I can’t imagine ever working for the Romney campaign, but I especially wouldn’t want to be one of his publicity people this week, after remarks he made at a May private donor fundraiser were posted online.
For those of you who missed it: the left-leaning Mother Jones Magazine published a video of Romney where he states that it is not his job to worry about 47% of Americans—those who are strong Obama supporters. Those people, Romney said, are “victims,” “dependent on the government,” “pay no income tax” and believe they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Those remarks are offensive to their core. But even I—a proud member of Romney’s 47% by virtue of my support for our president—am willing to give him a bit of leeway. Obama also voiced this sentiment in his first public response to the video. The president taped a segment for Dave Letterman’s the “Late Show” on Tuesday, and noted that all presidential candidates make mistakes on the campaign trail. He even recalled a comment he made in 2008 that he wished had never been made public.
That 2008 video of Obama was shot at a private fundraiser in San Francisco. He was talking about voters from rural, depressed areas in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, who were frustrated with the lack of help the government had been able to offer them. “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,” he said.
It’s fair to say those comments were condescending. It’s hard to be too condemning, though, if we look at them in full context. Obama then continued to talk about how even though these are skeptical, often pessimistic voters, it’s still important to campaign in those areas in efforts not only to get votes, but also to make the effort to understand where that portion of the electorate is coming from and show how life could improve under his policies. But point taken, Mr. President: it’s only human to say things we regret. Moreover, snippets taken out of context can be especially deadly.
Interesting, though, that Romney’s comments seem just as offensive when listened to in context. After Romney and several others called for the entire video to be put online—not just excerpts—Mother Jones obliged. Watch the whole thing here. While Obama followed his 2008 comments with a call for openness and understanding amongst all Americans, Romney’s comments write off almost half the electorate.
“My expectation is that if you want to be president you gotta work for everybody, not just for some,” Obama told Letterman.
Romney has not apologized, but he did admit his comments were “off the cuff.” Obama, while being understanding of mistakes that can happen on the campaign trail, was a bit more direct. “There are not a lot of people who think they are victims,” he said on the “Late Show.”