In other good news, I'm happy to announce that we, the American people, have finally gotten to meet some of the real Mitt Romney!
This blog hasn't been terribly kind to Mr. Romney, though not without justification, I'd say - after all, it's now well-established that Romney is a big fat liar, that he's a closet socialist and hypocrite (at least when it comes to health care), that he thinks there should be some money threshold test to be able to enjoy the rights of U.S. citizenship, that he has no new ideas on how to fight unemployment, and that he's a grammar Nazi. So, he's not exactly done himself a lot of favors over the past few months.
Nevertheless, I remained quite convinced that we still hadn't seen any of the REAL Mitt Romney - that, even given all of the above, all we had seen thus far of Mitt Romney is the fake, manufactured Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Boy, did that ever change yesterday.
Apparently, at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser with mega-rich Romney supporters back in May, Romney made very clear what he really thinks of about one-half of the American voting public. Not much commentary is necessary - I'll let Mother Jones (who unearthed the video) and Romney tell the story; I'll just note that this is the most natural, relaxed, fluid, and, dare I say, truthful that we've seen Romney all year:
During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent 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 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. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."Mother Jones has obtained video of Romney at this intimate fundraiser—where he candidly discussed his campaign strategy and foreign policy ideas in stark terms he does not use in public—and has confirmed its authenticity. To protect the confidential source who provided the video, we have blurred some of the image, and we will not identify the date or location of the event, which occurred after Romney had clinched the Republican presidential nomination. [UPDATE: We can now report that this fundraiser was held at the Boca Raton home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder on May 17 and we've removed the blurring from the video. See the original blurred videos here.]Here is Romney expressing his disdain for Americans who back the president:
At the dinner, Romney often stuck to familiar talking points. But there were moments when he went beyond the familiar campaign lines. Describing his family background, he quipped about his father, "Had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this." Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, "I have inherited nothing." He remarked, "There is a perception, 'Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.' Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America."Romney told the contributors that "women are open to supporting me," but that "we are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation." When one attendee asked how this group could help Romney sell himself to others, he answered, "Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars." He added, "The fact that I'm either tied or close to the president…that's very interesting."Asked why he wouldn't go full-throttle and assail Obama as corrupt, Romney explained the internal thinking of his campaign and revealed that he and his aides, in response to focus-group studies conducted by his consultants, were hesitant to hammer the president too hard out of fear of alienating independents who voted for Obama in 2008:
We speak with voters across the country about their perceptions. Those people I told you—the 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring onto our side—they all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. So, and by the way, when you say to them, "Do you think Barack Obama is a failure?" they overwhelmingly say no. They like him. But when you say, "Are you disappointed that his policies haven't worked?" they say yes. And because they voted for him, they don't want to be told that they were wrong, that he's a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he's corrupt. Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn't up to the task. They love the phrase that he's "over his head." But if we're—but we, but you see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans. We spend our days with people who agree with us. And these people are people who voted for him and don't agree with us. And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them. And the best success I have at speaking with those people is saying, you know, the president has been a disappointment. He told you he'd keep unemployment below 8 percent. Hasn't been below eight percent since. Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can't get a job. Fifty percent. Fifty percent of the kids in high school in our 50 largest cities won't graduate from high school. What're they gonna do? These are the kinds of things that I can say to that audience that they nod their head and say, "Yeah, I think you're right." What he's going to do, by the way, is try and vilify me as someone who's been successful, or who's, you know, closed businesses or laid people off, and is an evil bad guy. And that may work.(Note: Obama did not promise his policies would keep unemployment under 8 percent, and 50 percent of college graduates are not unemployed.)To assure the donors that he and his campaign knew what they were doing, Romney boasted about the consultants he had retained, emphasizing that several had worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
I have a very good team of extraordinarily experienced, highly successful consultants, a couple of people in particular who have done races around the world. I didn't realize it. These guys in the US—the Karl Rove equivalents—they do races all over the world: in Armenia, in Africa, in Israel. I mean, they work for Bibi Netanyahu in his race. So they do these races and they see which ads work, and which processes work best, and we have ideas about what we do over the course of the campaign. I'd tell them to you, but I'd have to shoot you.When one donor said he was disappointed that Romney wasn't attacking Obama with sufficient intellectual firepower, Romney groused that the campaign trail was no place for high-minded and detail-oriented arguments:
Well, I wrote a book that lays out my view for what has to happen in the country, and people who are fascinated by policy will read the book. We have a website that lays out white papers on a whole series of issues that I care about. I have to tell you, I don't think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact. I think the debates will have a big impact…My dad used to say, "Being right early is not good in politics." And in a setting like this, a highly intellectual subject—discussion on a whole series of important topics typically doesn't win elections. And there are, there are, there are—for instance, this president won because of "hope and change."Romney, who spoke confidently throughout the event and seemed quite at ease with the well-heeled group, insisted that his election in and of itself would lead to economic growth and that the markets would react favorably if his chances seemed good in the fall:
Whoa, boy, I don't even know where to begin.They'll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. 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. It depends of course which markets you're talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that 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. If the president gets reelected, I don't know what will happen. I can—I can never predict what the markets will do. Sometimes it does the exact opposite of what I would have expected. But my own view is that if we get a "Taxageddon," as they call it, January 1st, with this president, and with a Congress that can't work together, it's—it really is frightening.At the dinner, Romney also said that the campaign purposefully was using Ann Romney "sparingly…so that people don't get tired of her." And he noted that he had turned down an invitation from Saturday Night Live because such an appearance "has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential."Here was Romney raw and unplugged—sort of unscripted. With this crowd of fellow millionaires, he apparently felt free to utter what he really believes and would never dare say out in the open. He displayed a high degree of disgust for nearly half of his fellow citizens, lumping all Obama voters into a mass of shiftless moochers who don't contribute much, if anything, to society, and he indicated that he viewed the election as a battle between strivers (such as himself and the donors before him) and parasitic free-riders who lack character, fortitude, and initiative. Yet Romney explained to his patrons that he could not speak such harsh words about Obama in public, lest he insult those independent voters who sided with Obama in 2008 and whom he desperately needs in this election. These were sentiments not to be shared with the voters; it was inside information, available only to the select few who had paid for the privilege of experiencing the real Romney.
To say that this has caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the news would be a dramatic understatement.
I guess I am most floored by Romney's brazen declaration that he simply doesn't care about poor people, period. Romney says he's a Christian - I'm going to guess that Jesus would disagree with Romney on this point. I'm pretty sure Jesus had a lot to say about the poor in the Bible, and I don't think any of it was along the lines of "if people are poor, it's they're own damn fault, and they should be written off and left to starve; food is not a right!" Or if Jesus did say that, please point me to the book and verse.
The Atlantic saw notes of contemptuous elitism that suggests that Romney (and his fellow mega-rich supporters) are becoming increasingly detached from reality:
One theme in Chris Hayes's book Twilight of The Elites is the notion that an elite cut off from the rest of society actually degrades. It comes to think of itself as intrinsically better than the rest of society, that it's success is a strict matter of providence. Effectively the elite becomes divorced from reality. What is most jarring about Romney's comments here is that divorce, that sense that Romney's grasp of America is so thin, that he believes that half of it is dismissible strictly on the grounds of laziness.Even David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times, can't find a way to justify Romney's contemptuous dismissal of the worth and dignity of almost half of America:
Romney, of course, fails to mention that there are many huge corporations that earn many billions in profits each year that also pay no income taxes, through the exploitation of various loopholes. My guess is that they're not part of Romney's 47%, however.Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other.
In fact, by some metrics, Romney himself is (and/or has been) a member of the tax-dodging, mooching 47%. Of course, we can't know for sure, because he refuses to tell us anything about his taxes prior to 2010. I'll also note that under Paul Ryan's plan, Romney's tax rate would be 0.82%. That is nothing short of disgusting and disgraceful.
What's funny is that there are a lot of Republican voters in the 47% that Romney attacks and then dismisses with such vehemence:
Almost 1/4 who don't pay any income taxes are elderly, who probably spent their working lives paying income tax (and who vote disproportionately Republican, for some reason). The very poor make up another large chunk. In fact, many of the people who don't pay income taxes are either very young or elderly, while the vast majority of people pay income taxes for most of their life:
And let's not forget the 7,000 millionaires who paid no income tax in 2011, though I'm guessing Romney wasn't talking about them.
Furthermore, almost all of the states with the highest percentage of "moochers" are deeply Republican states, as shown by this map (the states with the most "moochers" are red; the states whose citizens pay the largest shares of income taxes are blue):
So, no only is Romney dismissing half the country; he's dismissing a large part of the Republican base.
Just how much of the Republican base? A lot, as even among the lowest income groups (the ones with the most "moochers"), 40% vote Republican:
Let's hope that the 40% of low earners who tend to vote Republican have the good sense to dismiss Romney as swiftly as he has dismissed them. They won't, but hey, a guy can dream, right?
Finally, it's worth noting that, although 46% (the actual number is 46%, not 47%) of U.S. households don't pay federal income taxes (again, almost entirely because those households are either very young, elderly, or very poor), there are virtually no households that pay no taxes, between payroll taxes, sales taxes, state and local taxes, property taxes, etc. So, when Romney asserts that 47% of the US don't pay taxes, he's just wrong.
Now compare, if you will, Romney's stiff, stilted, obviously scripted, unconvincing performance in his damage control press conference with the fluid, natural delivery of the above comments:
What I find most telling is the difference in the way Romney delivered both messages - there wasn't anything inarticulate with what he said in May; he was far more articulate in May than he was in his damage control press conference. So, which message do you think he actually believes?
And another rhetorical question - why would anyone who is not a rich, white, heterosexual, Christian male vote for Mitt Romney, or for the Republican Party in general? I just don't get it.
P.S. Hilarious side note: the Romney supporter who hosted the fundraiser in May is notorious for throwing borderline orgies "where guests cavorted nude in the pool and performed sex acts, scantily dressed Russians danced on platforms and men twirled lit torches to a booming techno beat." If only we could get a leaked video of Romney at one of those parties - epic!