RUSH: We're gonna start last night on ABC's "World! News! Tonight!" We have a portion of correspondent David Muir's report about Romney's remark that he's "not concerned about the very poor," and this is the beginning of the saturation of comments by me, your host, throughout the Drive-By Media yesterday.
MUIR: That comment today, his opponents say, again cast Romney as a wealthy businessman. Out-of-touch. Even conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.
RUSH ARCHIVE: He makes himself a target with this stuff. He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. It's gonna make it harder and harder and harder to go after Obama.
MUIR: And Newt Gingrich, who vows to keep going, saw an opening.
GINGRICH: I am running to be the president of all the American people.
MUIR: While flying across the country today, the Governor shot back at any notion he dismissed the poor. He again said if the safety net has holes in it, he would work to repair them.
RUSH: That... (sigh) Well, I'm being repetitive. That misses the whole point on the safety net as well. But from the conservative standpoint, which is the American standpoint, which is the compassionate standpoint, which is the loving-opportunity standpoint. On CBS This Morning today, I have a portion here of the political correspondent Jan Crawford and her report about Romney's remark that he's not concerned about the poor.
CRAWFORD: Opponents on the left jumped on it saying it shows Romney is out of touch, just as radio host Rush Limbaugh predicted.
RUSH ARCHIVE: Now, everybody knows what he's trying to say, but he didn't say it. He makes himself a target with this stuff. He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. It's gonna make it harder and harder and harder to go after Obama.
RUSH: They love that "prototypical rich Republican" assessment. They all used it out there in the Drive-By Media. Last night on CNN's The Situation Room, here is the giddy Dana Bash -- who, by the way, is married to the reporter John King. Just a little gossip for you. Well, it's not gossip. It's true. Dana Bash and John King are husband and wife, joined in matrimony. I think on Martha's Vineyard. I'm not sure. Not that it matters, but here is her report -- and you can hear she's giddy.
BASH: (giddily) The National Review asked, "What's wrong with this guy?" And on conservative radio, Rush Limbaugh said, "He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican."
RUSH: National Review, they've been all-in for Romney for a while. So they probably were a little disjointed about this. Maybe scratching their heads, going, "Oh, gee." But not just them. Not just National Review. Last night on The Last Word on PMSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell and the Huffing and Puffington Post editorial director Howard Fineman (fresh from the cockfights he said he watched in South Carolina) had a discussion about Romney and his remark about the poor. Lawrence O'Donnell said, "Howard, I don't believe we've had a Republican president in our past who would be flat-footed enough to be caught saying, 'I don't care about poor people.' Romney doesn't seem to understand what the Republican talking points are when faced with questions like this."
FINEMAN: What the Republicans have tried to do over the last generation with people like the late Jack Kemp and others is to argue that they -- meaning the Republicans and the conservatives and the free market -- have a better answer for the problems of the poor than the Democrats do. This is what Rush Limbaugh was partly upset about. He was defending Newt, but he was also upset about the idea that Mitt Romney's actually accepting the safety net. He's sort of saying, "Well, yeah, for the poor people we have the Democratic policies and let them have their thing." So it couldn't have been worse in any conceivable direction for Romney, and the -- the Romney people are quite defensive about it, justifiably, tonight.
RUSH: Same show, MSNBC last night, Howard Dean... (interruption) What are you are frowning at? (interruption) That's a good point. I wasn't "defending Newt." Not in this. I don't think... Look, I said a lot of words yesterday. I don't remember everything I said, but I don't think I even associated any of this with the Newtster. At any rate, a minor point. Howard Dean, Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell. After he plays the clip of me saying our team is not all that good; you know it and I know it, they're just not -- which I did say yesterday. I did say talking about the remaining field. O'Donnell said, "Honesty breaking out on the Rush Limbaugh Show today, Howard. That's how bad it's gotten for the Republicans."
DEAN: That's not somethin' y'hear!
DEAN: Look, these guys have a problem because the idea was to run against Obama and make Obama the issue. The Obama campaign is incredible. Uhhh, they've been on a roll since the jobs speech before Labor Day and you're just not gonna grind them down. And the issue of this campaign is, "Can you trust the Republicans?" That is a terrible issue for the Republican Party. But that's the issue. The issue is: Can you trust to (sic) the Republican --
DEAN: -- who got us into this in the first place, to get us out?
RUSH: That's irrelevant. That has nothing to do with what this is about. But this is what happens when you give them this opportunity. Here's Howard Dean rolling on and on, "Can you trust the Republicans. That's a terrible issue. The issue is can you trust the Republicans who got us into this in the first place." It's not at all what this is about, but there they go running with it. And we go to the Morning Joe show, Scarborough on MSNBC this morning. Here is Mika Brzezinski.
BRZEZINSKI: Rush Limbaugh offered his take as well.
RUSH ARCHIVE: "I'm not worried about the poor. We got a safety net." The safety net is one of the biggest cultural problems we've got. The safety net is contributing to the destruction of their humanity and their futures. Everybody knows what he's trying to say, but he didn't say it, and he makes himself a target with this stuff. He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. All these wizards of smart in the Republican establishment, "We can't have Newt out there, why, Newt's gonna be the topic. We need Obama be the topic." What evidence is there that it's not gonna be about Romney with these kinds of statements?
RUSH: Okay, that's what Howard Fineman heard. What I was saying was, that the Republican establishment was saying we can't have Newt or anybody but Romney, because Newt, Newt's so bad, he's so bellicose, he's so bombastic. He says so many crazy things, that Newt's gonna end up being the issue. We don't want Newt. We want Obama to be the issue. And now look what's happened. Romney, for two straight days now, is the issue. And I was just making the point that the establishment doesn't know what it's talking about when they talk about only Romney's electable and the campaign will only be about Obama if Romney is the nominee. Our nominee could be Mother Teresa and by the time they got through with her she'd be a prostitute with 15 illegitimate kids. It doesn't matter who our nominee is; they're gonna be all over it.
They're gonna make our nominee the issue because they can't defend theirs. Their nominee's record is something they've got to hide. They can't run on it. Everybody knows all the Democrats can do is to rip our nominee apart, tear our nominee to shreds. Opposition research. And they've said that that's what they're gonna do. They're gonna go after character. They're gonna go after policy. They're gonna go after everything, and yet our wizards of smart are sitting up there saying, "Well, if we nominate Romney, they can't go after Romney, that way we'll be able to make Obama the issue." Yeah, right. Not going to work out that way. Joe Scarborough, on his own eponymous show, then decided to reply to Mika Brzezinski.
SCARBOROUGH: That's actually the point of the day. We've been hearing all along that, oh, if you nominate Newt it's gonna be about Newt. And yes, if you nominate Newt, it is gonna be all about Newt. But the idea was that you could turn the focus on Obama if you put Romney in there. But I'm telling you with every one of these gaffes -- I'm not kicking Mitt Romney when he's down. I'm just saying for me, as a conservative, even, I'm concerned when I hear somebody say, "I'm not focused or concerned about the very poor." There's a disconnect there.
RUSH: Now, it's not a disconnect. See, everybody knows what Romney was trying to do. These guys all know. Every one of these critics out there knows that Romney was trying -- let me tell you what he was trying to say. I'll give you the words. I'm Mitt Romney, and I know you in the middle class are the backbone of this country, and nobody is paying any attention to how you're suffering and nobody is looking out for you and I'm the guy that's going to. I understand who makes this country great, I understand who makes this country work. It's not the rich. You in the middle class are the targets of every one of these policies Obama has come up with. You're the ones whose homes are underwater and you're the ones that can't make your mortgage payments. You're the ones who can't find work, I understand, and I'm here for you.
That's what he wanted to say. That's what he thought he did say with that comment. But he didn't say that. We all know. But you don't get the benefit of the doubt. You don't get, "Well, okay, we know what he meant to say," and then people correct for it.
RUSH: We're up to number 11, and we're sticking with the Scarborough show. The Drive-Bys went nuts with my assessment of Mitt Romney's statement that, (paraphrasing) "Don't worry about the poor, they got a safety net. I'll fix it if it breaks. I'm worried about the middle class." Heilemann is the national affairs editor at New York Magazine. He's on Scarborough's show. Scarborough said, "Look, Romney ran a powerful company. A lot of our children are not gonna have to worry as much as I know some of us here had to worry growing up." Joe, this is where, God love you, we're all going to have to worry, even us rich people in the media, Joe. Everybody's going to have to worry. Well, Joe said that he's not gonna have to worry, his children are gonna have to worry, but a lot of other people -- Joe, no fortune is safe.
I mean if this bunch is out of money, where are they gonna go to get some? They have to go to the people who've got it, and that includes you. This notion that people who've made it, make it forever, not true. People fall out of and jump back in all the different income quintiles. Nobody's income or financial status is the same their entire life. And once you've made it doesn't mean you're not gonna lose it all. And it doesn't mean an aggressive government can't try to come take it from you. It's what many people fear. But, anyway, Joe said, "Romney ran a powerful company. A lot of our children, John, we're not gonna have to worry as much as I know some of us here had to worry growing up. Am I gonna be able to take care of my family? Am I gonna be able to go to a good school? There's a disconnect here that's really troubling, because a lot of Americans are not gonna be able to answer 'yes' to those questions where you and I can."
HEILEMANN: Rush says it makes it easier for you to paint a picture of him as a prototypical rich Republican. People start to wonder, well, maybe he is just a prototypical rich Republican. Joe, you remember back when Jack Kemp was a major figure in national Republican politics. A very conservative guy. These kinds of things would never have come out of Jack Kemp's mouth because Jack Kemp was really concerned about the very poor. Jack Kemp was trying to figure out a way, in an active way all the time. And there were other Republicans, but I'm gonna single out him because he was a Republican vice presidential nominee in 1996. He made a big part of his conservative agenda, how do we use conservative tools to help the worst off?
RUSH: Well, conservatism is the way out of poverty. You don't need special conservative tools. Conservatism is. But whether you say prototypical or stereotypical, the point is the media has concocted a false image of rich Republicans. The truly dastardly wealthy today are Democrats. There are far more of them. The true evil, mean-spirited, don't care about people rich, is the Democrats. They don't use their own money for anything. They give very little to charity. My problem with what Romney did is it feeds the stereotype. Rich Republican who doesn't relate to or understand or care about the poor. It was a gaffe in that regard. Scarborough replied to Heilemann.
SCARBOROUGH: Conservatives aren't bashing the media here. It's Rush Limbaugh. You're talking about the most influential conservative saying Mitt Romney is really making our job a lot harder.
GEIST: Conservatives got an opening, too, with the content of what he said. They weren't worried about him saying "I'm not concerned about the poor;" they were worried about him saying, "We need to strengthen the social net." They went, "No, no, no, no. That's not the answer."
RUSH: That's exactly right. The social safety net has been proven to be a failure. Once people fall into that net, they don't get out of that. That net swallows 'em up. It becomes a hammock, as it was designed. That safety net was not designed with compassion. That was what they said it was for. Oh, yeah, it's always that we care for the poor. If you really help the poor you teach 'em how not to be. And there's a word for this called a job. You go out and say that now and you get a cynical reaction, "Oh, yeah, easy for you to say." Well, what if we all said a job is something cynical that's not worth having? It's just ridiculous. F. Chuck Todd was out there on the same show and Willie Geist, the last guy you heard speaking, said, "What happens here, I think a lot of Republicans have come to the point where they say, 'Okay, this is Mitt Romney. This is the guy.' At some point there's a pattern. How do they deal with this guy going forward?"
TODD: They were hoping to run as the successful businessman, and, you know, part of this has been the pressure that the Obama campaign's also been trying to put on Romney of trying to paint him as a caricature of a successful businessman that wasn't really involved in the job creation process, was more involved in this idea of creative destruction, Wall Street capitalism versus Main Street capitalism. And I think that that pressure's gotten to the Romney campaign a little bit.
RUSH: Yeah, maybe, perhaps. But that's not what's going on here. What's going on here is that a root level of understanding doesn't exist. The root level understanding conservatism doesn't exist. That's all this is. I, from the get-go, said, the way to do this, the way to overcome the fact that media is gonna be going after our nominee, whoever it is, just stick to conservatism, particularly given what we're up against, the contrast is dynamic. But the establishment Republicans just don't like conservatism. They don't like conservatives, except on Election Day every four years.
So on Daily Rundown on MSNBC (this is F. Chuck Todd's show that comes on after Scarborough), they had political editor from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Josh Green, on to talk about Romney's remark, and F. Chuck said, "Hey, Josh, are we seeing Rush Limbaugh is right? The idea that Romney wouldn't be a focus in a general election like Newt would be? I don't know. Maybe he's right. Romney could be just as much of an issue as Newt." There's F. Chuck saying: You know, Republicans might be wrong. They think only Newt would be the issue? Maybe Romney could end up being an issue, too. What do you think about that, Josh?
GREEN: Absolutely. And whoever the Republican candidate is is gonna be pilloried for whatever their weaknesses are. You know, Newt would be explosive. You know, temperament anger unsteadiness. For Romney, it's obviously gonna be this profile of kind of an uncaring, out-of-touch, rich guy, "vulture capitalist."
RUSH: Last night in Minneapolis on local news, Romney said this while apologizing for his remark on CNN that he's not concerned about the poor. This is what he said...
ROMNEY: Sometimes things don't come out exactly the way you'd like them to. That's not exactly what I meant to say. My focus is on middle-income Americans. We do have a safety net for the very poor. And I said if there are holes in it, I want to correct that.
RUSH: (sigh) Okay. We know what he was trying to say. All these critics on the left that are on harping on the out-of-touch line know exactly what he was trying to say. But it's easy for them to ignore what he's trying to say. If he was Obama, if they were sympathetic, they'd give him the benefit of the doubt and this wouldn't be a story. But since it's an opportunity to nail conservatives, they'll take the out-of-context meaning and run with it and then run every other comment by me and other people that have been forthcoming. "Holes in the safety net. Yeah, I want to fix it." That means take care of the holes and maintain the safety net. Look, I'm getting blue in the face. I'm not gonna repeat myself. You know what I've said about it over and over. Let's just keep going with Newt responding to Romney.
GINGRICH: Let me say something here. I am fed up with politicians in either party dividing Americans against each other.
AUDIENCE: (smattering of cheers and applause)
GINGRICH: I am running to be the president of all the American people, and I am concerned about all of the American people.
RUSH: That was yesterday in Reno, Nevada, and Newt trying to say, "Look, I don't look at people in the safety net, not in the safety net, rich, poor, middle class. I'm gonna be president for everybody." That's the way he is trying to make hay out of this. Here's Krauthammer from Krauthammer Review Online. He was on Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier last night.
KRAUTHAMMER: This is bad. It's not just that the day after the win in Florida. The real problem here is that it shows he doesn't have a fluency with conservative ideas. Conservatives are not the ones who either engage in the war of the classes or in a division of America into classes. Obama, the Democrats will win that kind of argument every day. The moral case for conservative economics is that our policies are gonna help everybody, including the poor. The idea that somehow we consign the poor to the safety net and we patch it and dependency is a liberal idea it's not our idea. And Romney is a guy who came late to his new ideology and he still can't speak it very well.
RUSH: It's pretty true. He came late to conservatism and can't speak it pretty well. It's like learning a foreign language. That's what Krauthammer is saying. Mark McKinnon ran Bush's media operation in 2000-2004. He started a group called No Labels, basically a bunch of moderate-to-liberal Republicans who didn't like being tied to conservatives and didn't like being associated with conservatives and labeled as such. So they start this new group out there, "No Labels," which is, "Look, we're bigger than labels. We're moderates! We're mainstreamers. We're the really smart people. We don't like these labels," and that's just who McKinnon is. McKinnon was on Larry Kudlow on CNBC last night. Kudlow said, "They're all saying Romney doesn't care about poor people. What do you think about that, utter nonsense or what?"
MCKINNON: I think his instincts were to try and get a message that's designed to the middle class, which the -- President Obama is successfully getting a lot of traction with. So the instinct was right; the execution was just bad. And that's where I think this long, drawn-out primary is, in many ways, problematic. Because we're seeing independents turning against Mitt Romney.
RUSH: Okay, that's it! If the independents are turning against Romney, it's all lost, you see? If we lose the independents it's all lost. (laughing) He's going to lose conservatives! "If we lose the independents... The execution was bad; the instinct was right." So what we're hearing is we gotta shut down these campaigns. We gotta stop the debates. We gotta shorten these campaigns so that our guy doesn't talk as much because it's a danger when he talks this much. I don't know, folks. I don't know.
RUSH: You know it's all about reflexes. This Romney thing, it's all about reflexes -- and it pains me to say this stuff. This show has not been easy. You don't... Well, maybe you do know, but he just doesn't have conservative reflexes. It's like trying to learn golf late in life: The reflexes just aren't there. You've got to have a foundation, a basic understanding to have the reflexes, and they just aren't there. And I don't know if he can learn 'em. We will find out.
RUSH: James Carville last night was on Anderson Cooper 291 spoke with Anderson Cooper about Romney. And Cooper said, "So you have 24 hours distance on it now. Romney goes out, says this stuff 24 hours after his win in Florida. How do you look at his victory now?"
CARVILLE: The problem a Mitt Romney has, he just is not that good a candidate. The guy is not good on his feet. Politically, he comes across as some kind of a detached doofus. You look at the -- the comments today among conservatives, you look at the concern. And he always conforms... He -- he has a -- a stereotype whether it's acc'rate or not that he is this kinda out-of-touch guy. That's why I said politically he comes across as a detached doofus. And this comment today just feeds into a perception there is about him. He's just not that good on his feet.
RUSH: Now, does somebody want to tell me the Democrats are not looking forward to running against Romney? You notice that Carville gave himself the option there to call him "a detached doofus" twice in a 36-second sound bite? As if Obama does not come across as detached. There's nobody more detached from reality than "Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm!" And there's no bigger doofus than Barack Hussein Obama. No bigger doofus and nobody more detached and nobody could be more wrong about things than "Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm!" And here is our wonderful Republican establishment: We can't have Newt, man! They're gonna make the campaign about him."
You know the Democrats are working on bumper stickers now: "Detached doofus." They're gonna have a picture of Mitt Romney with needle and thread sewing up the safety net. I can just see it. It's gonna be an ad. There's gonna be an ad. There's gonna be a caricature of Romney and he'll be, you know, crocheting a safety net with a bunch of poor people bouncing up and down in it. "Detached doofus says, 'I don't care about the poor.'" The establishment says, "Yeah, that's right! That's right! If Newt had been the nominee look what the campaign would have been about." Moon colonies! (laughing) I know, the 51st state. Find the first 13,000 American suckers to move up there and we'll call it the 51st state.