Matthews: Election will be determined by candidates’ personal values

Updated

Let me finish tonight with this: I just figured this election out.  

Let’s discount all the stupid stuff. From now ‘til Election Day, both guys will make gaffes. By that, I mean they will say things on their minds they quickly will wish they hadn’t said. (I know the feeling).  

But who are they? That’s something we can figure out from some very clear statements they’ve just made–statements about their values, the way they judge other people, the way they wish to be judged themselves. I’m talking about their accomplishments on this earth and how they value them.

Mitt Romney wants us all to value what he calls “success.” Others call it making big money, he calls it “success.” It doesn’t matter how you make it: you make a boatload of money, you live well. You want the world to look up to you, to, in his words, “congratulate” you. That’s his world.

Yesterday at the University of North Carolina, President Obama said that he and his wife Michelle just finished paying off their college loans eight years ago. And, as he said, “And I’m the President of the United States!” He’s saying that he’s worked hard, done the right things with his life (Harvard Law Review, community work in Chicago, teaching constitutional law). They don’t bring big incomes or big houses, but they do do good. 

Romney’s view, and he’s putting it right out there for us, showcasing it now, is not that he committed gaffes when he talked about having a “couple of Cadillacs,” or that he hangs out with people who own NASCAR teams, or that he enjoys firing people…that’s the way he looks at things: money. Money means success. It means people should look up to you, should “congratulate” you because of the prominence your wealth entitles you to in this “fair” society that he’s talking about.

Land developers, strip miners, hedge funders–doesn’t matter how you make you make your money, you deserve “congratulations” on top of that money, according to Romney. You deserve to be one of the prominent people, the stand-outs who, let’s face it, should be calling the shots. Forget the teachers, the firefighters, the doctors who takes care of low income patients.

Obama’s not perfect, but he’s got the right values. Those student loans of his say a lot. They say he and Michelle won real success at really good schools because they had the brains and the moxie to get it and, yes, they’ve given themselves to helping others do the same.  

So it’s not the gaffes that tell what these two very different men running for president are. As they’ve both revealed in the last 24 hours, it’s the statement their lives have made.

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and Hardball Let Me Finish

Matthews: Election will be determined by candidates' personal values

Updated