There's a debate over whether Mitt Romney's slip of the tongue Wednesday -- "I'm not concerned about the very poor," which doesn't sound great even in context -- is evidence of his authenticity or his inauthenticity. On one side are people who say Romney's gaffes, surprisingly frequent for such a disciplined campaigner, show he's not a super slick politician who runs every sentence past a focus group before saying it in public. For them, the "poor" comment sounds sinister, but is actually benign. On the other side are those who see Romney's slip as evidence that he hasn't bothered to learn what it means to be a conservative, meaning while his "poor" comment sounds like an inconsequential slip, it really indicates an unsettling lack of conviction. It's like a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's, when Holly Golightly's agent and pursuer gossip about her persona:
"Answer the question: Is she or isn't she?"
"I don't know. I don't think so."
"You don't, huh? Well, you're wrong. She is. But on the other hand, you're right. Because she's a real phony. She honestly believes all this phony junk."
The case for Romney's stumbling realness:
National Review's Jason Lee Steorts writes that the "poor" gaffe "is the essence of authenticity: The problem, politically speaking, is precisely that he failed to calculate about how his remark would be received." All Romney's rich guy gaffes prove the same, he writes, especially the authentic "naked ambition" of saying he couldn't hire illegal immigrants because he was running for office. We all know our politicians are phonies, Steorts writes, but what we want "is a believable sort of fakery." His colleague Jonah Goldberg is troubled that Romney says these things when he's relaxed, "into his groove." His shortcomings as a politician "can be reassuring to some, who take it as proof he’s not another politician. The problem, for others at least, is that because he isn’t a natural politician he breaks the language where it needs to bend."