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Friday, 16 November 2012 07:29

Even in Defeat, Romney's Gift of Gaffe Keeps on Giving

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On the night of the election, Mitt Romney made a gracious concession speech and then walked off the stage with his family at his side. This was Mitt Romney’s time. He could have walked into history as a well-respected man. Forget about the gaffes, the 180-degree policy turns, the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, his stilted demeanor, and the mistake of naming Paul Ryan as his running mate. His remarks to funders that 47% of Americans were takers would certainly be remembered, but might be smoothed out over time. Even memes about the dog on the roof would slide into the ages. It was time for he and Ann to gather up the family, head back to one of their palatial estates and reflect on what his quest for the presidency had come to.

But instead, Romney was intent on having another go at it. And he chose another gathering of funders to express himself.

During a conference call with donors on Wednesday, November 14, only eight days after Election Day, Romney reflected on his campaign. The Los Angeles Times reported that Romney “believed his team ran a ‘superb’ campaign with ‘no drama,’ and attributed his rival’s victory to ‘the gifts’ the administration had given to blacks, Hispanics and young voters during Obama’s first term.”

“The president’s campaign,” he said, “focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”

As The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn had earlier pointed out, according to conservatives, “Women got free birth control. Latinos got more open immigration policy. The poor got food stamps. Tons of people got subsidized health insurance. And so on.”

On Election night on Fox, a deeply disturbed Bill O’Reilly, stated that “It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”

O’Reilly went on: “The white establishment is now the minority. The voters, many of them, feel this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re gonna see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things — and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

In his post-election analysis, The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman pointed out that “The truth, of course, is that every single person in America gets benefits from the U.S. government. We get defended from invasion, we get roads to drive on, we get reasonably clean air to breathe, we get parks and schools and so much else. But that's not the ‘free stuff’ conservatives are talking about.
They're talking about the government giving you something directly as an individual, like money. But there's a problem here too: Lots and lots of Americans, including most of those whom Republicans deem morally worthy, get plenty of stuff from the government. I'm not even talking about bank bailouts, or corporations like General Electric rewriting the tax code so they pay nothing. I'm talking about individual people, the kind of people Republicans like, getting direct government aid” (http://prospect.org/article/land-free-stuff-home-brave).

Romney’s chat with donors echoed O’Reilly’s concerns. According to The Los Angeles Times, it “was organized by Romney’s finance team and included a final rundown of fundraising efforts as well as an analysis by Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, who has been criticized by some Republicans for misleading the candidate about his chances.”

“I am very sorry that we didn’t win,” Romney told the donors. “I know that you expected to win. We expected to win…. It was very close, but close doesn’t count in this business.”

As The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber pointed out, Romney had spent a great deal of time “between mid-September and early October,” trying to escape from his “47 percent riff.” Romney “insisted his campaign was devoted to the ‘100 percent of America’ for whom ‘life has become harder.’ He ran ads about how he was a truly compassionate person who just had a different way of measuring compassion than Barack Obama.” Paul Ryan, “pronounced the comments a ‘misstep’ and chalked them up to an ‘inarticulate way of describing how we’re worried … more people have become dependent on government.’ When none of that worked, Romney took to Fox News and denounced his own comments as ‘just completely wrong.’”  

However which way Team Romney tried to spin his Boca Raton 47% remarks, the damage was done. The tape confirmed what many intuited: Romney did not get most of the American people.

Romney’s original complaint was that 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims” and “that they are entitled” to government goodies like health care and housing. “This time,” Scheiber noted, “Romney oh-so-deftly expunged any talk of victimhood or entitlement (at least so far as we know). In this new rendition, the people who voted against him just happened to be on the receiving end of a government spending spree worth ‘trillions of dollars,’ through no particular fault of their own. What were they going to do—turn it down? Let it not be said that Romney doesn’t learn from his mistakes.”

Romney’s most recent noxious remarks were probably once again expressed “inelegantly,” as he had claimed after the 47% tape was revealed. That he truly believes the essence of them is by now apparent. But Romney’s time is over. He could have walked off the political stage graciously. Instead his gift of gaffes continue to reverberate.