Last night on Fox’s special coverage of the Republican Convention, I said that Ann Romney reminded me of a corporate wife during her speech. In the hours since I made that comment, I have gotten a lot of static and a flurry of negative feedback through Twitter and Facebook.
Many people took offense to that criticism so I think it is worth explaining exactly what I meant.
First, I was making a criticism of the speech -- not of Mrs. Romney.
My wife and I have dined with Mitt Romney. I have met Ann. They are very nice people.
She is a very real person who has faced all of the struggles that attend to being a wife, a mother and a cancer survivor. She is an attractive, energetic and engaging presence on the campaign trail. She is the type of woman that any man - corporate executive or not - would be proud to present as his wife.
My reaction was to the political speech. It was intended to help the presidential candidate with women voters. The goal was to let the audience know he is a caring person and not a hardened businessman lacking a heart.
Where the speech lost me was in her representation that the Romneys could understand the struggle of the average American family because they, too, had struggled. Those comments felt to me as if this was something she had often expressed in formal settings while representing her husband. This representation was not at all persuasive to me because their “struggle” is vastly different than the economic struggle of most Americans.
My criticism is about the economic angle of the speech.
The most effective political approach to me -- as a political analyst— would have been for Mrs. Romney to say that she knows she is fortunate, knows she blessed and she wants the best for others too.
That message is the perfect counter to any thoughts that her husband is out of touch with the lives of average Americans. It would have put the issue of their wealth in proper perspective as the American Dream and conveyed that they feel blessed to be in position to help others.
The best moment of her speech, for me, was when she said this: “This is important. I want you to hear what I am going to say. Mitt does not like to talk about how he has helped others
because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point.”
In my opinion, that is the winning message.
The wonderful reality is that both Ann and Mitt are scions of wealthy families. They were born to lives of privilege -- she, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and he, the son of an automobile company CEO and governor of Michigan.
They may have started out in a small apartment but she was married to a young man studying for a Harvard business and law degree. Their parents could afford to send them to elite universities like Stanford and Harvard without needing scholarships or financial aid. And then her talented husband had monumental success in the corporate world.
It does not make sense to me to talk about that couple having struggles similar to most Americans. They never had to live with economic fear of being laid off from a job or losing their health insurance.
My thinking is that the audience knows this. Her husband’s critics have used it to portray him as out of touch. That is why I think the speech’s most effective approach would have been to quickly acknowledge the blessing of wealth and move on, spending most of the time talking about the family’s generosity and history of helping others.
Juan Williams is a Fox News political analyst. He is the author of several books including "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It" and "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate."