COMMENTARY | Whether she knew it or not, Anne Romney just provided liberals and Democrats and those generally opposed to her husband ever becoming president another brick in that wall that supposedly exists between the affluent Romneys and the rest of America. By saying that she and her husband had “given all you people need to know” in an interview with ABC News Thursday , she instantly created a sound bite that will be played for months ad nauseum.
The wife of prospective Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was, of course, defending Romney’s stubbornness at revealing any more of his tax returns than he legally had to (per Federal Election Commission rules), which was two years. Anne Romney told ABC News that the media should focus more on the good things her husband has accomplished, that he gives 10 percent of his income to his church, and not dwell on and speculate about what is and is not contained in tax returns that he has refused to make public. But when ABC’s Robin Roberts suggested that America might “move on” if Romney released just a few more years of those returns, the supportive wife dug in and backed her husband.
“Because there are so many things that will be open again for more attack… and that’s really, that’s just the answer. And we’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life.”
She went on to say that the election was about the economy, but you know that will never make the edits, the sound bites, the political ads. Only political defenders and purists will hear the economy line. The rest of the world will hear that there is a clear delineation in Anne Romney’s mind between her and her husband and everybody else — call them the 99 percent, the poor, the have nots. But no matter what they’re labeled, it will be made clear that Anne Romney, already associated with two Cadillacs, numerous houses, and an Olympics-qualifying dancing horse sets herself — and her husband — apart.
In fact, Mitt Romney’s opponents might not even use the leading line that suggests that there are things that are attack-worthy and simply go with the “you people” portion of the comment. But don’t bet on it. Allegations and accusations of things hidden are assuredly to come, but the “you people” phrase only adds to the picture of the Romneys — and more importantly, the presidential candidate himself — as being out of touch with “you people” (even though she probably meant the media), those with which he would rather not share his tax returns, unlike so many other politicians before him. Those would include his own father, George Romney, who is credited with starting the practice of disclosure.
Unfortunately for Romney’s dutiful wife, she may have inadvertently provided a generator of pressure that could result in exactly the event she and her husband have been attempting to avoid — the public release of years of past tax returns. And the media — left, right, center — won’t be able to help itself. The words of a woman simply attempting to protect her husband and her family’s privacy will become a point of leverage, something to question, to attack, to parse, explain, and lend meaning — regardless of Anne Romney’s actual verbal intent.
The worst, of course, will come from those opposing Romney, the political left and the Democrats. And even if the Romneys eventually cave on the tax returns issue (a distinct possibly given the rising chorus to do so from fellow Republicans and conservatives), those ill-chosen words will still be used in months to come to undermine Romney’s bid for the White House.
And even though ABC News later adjudged that Mrs. Romney never said the word “you” at all , that won’t stop the detractors. Because with a simple sidestep, it will be pointed out that the in the context of “we’ve given all people need to know,” the “you” is understood.
Besides, as long as Anne Romney has been in the political game, she should well understand the sensitivity of “you people” where financial situations are concerned. It is directly related to their desire to discover whatever is being withheld. And that sensitivity becomes exacerbated by what appears to be a challenge. It matters not whether “you people” or “all [you] people” are represented by the media or those with much smaller incomes — or both.
So get ready for the sound bites.