During the last few weeks, Mitt Romney’s campaign has floundered even worse than usual. Not only did the candidate fail to receive a sizable bump from either Paul Ryan’s nomination or the convention, but his attacks on President Obama in the wake of the Libya crisis came off as tasteless and bumbling.
And now, progressive news outlet Mother Jones has obtained, verified, and published damning videos of Romney making incredibly out of touch remarks to millionaires that insult a sizable portion of the country. Yesterday, Mother Jones released five excerpts from the candidate’s Q & A with top donors at what he thought was a closed fundraising event, and more have already been published. In a room of fellow millionaires, Romney didn’t seem nervous or gaffe-prone in the least; rather he seemed confident, even cocky, about his ideas and qualifications to be president. The infamously elusive candidate did not dispute the various messages heard in the footage, only admitting that he did not phrase his thoughts in an “elegant” way.
So if the former governor is owning these statements as the way he really feels – and his more relaxed demeanor in the video adds some credence to that – it’s safe to say that voters learned more in one day about Mitt Romney than in years of campaigning.
The Warped Worldview of Mitt Romney
This leaked footage reveals so much about Mitt Romney’s worldview, nearly all of it appalling. It’s almost enough to make you long for some flip-flopping, but these opinions Romney seems to be sticking to. Here are the viewpoints released so far:
He thinks that the 47% of Americans who don’t pay income tax are lazy do-nothings, and he’s not even trying for their vote. In what is probably more emotion than the American people have heard from Mitt Romney all campaign, Romney dismisses nearly half of the US electorate by claiming that everyone who pays no income tax is a lazy government dependent who can’t be reasoned with. Romney says that all of these people will vote for President Obama, because they are so desperate for handouts. And Romney doesn’t believe that he can ever “convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
What Mitt doesn’t seem to understand is that paying zero income tax doesn’t mean that someone had zero income – it simply means that their income is too low to be able to afford to pay a percentage of it back to the federal government. Keep in mind, workers whose incomes fall below the lowest tax bracket still pay payroll taxes, and Social Security tax – which is a regressive cap tax that disproportionately affects the poor and middle class. And it seems like an especially hypocritical insult when the Ryan plan includes the elimination of capital gains tax – a policy that would render Romney’s own yearly tax at 0%.
“[They] believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.” Yes, how dare anyone expect that the richest country in the world have both the capability and the moral obligation to keep its citizens from starving to death in the street. How unreasonable! How socialist!
The horrifying thing about this quote is that by attributing these opinions to the lazy “others” that will always vote for Obama, Romney himself is summarily rejecting them. He doesn’t believe that anyone is entitle to health care, food, or housing. He believes that people who can’t afford these things just aren’t trying hard enough, because he has literally never been in a position where he could not afford health care, food, and housing that was a level of luxury unimaginable to most Americans. He is so disconnected from the plight of the poor and the middle class that he doesn’t understand why they can’t just “borrow money from [their] parents” and put the task of basic survival out of their minds. As Ezra Klein tweeted last night, “The thing about not having that much money is you have to take responsibility for things the rich take for granted…The problem for the poor, often, is they don’t have time or energy to focus on the things that make you rich.”
He believes that he would have an “easier time winning” this election if his father had been born to Mexicans rather than to Americans in Mexico. It’s unlikely that even Mitt Romney is delusional enough to believe that he would be where he is today if his father had been a Mexican 5-year-old at the time of the Mexican Revolution. But by virtue of making that joke, Romney has made it clear that he thinks that Barack Obama was elected to the presidency because of his race, rather than his merit. And this latest in ham-fisted denial of all these privileges Romney has had to get him where he is today is just infuriating.
Had Mitt Romney’s father been “born to two Mexicans,” as he put it, his father wouldn’t have made it out of the country during the revolution. He would have suffered through it, like so many Mexican children. He might not have made it through alive – Mitt Romney might not even exist. And George Romney certainly wouldn’t have been the president of American Motors. And then where would Mitt’s tens of thousands of stocks – or as he likes to call them, “bootstraps” – have come from?
This nonsense may have gotten big laughs from a room full of white millionaires, but from where the rest of the lazy bastards in this country are standing, it’s not so funny. To the Mexican-American who gets pulled over and harassed in Arizona because he doesn’t carry his birth certificate on him, it’s probably not a punchline.
Policy? Not Much.
Mitt Romney talks significantly more policy in this private dinner than he has on the campaign trail, and he still says next to nothing.
He doesn’t have a clue about the Middle East. It’s not secret that Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticizing its Western allies – read: the Obama administration – for not taking military action on Iran, and hinting at favoring Romney who would do so. But with the latest video release, it seems that there may be another reason Netanyahu is so hot for Romney: Romney believes that Palestinians are “not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel” and that peaceful resolutions in the Middle East are “almost unthinkable,” which is why he doesn’t support a two-state solution.
Romney also expressed fear that if Iran is not put in check – presumably by military force – they will use their nuclear program to “blackmail” America with the threat of a dirty bomb. Never mind the fact that dirty bombs have nothing to do with nuclear weapons, or the fact that there is no way that Iran is anywhere close to having launching capability that would reach the United States.
For someone who talked such a big game about President Obama’s foreign policy failings, and has complained about how few foreign policy questions he gets asked on the campaign trail, Romney seems totally clueless. Is anyone really supposed to believe that the guy who has given up on peaceful solutions in the Middle East before taking office is worth casting a vote for?
Mitt Romney will cure the economy just by being Mitt Romney. It may sound like an article from The Onion, but Romney actually suggested to these wealthy donors that his mere presence in the Oval Office would be enough to turn things around. His exact words? “If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy…if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.”
So there it is, finally – the great Mitt Romney economic plan. Boost the economy “without actually doing anything,” cut taxes, and let everything heal magically from there. It’s almost as brilliantly simple as his plan for kids from poor families to borrow money from their parents to start a business – why didn’t anyone else think of that?
Is A Romney Recovery Even Possible?
Mother Jones’ Washington Bureau Chief David Corn has said that eventually the entire hour long Q & A will be released, so presumably there is even more damning footage to come. Even if there weren’t, it’s going to be a long, uphill battle for the Romney campaign to beat back this story.
The campaign was already in trouble, switching course dramatically in the last 50 days after their laser focus on the economy – sans any actual plans, of course – failed to gain traction. Even these videos from months ago show a candidate in trouble; Romney details his campaign strategy and praises his advisors as the foreign election Karl Rove equivalents in response to a question asked by a donor. These millionaire donors were not convinced that Romney was doing that it took to take their money and get into office, and this speech was his chance to convince them. It’s a sick irony that the reason Romney now comes off as a heartless miser willing to throw half the country under the bus is that the one percent of Americans he does stand for didn’t believe in his campaign.
Romney has made gaffe after gaffe – but this is not one of them. There’s a level of ease and sincerity in these tapes that Romney has never had in public speeches, debates, or interactions with constituents. Romney is among his people in these videos, and so he feels free to tell it like it is – or at least the narrow, warped way he thinks it is.
Media outlets have described Romney’s description of those too poor to pay income taxes as “dripping with disdain,” and it’s not an exaggeration. Romney doesn’t think it’s his job to take care of those people – even though they make up half of the country he wants to take over. Romney doesn’t believe that someone working three jobs just to put food on the table is “taking responsibility or care for their lives,” nor does he believe they should be entitled to food or housing while he claims a $77,000 tax credit for his dancing horse.
On a personal note, I’ve long lamented the Romney campaign as woefully inept, to the point of being frustrating. Romney is spending more than any candidate in history, I’ve thought to myself time and time again, why can’t he buy himself a better campaign? And now I’ve finally accepted the answer: it’s not Romney’s campaign that’s rotten to the core, it’s Romney himself. You can spend upwards of $1 billion painting the walls of a condemned house, but it won’t stop the roof from collapsing on you. That’s the problem – Romney is such a terrible candidate with such a flagrant disregard for the needs of such a huge part of America that no amount of campaigning or humanizing will ever make his campaign successful. Absorb that for a minute: with all that campaigns know about public image, sound bites, working the media, and appealing to voters, no one could make Mitt Romney look good.
In a way, it’s almost hopeful that even in the post-Citizens United era our democracy may yet be capable of filtering out a candidate as patently atrocious as Romney. But it’s more depressing that he’s the best guy the Republicans could find.