Today’s edition of “We’re not gonna take it anymore” centers around an absolutely desperate attempt on Romney’s part to conflate a Joe Biden statement from 2011 as the President’s position on today’s Chicago teachers’ union strike. Seriously, this happened.
The AP reported:
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Monday said Chicago teachers are turning their backs on thousands of students and President Barack Obama is rooting for the striking educators.
On what does Romney base this charge (which, by the way, shouldn’t be a charge but since it’s inaccurate, it becomes one)? Well, he sure didn’t get it from the Obama people. “Obama’s top spokesman said the president has not taken sides but is urging both the teachers and the city to settle quickly.”
The President knows better than to insert himself into local disputes, no matter how he personally views the matter. One wonders if Romney has even bothered to glance at the teacher’s complaints before demonizing them by accusing them of turning their backs on their students. After all, many teachers fight for things that help them be better educators, like class size. Oops, did we go there?
We know that Romney thinks class size doesn’t matter, coming as he does from Cranbrook where we had maybe 15 kids in a class, all of whom placed at the top of testing and a world class teacher to boot. But one hint for Romney might have been the teachers’ signs which read: “On Strike for Better Schools”.
As Philadelphia’s mayor told Romney back when Mitt made his classroom size doesn’t matter pronouncement, “If you’re going to talk about education it would be nice if you had an education record. It would be nice if you had an education platform. It would be nice if you seemed to know something about education.”
But Mitt Romney doesn’t need to know the issues to know that he’s against the teachers, because his education advisor (and Bush Secretary of Education – yes, “No Child Left Behind” shivers) Rod Page refereed to teachers’ unions in 2004 as “terrorist organizations.” He later explained that this was a “joke”, because nothing says “We’re not being divisive” like calling a group of educators terrorists.
Here are the issues in the Chicago strike: Wages, job security and teacher evaluations. We know Mitt Romney feels entitled to make a buck any which way, but does not think teachers should be allowed to have a living wage, but how can he ignore fighting over teacher evaluations which union leaders say is tied too heavily to student scoring?
So, where did Romney come up with his whopper, “President Barack Obama is rooting for the striking educators” ?
Here’s how Romney got there:
“Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet,” Romney said in his statement. “President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his vice president last year to assure the nation’s largest teachers union that ‘you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the president’s commitment to you.'”
Oh, so Joe Biden’s address to the National Educators’ Association, which represents 3.2 million teachers nationwide, in July of 2011 told Romney how Obama stood today on a local fight, in spite of the fact that Obama put out a very clear, neutral statement ? What else is in Romney’s crystal ball?
Maybe he can see Joe Biden from his campaign bus, but that doesn’t mean he’s listening to all parts of Joe’s speech (selected portions below):
You know, all states are struggling from the impacts of this brutal recession that we inherited, yet there is an organized effort to place the blame for the budget shortfall squarely on educators and other public workers. It is one of the biggest scams in modern American history.
Look, this administration stands for education and it stands with labor. It’s about your fundamental right to collectively bargain, not just about your wages and benefits, but about the environment in which you work: the size of your classrooms, the mix of special education students in the classroom, the competency of the administrators in your schools, after school programs.
It’s about whether or not we have classroom sizes that allow a child to be recognized.
We should be listening to you, not lecturing to you. We should be embracing you, not pushing you aside!
You are not the problem.
Not all teachers are created equal. Not all vice presidents or presidents are created equal. Not all doctors are created equal.
So I don’t have any doubt about your sincerity. And I don’t have any doubt about your capacity. You should have no doubt about my affection for you and the President’s commitment to you. Thank you for what you do.
If Romney would bother to educate himself before he went on yet another willy-nilly attack, he would have known that before Biden’s speech to the NEA, the Illinois teachers negotiated via collective bargaining to base employment decisions on effectiveness, not seniority.
Wow, they sure act like a “terrorist organization,” no?
The AP points out:
Obama, too, has urged accountability in teachers — moves that union leaders have opposed. For instance, Obama’s administration has favored pilot programs that challenge current practices, rewarding schools who try new approaches and has pushed for longer school days.
Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, is a former head of Chicago Public Schools who pushed for changes that unions opposed. Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is the Chicago mayor on the opposite side of the teachers’ unions.
Romney’s political machinations didn’t go over very well at the local level either, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is on the opposite side of the teachers’ union, saying:
“While I appreciate Mitt Romney’s statement, on behalf of the kids and the parents of the city of Chicago, if he wants to help, he can then determine that when it comes to a tax cut, he will never cut the Department of Education and the funding that’s necessary. And he will make sure that there will never be a cut in any education to pay for his tax cuts to the most fortunate. So while I appreciate his lip service, what really counts is what we’re doing here. And I don’t really give two hoots about national comments, scoring political points or trying to embarrass or whatever the president.”
Today’s Mitt-move has shades of his using Australia’s leaders to embarrass our President. But who can blame him, when he makes Obama’s job of embarrassing him so easy. I refer, of course, to yesterday’s Mittmacle, when Romney accused the President of wanting to take God off of our money (whaaaat?), to which the President responded by mocking Mitt’s conspiracy theory with a reference to finding aliens in Florida. Sigh.
In this election, Mitt has to do both jobs: he provides all of the comedy and mockability to the other side while hunting through the VP’s comments from 2011 that he can falsely attribute to this President about today’s events. Phew.
Romney demonstrates a stunning lack of curiosity about the real issues, and is too quick to demonize teachers merely because his party is trying to kill unions. But then, Mitt Romney has already told a closed door fundraiser (without leaks from closed to the press events, we would know nothing of Romney’s “ideas”) that we don’t need no stinking Department of Education, but since he can’t tell us he wants to get rid of it all together without raising the alarm as he did in 1994, instead:
“The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I’m not going to get rid of it entirely,” Romney said, explaining that part of his reasoning behind preserving the agency was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers’ unions.
You might be wondering why there’s no reference to Romney’s deathblow to education. Well, that little tidbit is one of those “specifics” the campaign tells you not to worry about. They’re going to debate those issues in Congress. But there are nearly $1 trillion in cuts to programs like education, air traffic control and food safety in the Ryan budget under “Function 920 Allowances”. Well, hey, that money has to come from somewhere and they sure as heck aren’t going to tax a millionaire to get it.
So while it appears that Romney shows zero judgement in these situations, quickly inserting himself with conflated charges from yesteryear attached to this President today, what’s really going on is a long-armed agenda to destroy and dismantle the Department of Education, one goal of which is to kill teachers unions. If you think that’s a conspiracy theory, I urge you to read all of his words from the overheard fundraiser.
Yes, Mitt might be a legit twit, but if this is how he leads – without looking where he’s going, just quickly jerking to the right at any sign of trouble – this nation could be in serious trouble.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.