Whatever your political view, the Romney campaign is not in good shape this week. With rumors of a dysfunctional campaign staff and the too-quick remark on foreign policy, the secretly recorded video may prove to be one of those classic campaign moments, the kind that remain in the public’s consciousness for years to come.
A few have rushed to Romney’s defense, including Herman Cain, Erick Erickson of redstate.com, and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. But you know things are in turmoil when major figures criticize their party’s candidate; Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said that Romney’s remarks were “stupid and arrogant” and David Brooks argued that:
It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney . . . He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.
What is so strange about the remarks – putting aside for a moment the question of what Romney actually believes – is that it reveals a deeply flawed political assessment of the voting public. A significant portion of the 47 percent who do not pay income taxes are in the military, working lower income people and those on social security – and probably a majority are inclined to vote Republican. To speak of them as an entitlement group, or as Andrew Sullivan notes in his devastating analysis (recommended reading), to use the word “victim” with this group is astonishing.
Yes, there are people in this group with a victim mentality, just as – we should note – there are apparently a number of millionaires with a victim mentality. It’s hard to describe it as anything else when you think you’re entitled to something and that others are out to get you.
It’s hard to say what the ultimate fallout of the video will be, but you don’t elections by writing off the people already on your side. If you want a detailed analysis of who pays what in taxes, and who the 47% are, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a good place to start.
The video was done in Boca Raton, Florida at the home of Marc Leder, a private equity executive. More details are coming out and it seems the video was leaked by James Carter IV, former President Carter’s grandson. Is it legal? That’s not clear given that it was done in the State of Florida which stipulates that all parties must consent. On the other hand, it was (more or less) a public campaign event so it may very well be considered within the bounds of the law.
One can almost guarantee that more more details will come out on the making of the video and quite possibly some legal moves down the road.
The “YouTube Era”
I’m using Romney’s own words here. Seriously. This is not (was not?) a man like Anthony Weiner who had no understanding of technology except how to click the “Send” button. No, Romney himself has been quite aware that something like this can happen in our age of increasingly miniaturized electronics and the fact that every moment has the potential to be a public event. Listen to Romney talk about this possibility five long years ago:
Running for president in the YouTube era, you realize you have to be very judicious in what you say . . . . You have to be careful with your humor. You have to recognize that anytime you’re running for the presidency of the United States, you’re on. (Daily Beast)
Well, Mitt, you were definitely on, and the “YouTube era” is much more pervasive now than it was in 2007 (when it was only two years old, though already popular).
But at least Marc Leder and his guests kept their clothes on for this event – now THAT is about the only thing that could top the video as it is – but they haven’t always been so modest.