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From Soup to Nuts
Author: BobR    Date: 10/19/2012 12:32:16

There is a certain inherent phoniness in political campaigns. Incumbents try to sell the highpoints of their records and hide the mistakes. Newcomers try to show they are ready to compete on the Big Stage. The rich and the powerful try to show they are just "regular folk" by staging "photo ops" in factories, diners, schools, and public parks.

Romney has been trying extra hard, and mostly failing. He accused a person of bringing "7/11" cookies that were purchased from a venerable local baker. He bought "stuff" at a hardware store he had no intention of using. Sometimes, though, it's just a matter of unfortunate timing:


or someone posing in the pic that may not be a supporter:


It's certainly disruptive to have a campaign stop by to grin for the camera. It interrupts your work day, and may put the employee in a bind. What if they don't support the candidate? It seems unAmerican, but there are certainly cases where a worker's job depends on them showing up and smiling for the camera:
When Romney stopped by Century Mill earlier this month, the facility was shut down for the day on the basis of "safety and security," resulting in non-salaried employees not being given a paid shift and all staffers being asked to attend the event. To what degree they were pressured, though, depends on whom you ask.

"Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time," the employees tell WWVA talk show host David Blomquist. "Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events."

THAT's one way to gain support from the "regular folks"...

So it's certainly bad enough when working people who can barely get by are sacrificing personal time and/or money so a politician can have a staged campaign moment. What about those that are destitute and starving? That is a real problem due to a clumsy clueless selfish photo op that Paul Ryan inflicted upon a soup kitchen in Youngstown, OH:
Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.
Ryan had stopped by the soup kitchen for about 15 minutes on his way to the airport after his Saturday morning town hall in Youngstown. By the time he arrived, the food had already been served, the patrons had left, and the hall had been cleaned.

Upon entering the soup kitchen, Ryan, his wife and three young children greeted and thanked several volunteers, then donned white aprons and offered to clean some dishes. Photographers snapped photos and TV cameras shot footage of Ryan and his family washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty.

The head of the facility was not pleased. As he noted:
The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.
“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”
He noted that the soup kitchen relies on funding from private individuals who might reconsider their support if it appears that the charity is favoring one political candidate over another.

“I can’t afford to lose funding from these private individuals,” he said. “If this was the Democrats, I’d have the same exact problem.”

It appears that his fears were not unfounded:
In the wake of Rep. Paul Ryan's embarrassing soup kitchen photo-op last week, the organization that runs the facility tells The Huffington Post that donors have begun pulling their money out of the Youngstown, Ohio charity.

Ryan may have suffered a few late-night jokes, but the fallout for the soup kitchen appears to be far more bruising. Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, confirmed that donors have begun an exodus in protest over Ryan's embarrassment. The monetary losses have been big. "It appears to be a substantial amount," Antal said. "You can rest assured there has been a substantial backlash."

To make matters worse:
Ryan supporters have now targeted Antal and his soup kitchen, Antal said, including making hundreds of angry phone calls. Some members of Antal's volunteer staff have had to endure the barrage as well, he said. "The sad part is a lot of [the callers] want to hide behind anonymity," he said, adding that if someone leaves their name and number he has tried to return their call. In addition to phone calls, people have posted a few choice words on the charity's Facebook wall, including statements like "I hope you lose your tax [sic] emempt status," Anyone who is thinking about donations to you should think twice" and "Shame on you Brian Antal!"

All it takes in this hyper-partisan political season is for a polarizing candidate to barge into a business and have that business complain, and within a week it becomes a disaster.

There are some that might say that Ryan wasn't just staging a photo op, that he really does care about the homeless and the poor. He certainly talks a good game. But you know what they say about words versus actions:
Rep. Paul Ryan's awkward visit last week to a Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen made national headlines and has been the butt of late-night jokes. The head of the charity that runs the soup kitchen complained to The Washington Post that Ryan and Co. "ramrodded their way" in for an unauthorized photo-op.

Ryan's surprise visit was an even bigger shock to people who run organizations dedicated to serving the needy back in his Wisconsin congressional district. The Huffington Post called soup kitchens, shelters and used-clothing donation box organizers throughout Ryan's district and turned up precisely one Ryan sighting -- and that was of his wife, shopping for clothes at a thrift store.
Ryan, despite more than 13 years in Congress, appears to be very much a stranger to those charities. None of the food pantry or shelter workers interviewed by The Huffington Post could recall Ryan having visited; a few others would not discuss the congressman. It's possible that charities supported by Ryan were overlooked, or that the volunteers' memories aren't perfect. But none of the facilities reached for comment said Ryan has ever set foot in their establishments.

The only time Ryan cares about the needy is when he needs them to promote his campaign. It should come as no surprise, though - it's part of his Ayn Randian philosophy. It does tell us a lot too about what sort of president he would be, should he end up being one heartbeat away from the presidency. Selfishness is not a virtue.

60 comments (Latest Comment: 10/19/2012 20:26:07 by TriSec)
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