as journalists here –
MR. WILLIAMS: [Crosstalk]- —
MS. RYAN: — we need to – wait a minute. We need to find out about – because Mitt Romney has been – and this is something that I’ve been pondering myself as a journalist. Mitt Romney is – is deeply involved in the Mormon faith, and let’s think about how the Mormon faith and the Black community have played out through the years. So – and I – and – and – the – the Republican Party is definitely not pushing for Black America. They’re not pushing for Black America this campaign.
MR. CURRY: I don’t think –
MR. WILLIAMS: — [crosstalk]- —
MR. MARTIN: George.
MR. CURRY: — Democrats have to deal with the Mormon issue. I think that would be a mistake. Okay? I –
MS. RYAN: Why?
MR. CURRY: — mean they’re – they’re – let me finish my –
MS. RYAN: Blacks are –
MR. CURRY: — thought.
MS. RYAN: — part of –
MR. CURRY: Hold – hold – hold –
MS. RYAN: — America.
MR. CURRY: — on. You’re on my time.
MR. MARTIN: Hold on one second.
MR. CURRY: You’re on my time. You’re –
MR. MARTIN: George, go –
MR. CURRY: — on my time now.
MR. MARTIN: — ahead. Go ahead. Go –
MR. CURRY: I wasn’t on –
MR. MARTIN: — ahead.
MR. CURRY: — yours.
MR. CURRY: Now, I –
MS. RYAN: Well, excuse me.
MR. CURRY: — I think it will be – I – I think it will be a – a bad poli- — political move.
But, le- – let’s go – the – the problem with Romney is he’s wooden. He’s stiff, and he keeps – he’s his worst enemy. He’s the one talking about bicoastal houses and Cadillacs. Now, he’s the one saying –
MR. WILLIAMS: — [crosstalk].
MR. CURRY: — “Oh, I can’t relate to the NASCAR” – “I ca-” – “relate to NASCAR owners.”
MR. MARTIN: Yeah, not the –
MR. CURRY: You know? I mean –
MR. MARTIN: — NASCAR fans, but –
MR. CURRY: — yeah – [crosstalk].
MR. MARTIN: — NASCAR owners.
MR. CURRY: And so over and over, the reason this keep[s] getting highlighted [is] because is his worst enemy on these issues.
Look. You need to focus on what your strength[s] are. You get in these tortuous conversation[s]. No, Obama can run on his record. He can run on his compassion. He can run – talk about what he’s trying to do to improve the economy. You get on these side issues, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by –
MR. MARTIN: Hold tight –
MR. CURRY: — taking him on [on] that.