James Fallows highlights this clip of Matt Lauer committing some journalism on the most glass-jawed hothouse flower in the race, Mitt Romney. Romney says that “envy” at the success of others (the top 1% are the “most successful”) is driving the discussion about wealth disparities, not considerations of fairness. When Lauer gently but firmly presses him, Mitt allows that it might be OK to talk about fairness in “quiet rooms”, but it isn’t appropriate to do so in a Presidential campaign.
Stupid remarks like this are similar to plane crashes and train wrecks: they have more than one cause. Part of the cause is Romney’s wooden touch and rich-kid sensibilities, which make him say really offensive and stupid things. But what really drives the train off the tracks is his need to put any discussion of his personal wealth out-of-bounds. In particular, he has to work the refs hard enough to have them look the other way on his unprecedented decision to avoid releasing his income tax returns. A smart politician would release them now and work through the pain well before election day. Mitt is a shit politician, so he’s going to let the pressure build from the usual suspects, and from some less likely sources such as even the conservative Washington Post editorial page, who hit him hard on that topic yesterday.