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    « Meghan McCain, Mitt Romney and the Difficult Realization | Main | U.S. Foreign Policy: Be Careful What You Wish For... »

    Is Mother Jones Treating Romney Fairly?


    [Note:  I don't often blog two days in a row, but yesterday's Mother Jones/Mitt Romney interplay demanded a response.  Or, put another way, I'm a little pissed off today....]

    This morning I feel compelled to defend Mitt Romney.

    Most of you know that I don’t do that very often. Even as a Republican I find many of Romney’s gaffes embarrassing, and I wonder (too often) if the inarticulate voice of George W. Bush whispers in his ear. It sure seems like it. 

    Still, this whole Mother Jones thing is way overblown.  Here’s how I see it: Romney was talking at a fund-raising event hoping to pick a few greenbacks from a few backseat wallets.  Plain vanilla stuff, and an occasion at which you would expect the Mittster to hit the usual aggressive talking points.  After all, this is the base we’re talking about here--and the part of it with money. 

    So Mitt hits the room’s collective amygdala with the standard mythology. Nothing new here; nothing outrageous.  However, the liberal interpretation is anything but.  What Mother Jones wants us to believe (and which I heard echoed this morning by George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America), is that Mitt Romney doesn’t want to (or need to) worry about those “47%.”  That’s simply not what he was saying.  What he was saying is that he doesn’t need to worry about getting their votes.  He’s not going to, anyway, and he’s right: he shouldn’t worry about it.  Does he think that those people are “victims?” Does he think that those people are married to “entitlements?” Maybe a little bit.  Did he choose really crappy words? Absolutely (and there’s that Bush homunculus raising its head again). But I’ll repeat myself: What he really said was nothing new, nothing surprising.  I interpret his comments thusly:

    People who are going to vote for Obama—47% of the voters, by the way—have bought into his vision, the Democratic vision, that emphasizes government-sponsored entitlements and that allows people to live their lives without being held accountable for their actions.  Our vision—the vision I’m asking all of you in this room to support—is different.  It’s a vision of responsibility and empowerment, one that doesn’t depend on the government, but on the individual.

    But, hey: who's going to donate money if he says that?!?

     So why is this such a big story?  Well, why not?  We’ve got lots of news hours to fill and, in fairness, the Mittster has conditioned us to pay attention to the way he says things (since he so often uses the English language as if it were a on a collision course with a tractor trailer).  Still, let’s not forget where the story came from.  Mother Jones—for all that I respect its journalistic thoroughness—makes no bones about its agenda.  It wants to find ways to embarrass Romney.

    The bottom line here is that there’s no bottom line here.  This is a whole lot of “Tuesday, nothing” (to quote a very obscure reference from The Fugs), one that creates the appropriate Pavolovian slaver that we all seem to enjoy. Now: can we please move on?


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    Reader Comments (32)

    I respectfully disagree. This is absolutely a big deal gaffe. I agree that he didn't mean he doesn't have to worry about those people in general, and that he was referring to not worrying about getting their votes. Where I disagree, is that basically, he is doing exactly what he is accusing President Obama of doing. He is dividing the country into two parts, those with self responsibility and those with none. That's a pretty big no no on many levels.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

    Nothing new there at all, except he openly voiced the skewed derision he has for the lower working class, and he perpetuates the fallacy that all who aren't paying taxes or who receive government support are irresponsible freeloaders. He was pandering to an audience where he thought his comments would not be shared with "them". He said these things, I think, because he truly believes them, but also to rile up disharmony even further. Let's hate the other guy! He's exactly the kind of leader this country can really do without. I interpret his comments thusly.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

    Well, that might be a reasonable interpretation if Romney hadn't then gone on to specify that the 47% he was actually talking about was the group of folks who pay no income tax. That's why the number is 47%; he wasn't just estimating the number of absolutely committed Obama voters. He does, erroneously, equate those folks with Obama voters, forgetting (or refusing to admit to his country club audience) that a LOT of poor/lower middle class whites support him.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren Berns

    C'mon, now. MJ is also basing their report on Romney's actions. His party is working hard to disenfranchise millions of Democratic voters because he does care about their votes: he cares about those who might vote against him, so he is working to deny them access to the ballot box.

    If Mitt doesn't want the 47% to share in the fruits of democracy during the election, he sure isn't going to do them any favors should he become president.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lynch

    The disgust in his voice when he was talking about people feeling entitled to food and housing showed his true colors and utter lack of compassion. I've worked in politics and would consider myself less idealistic than most, but this shocked me. It's one thing to say things publicly to get a vote. It's another to say, from your heart, that you don't think your fellow citizens are entitled to the fundamental needs to sustain life.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

    It is the equivalent of the "guns and religion" statement by Obama at a fundraiser in 2008, but Obama's statement was true and Romney's was a lie...

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDWHarper

    He also said that people who work their but off for low wages and don't make enough to pay income taxes on top of payroll taxes are mooching off of the government. At best he is out of touch with reality.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterD B Salls

    You are wrong, sir. He did NOT say what you said, though I'm sure the mindless people who will vote for him anyway feel it was taken out of context. You are taking him out of context. Listen and watch the entire video and you will realize (if you're not too biased) that he is a sanctimonious nouveau riche, arrogant buffoon.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Blakley

    Lauren is right. Romney is wildly inaccurate in his statement in saying that it is the 47 percent who don't pay federal income taxes that support Obama. False. Not even close to true. In fact, 8 of the 10 poorest states in the U.S. are red states.

    And then, Romney goes on to characterize this 47 percent - supposedly Obama voters - as being "dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing." This is wildly insulting to the working poor in this country, many of whom are actually Republicans, and to senior citizens and students who make up much of the 47 percent.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

    I would disagree with your assessment. While Romney was saying 47% pay no income taxes (I'd like to see that documented), everyone is paying taxes. If you're working for wages or a salary you are paying a higher percentage in payroll taxes than Romney's 13.9%. Those taxes go to Social Security & Medicare coverage. That's money we pay in to a system for a benefit we are entitled to receive. That's an entitlement. That's by far the majority of people who fit into Romney's 47%.
    I make far less than the $200k to $250k that Romney says defines the middle class. I do pay income taxes. I pay property taxes, sales taxes, transportation taxes (at the gas pump), and many others. And yet it appears in Romney's brain that I am somehow a freeloader who feels "entitled" to government benefits. I find his comments quite insulting, as many responsible, hard working Americans should.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLander

    Treating him unfairly? Bullshit. There is the Romney that knows the cameras are rolling, and the one that does not. Had he known the video would have been published-the words would have been significantly different. It is clear to anyone that wants to review the man's record, his statements, and actions what he all about. He was born privileged, has led a life that has put him out of touch with most working people, and he is beholden to those just like him. This latest revelation my indeed be "over blown", but taken in the aggregate it paints an accurate picture of an arrogant, self-righteous, and delusional man that has no claim to the highest office in this land. Be pissed off. Be pissed off that our system has provided two poor choices. I will side with the lesser of two evils, and for the President, or withhold my vote in protest.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Levine

    1st off, his whole premise, that 47% don't 'chip in' is totally false. Only about 42% of all Federal revenue comes from income taxes. The rest comes from a wide variety of taxes, including payroll taxes, which most of this group of people pay.
    Next, the 47% includes Veterans who go to the VA. Think they haven't chipped in? Also in this group are Seniors who receive social security and medicare, and students who are receiving student loans for college. Think that Seniors haven't given a lifetime of effort for their country? Or those students won't ever pay income taxes?
    It is totally ridiculous to make the statement Mitt made when he thought no one was recording.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalph Z

    Romney was pretty clear in what he said in the video, and he was pretty emphatic in saying it -- certainly more than he is in pressers.

    And as someone who is not in the 47%, I can say I'm offended by his comments, as well, from conflating the 47% tax figure with Obama's current polling numbers, to his asserting that the 47%'s economic situation is because they're victims and incapable of personal responsibility. When it comes to personal responsibility, I'm waiting for people like Romney to take some responsibility for having shipped jobs overseas, eradicating whole industries in this country and removing opportunities for that 47% to actually earn something close to "a living."

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterplooger

    While he does not need to appeal to the committed Obama voters, it is not true that the 47% who are committed to Obama are synonymous with the 47% who pay no income taxes. The latter group includes seniors (many of whom are Republicans) and blue collar white men (many of whom are Romney supporters). His message was muddled and he did not clarify anything in his press conference yesterday.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJM

    I do agree partially with this article in that Mitt was saying that he deosn't have to worry about getting the votes from this block. He wasn't saying he doesn't have to worry about the people themselves, so characterizing it that way is somewhat unfair.

    However, the logical leap that he's taking in equating people who don't pay federal income taxes with Obama voters shows he doesn't even understand his own constituents (or is willing to throw them under the bus in front of rich donors). He also equates these people with irresponsible leeches which is another complete mischaracterization.

    Also, to me, the idea that this somehow represents the standard everyday necessity of pandering to the sensibilities of rich donors makes it even more repugnant. Ostensibly this kind of behavior is not unique to Romney, but have we reached a point where we think this isn't even worth pointing out anymore? That we've just accepted that it's just par for the course and not even worth talking about? I think that is a very important thing for the voters to understand and it needs to be retold until people really start to get it.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

    I'm sorry - I disagree with your assessment. Romney didn't back off from his statement - he merely admitted that it was worded badly. I believe that what a candidate says behind closed doors reveals his character. I was not a fan of Pres. Bush, but nothing he ever said angered me as much as this statement by Romney. I think it will be a defining moment in his campaign - and quite deservedly so.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

    I disagree with the conclusions of the article. At the very least Mitt Romney is guilty of fanning the flames of dislike if not outright hatred of those who have been unlucky enough to be born into poverty or "the real middle class".

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatsy

    Even if you are correct, and Mr. Romney was MERELY talking about vote getting as opposed to, say, standard Republican talking points about Takers, that's still no excuse. Sure, he MAY not need those folks to get elected (but considering how many are likely Republicans and/or Tea Party supporters he may) but he surely needs them to GOVERN. The Job title is, after all, President of the UNITED States.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

    Romney showed his true colors. His disdain for those less fortunate in our nation was never clearer. He would make life even harder for this group of Americans to reward those he calls job creators, the filthy rich, who do not need another tax break. Then he would close loopholes, which he refuses to specify until after the election, because he could never get them passed if the people got to vote on them.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Alexander

    Incorrectly combining the dramatically large group that doesn't pay taxes (the 47%) in any year for all the reasons (business failure, loosing a job, retired, house-rich but cash-poor, huge donation or lose compared to income, and of course the group he was suggesting, not employed enough to pay taxes on a regular basis) to with those using unpopular govt. programs is just poor understanding. Combining those not paying taxes with folks using govt handouts is just a non sequitur -- even many of the rich folks in his audience know that.

    He could have avoided the statistical silliness and maybe even made a more dramatic speech, if he iterated various (or at least a few) govt "welfare" programs... "those expecting free health care", "those that expect the govt to provide housing" ... insert other least favorite govt. program. Combining them all into one group is just not rational. If I were a big donor, I would be concerned with how Mr Romney misstated the problem through over such simplification, even if it is all of "them" are part of the standard mythology.

    September 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpaul

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