Private remarks made by Mitt Romney to a small group of wealthy campaign donors have been made public today, in a secret video that commentators are already saying may cost him the presidency.
He candidly dismissed nearly half of the American people as ‘victims’ who don’t pay income tax and take no personal responsibility for their lives. It’s not his job, he said, to worry about those people.
Discussing the voters who support President Obama, he 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.
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.’
The video was published by left-wing publication Mother Jones – and was uncovered by researcher James Carter, the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter.
‘If you’re cutting Obama ads, this is as good as it gets,’ writes Alex Altman at Time magazine. He compares the remarks to Obama’s infamous statement during the 2008 election, that rural voters ‘get bitter, they cling to their guns and religion’. This, too, was made to a private donor audience and leaked to the public.
‘Four years ago, a lot of people felt they got a glimpse of the real Obama … People will react the same way when they see this Romney tape.’
Both the Obama and Romney camps have been quick to react to the revelations from the tape – the former using it as an opportunity to emphasise their message that Romney will govern for the wealthy, the latter going into awkward damage control.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina had this to say:
It’s shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims’, entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to ‘take personal responsibility’ for their lives. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.
The Romney campaign’s communications director, Gail Gitcho, issued the following statement:
Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.
These revelations would never be good news, but the timing is particularly bad, coming on the heels of controversy over Romney’s definition of ‘middle-income’ families as those earning $200,000 to $250,000 per year. The latest Census Bureau report defines the median household income as just over $50,000.
It has been argued, with some validation, that Obama has implicitly made the same definition: he plans to extend tax cuts ‘for the middle class’ for households earning $250,000 and less.
‘Pass a bill extending the tax cuts for the middle class, I will sign it tomorrow,’ Obama said in July. ‘I just believe that anybody making over $250,000 should go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton.’
Romney wants these tax cuts to apply to everyone, regardless of income.
The Wheeler Centre will be focusing on the US over the next fortnight, with our special AMERICA events series. Guests will include the Atlantic’s national correspondent James Fallows, a former speechwriter for ex-president Jimmy Carter.
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