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Another Romney Gaffe? Not This Time.

Over the course of the campaign thus far, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has repeatedly made statements that reveal the gulf between his wealthy lifestyle and that of the average American (resulting in my favorite meme of this political season). Now Ann Romney, his wife, has sparked another mini-controversy. But this time, the clamoring pundits are wrong. Here’s what happened: In an interview with Neil Cavuto on FOX Mrs. Romney was asked about her battles with cancer and multiple sclerosis. At one point she remarked, “I don’t even consider myself wealthy.” These are certainly curious words from the wife of a man who made over $20 million each of the last two years. And so certain groups, like the activist arm of the far-Left Center for American Progress, posted a 13-second cut of the interview on their blog and YouTube page. Think Progress describes the interview as the latest act of “Romneying” defined as “accidentally bragging about your place high up in the economic stratosphere.” Do a little legwork. Watch the 50-second version of the interview. You’ll see that Romney’s words were far from exuding wealthiness. She is properly—and quite genuinely, in my estimation—defining what “riches” actually means. Here’s a lenghtier quote (punctuation added for clarity):
Those that are suffering from M.S. or cancer or any disease I feel like I want to throw my arms open and say, “Welcome to my family and welcome to the place where I’ve been.” And, so, you know, we can be poor in spirit and I don’t… Look — I don’t even consider myself wealthy. Which is an interesting thing. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. How I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people I care about in my life. And that is where my values are and those are my riches

Romney acknowledges that what she’s saying may sound a bit funny. After the nut quote she admits her statement is “an interesting thing.” Interesting why? Because though it would be reasonable to assume that a family that has earned tens of millions of dollars is first and foremost concerned with earning tens of millions of dollars it would be wrong. The Romney’s, like many wealthy families, find meaning in life in the same places as those lower down on the economic ladder. Faith, family, and friendship are the sources of their most significant prosperity. Lovingly embracing those who have suffered as she has suffered means infinitely more than her Cadillac. Or her other Cadillac. Those materials things aren’t even on the same scale.

Romney is pointing to a truth we try to emphasize here at Values & Capitalism. Whether it’s creating the proper climate for business development or figuring how to best help the poor, it’s not about the money. Money is just one of many metrics of the primary concerns of justice, happiness (properly understood), and capacity to contribute to the common good.

I have participated in criticizing Mitt Romney for some of his statements about wealth and poverty. For me, his words have raised legitimate concerns about his ability to lead effectively. But Think Progress and others are promulgating a lie in order to score cheap points against a political enemy and his wife. Apparently, this is where their values lie. If only they knew that marginal political victories, like stock portfolios and beach homes and cars, are temporal. If only they knew what Ann Romney knows.