Nuts to soup
It is a tale of two executives. One is Jack Welch, the renowned former CEO of General Electric. The other is Brian J. Antal, who runs the St. Vincent de Paul Society soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio.
Welch reacted viscerally when the October Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report came out, showing an unemployment dip to 7.8 percent. The report was good news for the country but also a positive sign for President Obama. And that was too much to bear for some Romney supporters.
In an Oct. 5 tweet, Welch said, “Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can't debate so change numbers.” Welch conceded that it was an unsubstantiated accusation and he regained his balance by that evening, telling CNN that he should have added a few question marks at the end to make it clear he was raising a question.
Welch is not the first guy to get a little squirrelly in the heat of a political campaign. Predictably, he was quickly lambasted by what he called in a Wall Street Journal op-ed a few days later “mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel embarrassed and labeling you a fool or worse.”
A stranger to ridicule, Welch asked readers to “imagine a country where challenging the ruling authorities” would result in such harsh treatment. “Soviet Russia perhaps? Communist China? Nope, that would be the United States right now ...,” Welch said. He was clearly stung.
Brian J. Antal knows how that feels. He runs a soup kitchen for down-on-their-luck Americans in a tired old mill town. And the last thing this charity needed or wanted is the public attention it received when Paul Ryan targeted it for a campaign photo-op.
Ryan did not go there to help with the dishes. And Antal made it clear that his outrage over his charity being hijacked for a political sideshow was directed at all politicians, regardless of party. But, of course, Romney-Ryan supporters skinned him alive for speaking out.
From the beginning, Antal stated that he was not there when Ryan was admitted by a volunteer, but his absence was later cited to discredit him, as if he had tried to hide it.
And when Antal said that he is an independent voter, he was criticized for voting in Democrat primaries, ignoring that millions of independent voters are registered Republican and Democrat.
Antal's concern about political taint hurting his charity was well-founded. Contributions are down and he says he has received hundreds of angry calls from Ryan supporters, many anonymous, blaming him for embarrassing their candidate.
Unlike Welch, Antal will never get a Wall Street Journal op-ed to set the record straight. Welch has not missed a beat, enjoying the lifestyle befitting his status, never wondering where the next meal will come from.
But Antal, whose job is a little bit tougher now, worries about little else.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).