Troy Paff, Discovery Channel
People say politics is a dirty job, but lucky for Mitt Romney, he's bringing in an expert who is used to rolling up his sleeves.
Mike Rowe, the host of The Discovery Channel TV show "Dirty Jobs," is joining Romney in Ohio Wednesday after offering Romney his vote in return for reading a letter about skilled labor jobs in the United States.
At the beginning of September, Rowe penned an open letter to the Republican presidential candidate, sharing his experiences as the host of "Dirty Jobs" and his concerns about jobs in the United States.
When the economy crumbled in 2008, Rowe wrote that CNBC, Fox News and CNN invited him to weigh in on topics such as outsourcing, manufacturing, infrastructure, currency valuations and free trade. In each case, he said, he shared his theory that the "problems" were really symptoms of a fundamental change in the way Americans view hard work and skilled labor.
"Pig farmers, electricians, plumbers, bridge painters, jam makers, blacksmiths, brewers, coal miners, carpenters, crab fisherman, oil drillers . . . they all tell me the same thing over and over, again and again — our country has become emotionally disconnected from an essential part of our workforce," Rowe wrote. "We are no longer impressed with cheap electricity, paved roads and indoor plumbing. We take our infrastructure for granted, and the people who build it."
Instead, Americans have embraced a "ridiculously narrow" view of education, where training that doesn't come with a four-year degree is considered "alternative," or viable careers are called "vocational consolation prizes," Rowe said.
Certainly the country needs more jobs, Rowe said in his letter, but it also needs people who see opportunity where opportunity exists.
"We need enthusiasm for careers that have been overlooked and underappreciated by society at large. We need to have a really big national convention about what we value in the workforce, and if I can be of help to you in that regard, I am at your service — assuming of course, you find yourself in a new address early next year," he wrote.
On Sept. 6, Rick Gorka, press secretary for Romney, tweeted a photo of Romney reading the Rowe letter on his iPad, saying, "Gov catching up on news after debate prep, incl. an interesting letter about skilled labor from @MikeRoweWorks."
Rowe responded with a tweeted photo showing him pointing at the photo of Romney, along with the observation, "Holy crap! He read it . . ."
Rowe wrote a similar letter to Pres. Barack Obama, dated Jan. 30, 2009, saying that the U.S. has forsaken skilled labor and that people are drifting away from jobs as welders, carpenters, pipe fitters and plumbers because these jobs are "simply not celebrated."
In the letter to Obama, Rowe offered the aid of "Dirty Jobs" and his personal public awareness campaign, mikeroweWORKS, in recapturing the sentiment where skilled tradesmen were seen as role models. According to Rowe, he never heard back from the president.
Whether or not Rowe will actually vote for Romney in return for reading the letter remains to be seen, but Vince Grzegorek at the Cleveland Scene magazine jabbed Obama for possibly letting Rowe slip away.
"You had your chance to have the trucker hats fighting for hope and change," Grzegorek wrote. "Whoops."
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