Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Did Mitt Romney Say This?

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it...These are people who pay no income tax, 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll (President Obama) be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

This is an excerpt from remarks made by Mitt Romney to attendees of a $50,000-a-plate dinner at the home of private equity manager Marc Leder, in Boca Raton, Florida, May 17, 2012. The whole thing was surreptitiously videotaped and passed on to Mother Jones Magazine, which published portions of the video, and then published the whole thing, with transcripts. It's worth reading the transcripts, as well as watching the video (only Part 1 of the video is included here).

Much has been made of Romney's remarks almost all of it focusing on his perceived disdain for the working class, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. Paul Krugman, for example, says that Mr. Romney's comments really reflect his and his party's values and beliefs, "What people are now calling the Boca Moment wasn’t some trivial gaffe. It was a window into the true attitudes of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect."

But on a Washington Post blog, Campaign 2012, Karen Tumulty may have hit the nail on the head when it comes to Romney's motive for saying what he said, "[His line] most likely played well with the audience to which Romney delivered it." In other words, he was pandering to rich donors. He was saying what he thought they wanted to hear, because he wanted their money.

Reliably conservative columnist David Brooks writes of Romney’s comments, “As a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other.” As for Romney himself, Brooks writes, “I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.”

Mr. Romney's tailoring of his comments to his wealthy audience would certainly be consistent with the way Mr. Romney has comported himself throughout his numerous campaigns. Depending on his calculation of the audience, Mr. Romney produces positions and counter positions to his positions with a bland innocence that has caused a number of interviewers to fall silent in awe.
  • He was pro-choice in 1994 when a candidate for the Senate and again in 2002 when he was running for governor. Now he is “firmly pro-life.”
  • He favored allowing gays to serve “openly and honestly” in the military in his run for the Senate in 1994. But in a 2007 GOP debate he  opposed repeal of the military's “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
  • He was a strong supporter of “tough gun laws” while running for and as governor of Massachusetts stating that, "Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts." By 2008 he was saying, "I don’t support any gun control legislation, the effort for a new assault weapons ban, with a ban on semi-automatic weapons, is something I would oppose."
  • In the summer of 2011, Mr. Romney was a true believer in anthropogenic global warming, but by October he'd changed his mind saying,"My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."
Whether Mr. Romney is truly dismissive of almost half of all Americans, or simply an unprincipled opportunist may be moot. In either case, he most certainly lacks the character to be president of the entirety of the United States of America.

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