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October 31, 2012

Injury to Injury: After Ryan Soup Kitchen Deceit, Romney Stages Hurricane Relief Photo Op

First there was Ryan’s Soup Kitchen Gate, now there’s Romney’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Gate — strangely, with more soup on hand.

Yesterday, the word going around in response to Romney’s Hurricane relief non-campaign-campaign event was that the Red Cross had no use for canned goods (and actually had to divert personnel to assist Romney’s collection efforts).  In the meantime, several people wrote me last night saying that the scene, looking at the photos, looked stagey. Observations ranged from how new all the goods looked to the way they were so perfectly arranged on the table — neatly organized, labels forward — as if more a show or a photo-op than a collection effort in progress.

So the news today (Buzzfeed broke the story) is that the Romney campaign took $5k, headed to Walmart, and purchased canned goods and household supplies to give out to people in order to give back to Romney and the campaign.  The deal was that you could attend the non-rally if you brought supplies to donate to the relief effort.

Knowing what we know know, the TwitPic above is largely illuminating. Taken by NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro (retweeted by photographer Phil Rucker),  we see Romney volunteers taking goods from bags and carefully arranging them on the tables. Let’s be clear, however, exactly how and where the deception is taking place.  The fraud is in the perceptual deceit — and, in exactly the same mode as the soup kitchen lie,  the exploitation of charity (and charitable organizations) to perpetuate the deception. The photo is a smoking gun in at least two different ways: to the extent these goods were bought by the campaign and laid out for the cameras to suggest they were donated by the public, it’s a fraud. And to the extent they represent goods for the public to use in the inevitable mountain of photo ops — the photos of Romney collecting the goods leading media consumers to believe that a citizen bought and donated that item him or herself — is also a fraud.

Finally, there’s the issue of libel — of reputations being damaged and people getting hurt as a result of the misrepresentation — because it’s not just Romney damaging himself here.

If you read my follow up piece to the Ryan story in response to MSM bloggers minimizing the act, I described the libelous nature of Ryan’s actions that day. In the case of the soup kitchen imbroglio, Ryan’s photo op ended up putting the charity at risk for letting this happen and that organization at risk with its benefactors for it’s inadvertent role. At the same time, Ryan jeopardized the careers of the journalists present over the potential collusion. In terms of the Romney event, the media sussed out the subterfuge pretty fast, but there is other fallout, and other dynamics to this photos.

For instance, what connotations does this have for the Red Cross that not just their logo, but their association, is connected to this deception? Much more directly though, what of the poor volunteers in these photos?

By enlisting these workers in a perceptual charade — these photo appearing all over the media and the internet today in a perfectly understandably “gotcha” response — the Romney campaign has set up its own volunteers as naive tools. With the opposition sure to use this as an example of  how Romney treats/thinks of workers, these unfortunate Romney volunteers now look like chumps at best, aiders-and-abettors at worst.

(You can make of the props in hand what you will.)

Buzzfeed, by the way, did a wonderful job of photo editing in choosing out this photo to lead its story today. In a thoroughly ironic shot, you almost can’t tell if this guy is handing Romney the Gatorade, or Romney is handing it to the guy to give back to him. Technically, it’s the former, but in the larger reality, which is it? The fact you can’t tell makes this photo, and the subterfuge, puts Romney in the same soup (Campbell’s providing the accent) as his running mate found himself in previously.

And, while I’m on a metaphoric jag (which you’ll indulge me, I hope, given the subject matter and the kind of exaggeration engendered by the campaign), let’s just say: with Romney, it’s hard to tell how much anything holds water.

(photo 1: Ari Shapiro/Twitter via Phil Rucker. photo 2: garrettnbcnews/Instagram caption: Romney Dayton event a hybrid b/t political & storm relief. RNC vid played, but no signs, etc and lots of food/supplies being collected for victims. photo 3: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images caption: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a bag of donated paper towels during a Kettering Storm Relief event on October 30, 2012 in Kettering, Ohio. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney’s campaign has reduced their campaign schedule and are focusing their attention on disaster relief. photo 4: Brian Snyder / Reuters. photo 5: Charles Dharapak/AP caption: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lifts bottles of water to load into a truck as he participates in a campaign event collecting supplies from residents and local relief organizations for victims of superstorm Sandy,Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at the James S. Trent Arena in Kettering, Ohio.)

  • Gasho

    The top shot is the clincher. So many items of the same brand attempting to pose as randomly collected donations is just sad. They didn’t have much time to pull this together.

    Mitt was already looking like a clown during all of this, with his “no role to play” situation — yet screaming “look at me! look at me!”.

    I hope this gets tons of coverage. He’s so dishonest. Pretending to care for those in need is dishonest in the first place, let alone doing it dishonestly.

  • Stan B.

    It’s up to the Red Cross to protest, and our press to stand up and say something to the public it supposedly serves- rather than acting as if in the employ of Romney.
    This is beyond low, beyond shameless, and so is the press at large if they cover this- without exposing it for what it is…

  • Catherine McCallum

    The Red Cross needs dollars, not products.

    Also, how much rice do our New Yorkers need to get their lives back on track? Sure, rice might be useful to somebody somewhere, but in Romney-world disaster victims become poor people become immigrants become Mexican or Chinese or Filipino…anyway, some culture that eats rice. Not like real Americans, who might prefer low-interest loans to repair the damage to their homes, and disaster relief funds to get the subways up and running again.

  • Evan

    I’m a partisan, so my interpretation is colored – but geez, it just looks like he’s having so much fun! This disaster relief stuff is just tops! And there seems to be very little sense of the gravity of the situation.

  • Grung_e_Gene

    Can’t Paul 90X Ryan teach Romney how to properly lift loads?

    • LanceThruster

      When I think of “Rmoney” and “loads” I think of 50lbs of shite in a 5lbs bag.

  • Cactus

    The last photo is iconic: How low will he stoop to win?

    In a way, this kind of thing is typically teapublican. Anything goes to win the election. Anything like preventing millions of people from voting, misinformation to possible democratic voters about election requirements, dates and polling places. putting fewer polling places and machines in democratic areas. Phony photo ops are no-brainers.

  • Tom Goddu

    Why isn’t Romney doing top-level organizing of Main Street and volunteer agency response? Mitt, you said you ‘know what it takes’ more than a few times, so where’s the secret sauce? Form up your proposed disaster response committee and use this as a dry run for the real thing. Show us your simulation.

    The folks paying the disaster bill$ for climate change are a) insurance companies, b) taxpayers, c) flood policy holders, and d) self-insured. All of us need to demand carbon pricing with the proceeds going to reinsure disaster and farm relief. Fossil fuels dump hidden costs onto others, that’s got to stop. Big Insurance is bigger than Big Oil. Just as Big Tobacco lost the cancer war, Big Oil can and must lose the climate war.

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  • gmoke

    Rmoney’s handing out brown rice? Wotta hippie!

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  • Regina Schrambling

    The last photo sez it all for me. Not only does Rmoney appear to have been bronzed, but his security detail (being, of course, melalin-endowed) looks so aware and scornful. More and more, these visual stunts illustrate the 1950s/MadMen thinking of the Republican campaign. Operatives are so clearly unaware of how to spread their message through social media.

  • black_dog_barking

    Continuing the theme of “metaphoric jag”, the third image featuring our hero posed proudly holding the bag can be captioned with just a single word: Asswipe.

  • troutcor

    It is so sad and pathetic that it would almost make me feel sorry for Mittens were he not still viewed as a viable candidate by such a huge percentage of the American public.
    I mean, there he is, left with nothing to do but bag groceries as Obama choppers in with Christie to the disaster area. And it is so low-budget; five grand is all they could pony up? Hell, that’s about what an average family has to spend at China-Mart a month.
    Really, after all of the lies, the flip-flops, the deceptions about his finances, the sops to the troglodyte right, the utterly false ads – this man still has a chance of becoming president of the United States?
    That pretty much tells you all you need to know about how far this nation has fallen.

  • todd case

    And what are these Hurricane victims supposed to do with all this rice and canned goods which Mr Romney has nicely packed up to send to them – Cook?? Serious
    ly, they don’t even have a pot to piss in right now. Couldn’t he pony up a sufficient amount of his unreported taxable funds to send to the Red Cross for relief effort. Hey, he could write that off on next year’s tax return.

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