I thought Mitt Romney's "Bumps In The Road" ad was a very good opening salvo, because it told this story: Calling the unemployed "bumps in the road" serves to render them as abstractions, but when you come face to face with jobless people, you realize that there's a real human life in crisis. Don't misunderstand me -- this is the language of advertising and I don't mistake it for authenticity -- but it throws a powerful marker down in this election and it suggests that Mitt Romney might conduct himself with a degree of sensitivity to the nation's unemployed. (Whether or not he has any sort of plan to ameliorate the problem is another issue entirely.)
Writing about that ad, I also said that one of its strengths was that it did not include Mitt Romney -- the thing that is often the most annoying thing about any "Mitt Romney campaign." What happens when you combine actual people, a discussion of unemployment and the candidate himself? You get this, from Jeff Zeleny, on the stump with Romney in Tampa, Fla.:
"I should tell my story," Mr. Romney said. "I'm also unemployed."
He chuckled. The eight people gathered around him, who had just finished talking about strategies of finding employment in a slow-to-recover economy, joined him in laughter.
"Are you on LinkedIn?" one of the men asked.
"I'm networking," Mr. Romney replied. "I have my sight on a particular job."
Yep, that's Mitt Romney, some unemployed derelict with nothing but millions of dollars and several homes to fall back on for comfort. He does not have a job and that is his "story." What will he do to pull himself up by his bootstraps? Oh, just battle President Barack Obama over millions of dollars worth of Wall Street campaign handouts, like all the hobos are doing.
At any rate, that's the sort of easily -- VERY EASILY -- avoidable rhetorical drivel that reminds me of the terrific distance between the lives of office-seekers and actual Americans. I mean, do we really need to have the unemployment crisis trivialized one more time? Because here to trivialize the crisis one more time is Mitt Romney:
"I wish I had a job for everybody," Mr. Romney said at the end of his discussion. He added, "I may be unemployed for longer than I'd like."
What will become of Mitt Romney if he remains unemployed for 99 weeks? Will he be okay?
(Zeleny, for some reason, calls this remark "humble" and "self-deprecating." This is actually what is known as a "humblebrag.")