Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Mother Jones Video

Caveat, the first: if you're looking for a relatively neutral discussion of the mechanics of campaigning in this post, this isn't the post for you.  Go back and revisit some of my earlier posts back in the lofty, more elevated days of the presidential primary.  Today, I'm a pretty damn aggravated Democrat, mostly because I think that Mitt Romney genuinely meant what he said in that tape about both Obama supporters and the working poor.

To be honest, having posted yesterday's overall campaign update I had intended to pivot to a discussion of the mechanics of gerrymandering as my next political post.  Or maybe even to do a little follow-up blurb on Granholm's conference speech, which is an interesting study in the differences between events in person and on the television.  But as I said yesterday, events could intercede in the progress of the election and it appears that the video released by Mother Jones magazine of Romney speaking candidly at a fundraising event may have risen from the level of a routine campaign gaffe to a genuine event in the campaign.

And the more I've thought about it, the more I'm irked about what Romney had to say about me, my family, and an awful lot of hard-working people that I've come to know over the years.

So, first up, a few links to the videos on the Mother Jones website, for those who haven't yet seen part or all of the video:

The full video:

Now, the second caveat.  I've only watched the excerpts thus far.  But, heck, utter ignorance of a situation didn't stop Mitt from letting fly about Obama and the Cairo embassy last week, so I reckon I can cast forth a few reasonably well informed opinions on the topic without too much worry.  So here goes, in no particular order:

1) My initial reaction was "So what? This is the sort of stuff that the right-wing punditry is saying all the time. Mitt's now had a 'Todd Akin moment' of his own, saying in public the things that some of the right wingers believe and say amongst themselves, but usually know better than to utter in public or when the cameras are rolling."

Then I thought about it a bit more, watched a few of the videos again, and got a bit more aggravated by what he had to say, especially about Obama supporters and people who don't pay the federal income tax.

2) I'm not going to spend this post fact-checking Mitt, but here's a reasonably good compilation by Brad Plumer of The Washington Post on the taxes that people do pay.  It's worth checking out: Who doesn’t pay taxes, in eight charts.

3) Worth noting: in the speech Romney conflates the 47% of Americans who don't pay income tax with a number of 47% of Americans who definitely plan to vote for Obama.  There may be some overlap, but those two groups are definitely different forty-seven percentages.  So, one of my immediate aggravations: I'm voting for Obama and as near as I can tell I pay a considerably higher percentage of my income in taxes than Mitt does. In fact, as near as I can tell, most Americans pay more of their income in taxes than does Romney.  So I'm tempted to ask when Mitt's going to take responsibility for his life and stop mooching off of me?

4) Also worth noting, the federal income tax is just one of many, many, many taxes that people pay.  Conflating not paying that specific tax with "pays no taxes and just wants a handout" is ... well, it's just ridiculous.

5) Just a general observation on body language and tone.  This is the most honest-seeming version of Romney that I've yet seen.  No matter what you think about what he's saying there, if he could channel that body language and tone during public campaign appearances, he'd be more effective.  This kinda gets back to what I said during the primary about the photo with Romney and his Bain cohort all holding up the hundred-dollar bills.  If Mitt would let that guy out on the campaign trail, people would like him more.

6) Despite what I said in #5, this should pretty much put an end to any "yes" votes on the standard polling question "understands the problems of people like me" for respondents with a net worth of less than a million or so.

7) In my younger and poorer days I had a few years in which my income tax total was zero or close to it.  In particular I remember that I spent much of one of those years unable to work because I was taking care of my disabled grandparents.  Mr. Romney, please explain to me in words that I can understand how I was failing to take personal responsibility and care for my life during that year.

8) Yeah, #7 again.

9) Second question for Mitt Romney ... well, third, since I think he's going to need to explain #7 to me a couple times to make me understand:

Mr. Romney, my father worked various jobs for nearly forty years, much of that time as a logger and small-business owner.  After an illness, a stroke, and nerve damage he went on social security disability.  I generally figure him to be a Republican voter but am I correct, Mr. Romney, that you advise him to vote Obama?

Follow-up: Mr. Romney, is he also failing to take personal responsibility and care for his life?

10) Good God, add a chair and I'm Eastwooding.  It's come to that.

11) Memo to all politicians in both parties.  It's 2012.  If there's more than one person in the room, you can go ahead and assume that somebody's shooting video with a smart phone.

12th and final) Before this year's campaign I used to kinda think that Romney was probably a pretty decent guy who'd let his ambition to be President lead him to do and say things he might not have otherwise, but that he was likely to switch to a fairly center-right position if he managed to win. Over the last year Romney's campaign in the primary and now in the general election has slowly but surely made me think that maybe he really isn't a good person inside, though I doubt he'd understand why I think that. Despite being a Democrat, I don't really like thinking that about a presidential candidate for either party.

Sometimes I think we all want to give politicians a pass on what they say and do during campaigns, but having been a candidate I can tell you that what you say and do during a campaign is a direct reflection of who you are.  And right now I'm looking at a man who made hundreds of millions of dollars with a business model that relied on throwing thousands of people out of work and onto the federal safety net.  Mind you, there's a good debate to be had about the destructive creativity of capitalism, net job growth, etc., but I don't think that anybody would argue that the Bain model of private equity involved a lot of what we could euphemistically call "collateral damage."

But it turns out that Romney thinks that people who have been thrown out of work through no fault of their own "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."

In my final February post on the Republican primary I wrote this about Romney: "He might be the worst of the choices because as near as I can tell all he stands for is a belief in his own competence. Worse yet, he seems to think that belief entitles him to take whatever position is most convenient for the room he is addressing. There are plenty of political offices in which competence without a moral, ethical, or philosophical compass is a positive boon, but President of the United States is not one of them."

Romney's campaign since then has made me more convinced than ever that what I wrote then was correct.  He has also managed to convince me that if elected he would indeed govern as the "severely conservative" leader that I thought was only a pose during the primary.

In that same post, I also wrote this: "C'mon, GOP. I'm not rooting for you. But I am at least rooting for you to produce a responsible alternative."  That still goes, though at this point I can add, "Better luck in 2016" since there are no do-overs at this point.

And as long as I'm revisiting that February post, the sentence, "Tim Pawlenty, come back. All is forgiven!" is still applicable.

Given the mess that the Romney general election campaign has been to date, I rather suspect that may be the one bipartisan note I can include in this rather ranty post.  So I shall end on it.

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