Monday, September 17, 2012

Print those "Don't Worry About Me, Mitt" tee shirts! (or on second thought, don't)

Jesus Joseph and Mary, as my Irish grandmother-in-law would have said.  Was Romney really caught on tape saying this at a high roller fundraiser?
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."
Relatively speaking, doesn't Barack "they cling to guns, they cling to religion" Obama positively ooze with empathy and respect for his opponent's voters?

This is the mother of all 'what you really think' gaffes -- or perhaps just 'what you really want your core supporters to think you think' gaffes.

And what is the assumption? That those who can't independently access or afford health insurance, those who temporarily need to avail themselves of food stamps, those whose mortgages are underwater or who can't make the rent in the mother of all recessions, those who might pay state tax, FICA tax, property tax, sales tax but no income tax -- all are nonproductive moochers.  Ayn Rand is officially at the top of a national ticket; the U.S. has at least a one-in-three chance of being run by unabashed social Darwinists.Or did, before this tape came to light.

If it were Hillary running against Romney, she'd have the "Romney needn't worry about me" tee shirts printed by now.

I can't wait for the political scientists to tell us that this one doesn't matter. Over to you, Bernstein.

Update: right on cue, John Sides is up with some pretty powerful evidence that gaffes don't move the polls. Still, I often wonder whether he and other political scientists aren't too literal-minded about gaffes and polls: it would be hard to measure the cumulative effect of a series of remarks that help to drive home a plausible idea about a candidate -- e.g., for Romney, "corporations are people too," "I like to fire people [who provide services to me]", "I'm not concerned about the very poor," and now, "My job is not to worry about those people." Still, evidence is evidence, and the lack thereof is the lack thereof -- and if the economy nosedives, even this gaffe may not matter, or not matter enough to matter.

Also, re Hillary and the tee shirts: as I wrote that, a little voice was whispering that Hillary didn't win, and that Obama handled her gaffes differently. A Dish reader caught the essence of the thought clamoring to be heard:
If Obama is really, really smart, tomorrow he's going to be almost speechless about what Romney has said. He's not going to pounce; he's not going to express campaign-grade indignation; he's not going to try to score points. Rather, he'll take a moment to explain what everybody else is explaining: that a lot of the people who don't pay income taxes are the sick, the poor and the elderly, who we should all be concerned about.

You'll know tomorrow just how meep-meep Obama is. If he plays this correctly he hangs this around Romney's neck in a way that he will never be able to resolve before the first debate. If he treats it like just another campaign moment, that's how voters will see it.
 Finally, one more wonder on this wondrous evening: the best thing I've read among many excellent analyses of the assumptions and misunderstanding expressed in Romney's remarks is by, of all people, David Brooks:
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.
Maybe Brooks really is a compassionate conservative. [Update: I'm impressed by the broad perspective of three conservatives, including Brooks, pleading with the GOP to remove the makers/takers blinkers. It's in the long-term interests of the country that the party hear them.


  1. He's off for Rosh Hashanah. I wonder if this will bring him back for just an hour or two.

    My god.

    I actually think this might not get too much blamestream traction, because it's so... FULL of FAIL. There's too much in there, that it's nearly impossible to comprehend how... alien he truly appears to be.

    Your first impression, for instance, eluded me. I was floored by his conflation of the reported 47% of Americans who don't currently pay income tax, with the purported 47% of the electorate that these days will reliably vote Democratic. It's so egregiously wrong as to be honestly breathtaking.

    His Venn Diagram machine is beyond repair.

    I hope someone at Wonkblog, MJ, etc. can quickly come up with a pie chart comparison of the makeup of those two universes to show just how noncontiguous they truly are.

  2. welll, I guess it'll get a *leetle* bit of traction. ;)

    And he's going to stick by it, because to do otherwise would implode his base support. I mean the portion of his base support that he didn't just kick off his bus and run over repeatedly.

    The DNC, DSCC, DCCC now need to immediately buttonhole every single GOP candidate in the country and ask: do you stand with that? Do you share Mitt Romney's contempt for half of our fellow citizens?

    And follow that up with a single, simple, uniform cookie-cutter ad that runs in every state and district: Do you, [Scott Brown], stand with this? [a good 30 seconds of Mitt Romney's actual words, unedited] If you do, you don't deserve one vote from any citizen of [Massachusetts], no matter what party he or she would normally support. If you do, you share Mitt Romney's shame.

    Do you, [Eric Cantor], ...

    And Cantor does, in fact, stand with Romney on this.

    As does Michelle Bachmann.

    And Mitch McConnell.

    and dozens more incumbent Republicans.

    And the *challengers*? I'd say the challengers are going to have to disown Romney within the week.

    This could truly be a MELTDOWN the likes of which we've never seen before.

  3. Headline: Arrogant, Callous Plutocrat Caught on Tape Behaving Like an Arrogant, Callous Plutocrat

    P.S. - It appears that fine fellow David Brooks, beating the older and slower passengers, has rushed out on deck and found one of the lifeboats remaining on the SS Romney. And without waiting to rescue others, is rowing furiously for safe harbor.. perhaps to be marooned on an island until being rescued by the SS 2016 when he can resume talking about supply-side economics.

    Same as it ever was.

  4. According to Romney, unemployment is high because Obama disrespects job creators. If you hurt their feelings, they won't create jobs. But, it's also high because Obama doesn't disrespect the poor, elderly and disabled enough. If you coddle them with programs to keep them from starving or dying in the streets, they won't work hard enough. Ebeneezer Scrooge believed the same thing, until he was visited by three ghosts. I expect Mitt to have a dream soon where a ghost shows him making a concession speech on the night of November 6th or morning of Nov. 7th.

  5. The crucial difference, as Jonathan Chait pointed out, between Obama's "guns and religion" remark and Romney's comments is that Obama was empathizing with people who were against him, and maintaining that he could do something for them as President. Obama was condescending but he was not saying he didn't worry about them; quiet the opposite.