Big difference in caught-on-tape remarks by Romney and Obama
The Kansas City Star
You’d think by now that candidates for the highest office in the land would just assume that their remarks at private fundraisers are being videotaped.
Barack Obama caused a kerfuffle during his 2008 primary campaign when he told supporters in Pennsylvania that some people “…get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.”
A lot of people found that patronizing and belittling, as though the senator from the Chicago area thought he was better than these folks who cling to God and guns.
Obama obviously survived that caught-on-tape moment. I don’t think Mitt Romney will overcome his.
Here’s the difference: Obama, in the full context of his remarks (see below), was being empathetic. Romney was simply being dismissive when he said that “there are 47 percent who are with (Obama), 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.…And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”
It says as much about the state of the Republican Party as it does about Romney that someone can rise to the top of a national ticket and speak so contemptuously about nearly 50 percent of Americans. And so wrongly.
There undoubtedly are some freeloaders in the 47 percent. But it also includes college students, retirees, active duty military and many hardworking Americans who pay payroll taxes and Social Security taxes, but who don’t earn enough to pay income taxes. A lot of them desperately want to pay income taxes, but they’re out of work or stuck in low-paying jobs. Why would a candidate speak so disrespectfully of those Americans?
Some conservatives, like Michael Walsh at the National Review, are urging Romney to stand up and own his remarks, which help to explain why he uttered them. He was echoing the thinking of an influential segment of his party.
It is cold, uncaring thinking which leaves no room for lifting people up or reducing the savage inequities in today’s America.
Here, for old-time’s sake, are Obama’s caught-on-tape remarks that caused a stir four years ago. Like Romney, he was talking to supporters, explaining strategy:
“Here’s what it is: In a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, they feel so betrayed by government, that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, there’s a part of them that just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by—it is true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism. (Audience laughs.)
“But—so the questions you’re most likely to get are going to be: ‘Well, you know, what’s this guy going to do for me? What’s the concrete thing?’ And what they want to hear is—you know, so we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing: to close tax loopholes and roll back, you know, the top—the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s going to give tax breaks to middle-class folks, and we’re going to provide health care for every American. You know, we’ll have a series of talking points.
“But the truth is that our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s no evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment (as) a way to explain their frustrations.”