Mitt Romney went to Louisiana yesterday in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, and The New York Times tells me that this is supposed to make me believe he feels people's pain:
One of the biggest challenges Mr. Romney must overcome in the last two months of the campaign is to connect more with voters, as polls show that many of them think he lacks empathy and warmth. And a trip to the ransacked bayou -- complete with images that seem tailor made for the evening news, like Mr. Romney visiting a town hall surrounded by water so deep one resident was canoeing through it -- could help counter those perceptions.But it doesn't make us feel he understands people's needs and concerns. It makes us feel he's laboring to persuade us that he understands people's needs and concerns.
"The decision to go to New Orleans shows how much Mitt Romney is making the effort to show he understands people's needs and concerns," said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary to President George W. Bush. "It's a side of Mitt Romney that people don’t give him credit for."
There are two ways Mitt Romney could benefit politically from a visit like this. One is by actually making a persuasive-sounding argument about the problem he's observing, and about the current administration's handling of this and similar problems. Recall candidate Bill Clinton touring Los Angeles in May 1992 after the riots:
Mr. Clinton's visit here concluded a day in which he said repeatedly that the riots showed the need for a new President who could bind up and reunify a nation drifting apart along lines of race and income....Clinton was making a political case: that twelve years of Reagan and Bush had been bad for poor people and minority, and had divided the country. Regarding Isaac, what the hell is Romney's argument?
Standing outside the Israel Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, Mr. Clinton said he had no criticism of the steps taken by President Bush in response to the riots: sending Federal troops and law-enforcement officers to Los Angeles and stepping up a grand jury investigation to determine if Federal civil rights laws had been violated in the beating of the black motorist, Rodney G. King.
But Mr. Clinton said the events were "a reflection of more than a decade of denial of responsibility and of manipulation of political symbols" by Republicans in the White House.
The other way Romney could benefit is by actually persuading us that he cares, and that he isn't merely showing up to punch a ticket for political purposes. Hmmm, let's see -- this is the photo USA Today and the print New York Times went with to illustrate Romney's visit. What do you think? Genuinely empathetic guy or pol doing a photo op?
I rest my case.
Romney has to stop trying to look like a guy who cares, because all he does is look like a guy trying to look like a guy who cares. Instead, he could try (a) actually caring and/or (b) telling us what he'd actually do as president (besides repeal Obamacare and FREEDOM!!!1!!) that he believes would make our lives better.
UPDATE: Oh, hell, I wrote all that before I got a chance to read this:
Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) ... talked with a local resident, Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac's flooding.He generates spoken words. Does he take them in? Is he even capable of processing words uttered by others that don't jibe with the narrative in his brain?
Chiarello said she told Romney, "I lost everything" and that the presidential contender advised her on how to get assistance. "He said that he was going to do the best that he could for us," she said.
"He just told me to, um, there's assistance out there," Chiarello said of her conversation with Romney. "He said, go home and call 211." That's a public service number offered in many states.
Or maybe Tim F.'s headline is exactly correct:
He meant go to your other home