A photo of the Romney campaign as of this morning.
So the last few weeks haven’t been kind to Governor Romney. There was this, then there was this. Then this. (By the way, the most telling thing about all this is that the name I’m giving a post that describes five pretty massive gaffes or bad moments for the campaign comes from a previous gaffe that has nothing to do with any of this but successfully alienated most of the United Kingdom.)
Then yesterday, Politico ran a storyabout the rapidly-imploding Romney campaign that reeked of McCain ’08, albeit this was about a campaign manager rather than a controversial veep pick.
Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.
Not a word Wehner wrote was ever spoken.
Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.
Romney’s convention stumbles have provoked weeks of public griping and internal sniping about not only Romney but also his mercurial campaign muse, Stevens. Viewed warily by conservatives, known for his impulsiveness and described by a colleague as a “tortured artist,” Stevens has become the leading staff scapegoat for a campaign that suddenly is behind in a race that had been expected to stay neck and neck through Nov. 6.
This article is based on accounts from Romney aides, advisers and friends, most of whom refused to speak on the record because they were recounting private discussions and offering direct criticism of the candidate and his staff, Stevens in particular.
Ezra Klein dedicated his Monday issue of the Wonkblog to the Politico piece.
So there was all that. Then the 47% video broke, thanks to some work by the folks over at Mother Jones. By the way, let’s also note where this video was recorded. David Corn, who first broke the story, reports on the fundraiser’s host:
But Leder does differ from Romney in one significant fashion: how he likes to have a certain sort of fun. In August 2011, the New York Post reported,
It was as if the Playboy Mansion met the East EBond at a wild party at private-equity titan MarcLeder’s Bridgehampton estate, 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. The divorced Sun Capital Partners honcho rented a sprawling beachfront mansion on Surf Side Road for $500,000 for the month of July. Leder’s weekly Friday and Saturday night parties have become the talk of the Hamptons—and he ended them in style last weekend with his wildest bash yet. Russell Simmons and ex-wife Kimora Lee attended a more subdued party thrown byLeder—who’s an event chair for Simmons’ Art For Life charity—on July 29 together. But the revelry hit a frenzied point the next day before midnight when a male guest described as a “chubby white meathead” and a “tanned” female guest stripped and hopped into the pool naked.
At Romney’s fundraiser at Leder’s Boca Raton home, not a single sex act was recorded.
But remember social conservatives – the Republicans are with you. They’re the party of traditional values. After all, where else could they raise money but at the home of a hedge fund manager who loves to throw swingers parties? (Does it even need to be noted that if Obama held a fund raiser at a home that’s also been used for orgies, the right wing would be all over him?) Anyway, back to the 47% video. Here’s what Governor Romney said:
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. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect… 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.
Well then. I’ll let the blogosphere take this one on since they all have said more than enough.
First, Matthew Cantirino at First Things once again corrects the glib, dishonest “47 percent statistic.”
The idea that half the nation is part of some dependent class is an utter myth.
What we do know is that Mitt Romney has no intention of appealing to the 47 percent of Americans he regards as pathetic parasites. That’s a novel way of campaigning for president.
Chait says the gaffe shows that Romney is unqualified to serve as president.
To think of Romney’s leaked discourse as a “gaffe” grossly misdescribes its importance. Indeed the comments’ direct impact on the outcome of the election will probably be small. Romney repeated the wildly misleading but increasingly popular conservative talking point that 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. The federal income tax is, by design, one of the most progressive elements of the American tax system, but well over 80% of non-retired adults pay federal taxes. But most people hear “income taxes” and think “taxes,” which is why the trick of using one phrase to make audiences think of the other is a standard GOP trick when discussing taxes. For that very reason, it won’t strike many voters as an insult: Most people who don’t pay income taxes do pay other taxes, and fail to distinguish between them, and thus don’t consider themselves among the 47% scorned by Romney.
Instead the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party. He believes that market incomes in the United States are a perfect reflection of merit. Far from seeing his own privileged upbringing as the private-school educated son of an auto executive-turned-governor as an obvious refutation of that belief, Romney cites his own life, preposterously, as a confirmation of it. (“I have inherited nothing. Everything I earned I earned the old fashioned way.”)
Dreher bemoans the choice given to us this fall:
My reaction to listening to excerpts from Obama’s “bitter clingers” speech: That guy doesn’t understand or like people like me and mine. My reaction to listening to excerpts from Romney’s “47 percent” speech: That guy doesn’t understand or like people like me and mine.
One of these guys will be president for the next four years. Dammit.
Ezra Klein points out that the reason 47% don’t pay income tax is because of the things passed by Republicans.
Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. That’s why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. So whenever you hear that half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that. (You also see a jump after the financial crisis begins in 2008, but we can expect that to be mostly temporary.)
It’s hard to argue that Barro is wrong. There is no way to spin these comments in Romney’s favor, just as there was no way to defend Romney’s blunders on the embassy and consulate attacks last week. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some desperate attempts to do so, but they won’t do any good. Much like the blunder last week, the argument Romney’s making in the video is nonsense and it is expressed in a way designed to alienate the largest number of people possible. Many of the people Romney was disparaging in this video are reliably Republican voters, and they have just been reminded that their party’s nominee has no respect for them. If “respect conservatism” exists, this is the opposite of it.
More than anything else, what makes this video damaging is that it confirms what most Americans already suspect about Romney: he holds at least half the country in contempt, including many of the people that normally vote Republican. It isn’t just that Romney expresses contempt and pity for “anyone who isn’t going to vote for him,” as Barro says. What makes this stand out as exceptionally arrogant is the fact that he clearly has contempt for many of the people who were likely to vote for him. This is another self-inflicted wound that comes from Romney’s willingness to say whatever his supporters want to hear regardless of the merits, and it’s another reminder why more Americans dislike Romney than like him. It remains to be seen how many will opt to sit out this election, but this could hardly have come at a worse time for a flailing, wounded campaign.
This GOP meme—which Romney has yet to endorse publicly, but seems to be endorsing here—is, among other things, a betrayal of a conservative invention: the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC was created by Sen. Russell Long D., La. (who in spite of being Huey Long’s son was pretty conservative); greatly expanded under Ronald Reagan; and then expanded yet again under Bill Clinton. The idea was that you should reward the “deserving” working poor, as opposed to the un-deserving poor on welfare. But after Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996 it got harder to scapegoat welfare recipients. So conservatives decided, what the hell, thereare no deserving poor. As Romney says in the video above, poor folks who pay no taxes (on income earned from—remember—working!) don’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Shame on him.
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.I don’t really know what to say about a man who believes that one in two Americans believe that “the government has a responsibility to care for them.” Romney is right. Obama does start off with a big lead, but that is because he would never enter the race conceding that fully half the country was beyond his reach. A politician conceding that sort of field position is an embarrassment to himself, and his political party.Head over to MoJo and reach the whole thing. Echoing Andrew Sullivan here, but this is a big deal. Mitt Romney has the self-ether machine set on “Kill.”