Archive for September 18th, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

The poster image of the elite dismissing the masses – “Let them Eat Cake” – Marie Antoinette, on the eve of the French revolution.

I did not want to do another blog post about Mitt Romney.   In fact, I had already started one that veered away from the world of politics.   But I can’t ignore this.

Here are quotes from a video secretly taken at a Romney fundraiser, unearthed and now publicized by Mother Jones:

“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 that 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…

Our message of low taxes doesn’t connect…so my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful….”

Despite internal strife, Romney remains close enough in the polls to turn the election around; will this tape do him in?

Get that – Mitt Romney just put down nearly half the population as people who want government to take care of them.  Anyone who doesn’t pay federal income taxes is unworthy of respect, they are not ‘thoughtful.’

In other words, Romney’s embracing the “givers vs. takers” mentality, claiming that he represents hard working Americans who pay taxes, and Obama is the President for moochers:  People who feel “entitled” to health care, food and shelter.

The arrogance of that statement is hard to overstate.   That these words would come out of the mouth of a candidate for the Presidency is astounding.   In Romneyland the working poor and lower middle class are not struggling and needing help, they are the enemy.

I know these people who don’t pay federal income taxes.   Some teach my children, others take classes at the university, work two jobs and still don’t make enough to pay federal income taxes (though they do pay a variety of other taxes).   I know people who have been laid off and desperately want a job.   I know many conservative Republicans who don’t make enough to pay federal income taxes.   The scandal should be that income distribution has become so warped that so many people don’t make enough money to pay federal income taxes.

Now, I expect rhetoric like that from Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.   It’s infuriating, but it’s part of the partisan talk show emotional entertainment meme.   But from the Republican standard barer?

Oh, but there’s more.

“My dad, as you probably, know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this…But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico…. I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

Ha ha.    At some point I’ll have to read through the transcript, though already the video is going viral.   And this:

“When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there,” Romney is heard saying. “It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married.”

He goes on to talk about how wonderful it is for Chinese workers to have this opportunity, and compares that to America where life is “95% settled.”   This makes it hard to accept the hard line on China, or whether American jobs are his number one concern!

Images like this show the reaction of many to Obama’s 2008 comment – it did him serious harm with working class white voters.

To be sure, President Obama has been dinged by leaks from secret fundraisers.   In 2008 he talked about western Pennsylvania saying people there are beaten down and “cling to their guns and religion.”   That did serious damage to Obama’s campaign.  Hillary Clinton was able to frame Obama as an out of touch elitist, and won a series of primary victories before Obama was able to win the nomination on the strength of his early caucus victories.

In this day and age from Abu Ghraib to photos of a topless Duchess of Cambridge there is no true secrecy or privacy.  Candidates cannot let their guard down for fear of saying something embarrassing – the infamous gaffe.   Indeed, the Romney campaign based it’s Republican National Convention theme on a gaffe of Obama’s.    In trying to say “you didn’t build that” about infrastructure he timed it so that it sounded like he said business owners didn’t build their own businesses!    The Romney campaign pounced.

Perhaps this is the reason so few people pay federal income taxes

The reason gaffes become paramount is because campaigns are so scripted.    Candidates say what has passed the test of focus groups and media specialists.  Campaigns fear unscripted moments, and train candidates on how to respond.    Candidates are to only show the public the image the campaign wishes to convey.

So when a glimpse of what they really think comes forth, whether Obama’s disdain for the “guns and God” crowd, or Romney’s contempt for the poor, it’s a big deal.   Obama’s 2008 gaffe was in the primary season, and it took him months to overcome it, with some damage permanent.    What will this one mean for Romney?   The next few days will tell how the media react and if this story has legs.

Given Governor Romney’s lack of connection with voters and the negative image painted this summer by the Obama campaign of Romney as an out of touch elitist, this video has the makings of Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake” statement on the eve of the French revolution.

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