Monday, December 12, 2011

What Does Romney's $10,000 Bet Tell Us: NOTHING

Mitt Romney has received a lot of criticism for making a $10,000 wager during the recent Republican presidential debate. Romney made the bet during a dispute with Rick Perry over the details in a book Perry had authored.

To most of the media, the substance of the Perry-Romney debate is irrelevant. Instead, media accounts have focused primarily on the amount of money Romney wagered. Although Romney has received criticism across the political divide, Democrats, in particular, have tried to exploit the matter.

The DNC has argued that the amount of the wager proves that Romney is "out of touch" with most Americans, obviously alluding to his vast wealth. This argument is a loser. First, saying that a candidate is "out of touch" is an ambiguous statement. It is unclear what it means to be "out of touch" or to be "in touch."  President George W. Bush, for example, was commonly portrayed as someone who could sit down and have a drink with the "average" American. He and his family, however, are extremely wealthy.

Furthermore, if wealth or high income makes a candidate unfit for office, then the DNC should question President Obama as well. In 2010, the Obamas reported income of nearly $1.8 million.  In 2009, they reported income exceeding $5.6 million. This certainly places them among the highest tier of income earners. Also, Hillary and Bill Clinton have made massive amounts of money since Clinton left office in 2000.

Rather than using wealth as a litmus test, I encourage the Democrats and the media to focus on substance instead. It is a much more compelling way to evaluate a candidate.  Given the current status of the media and politics, however, hoping for substantive analysis is a fantasy.

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