Before we move on, I think it’s important to focus directly on Mitt Romney’s statement on Fox News last night in which he belatedly tried to retract his comments about the “47 percent.”
This is what he told Fox:
“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you’re gonna say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
Listening to Romney, you might be led to believe that his original “47 percent” comments were just a garbled misstatement taken out of context, like his own “I’m not concerned about the very poor” or Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that.” But listen again to the original statement in the video above. Or, if you prefer, you can read it here:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
That is not a statement ripped out of context. It is not Romney saying one thing but meaning another. In those remarks, Romney makes a sustained, passionate and seemingly heartfelt argument about what he truly believes. He is damn clear about it
But don’t take my word for it. Take Romney’s word for it. On the night that video was released, Romney appeared at a hastily called press conference. He was asked explicitly whether he was backing away from the statements, and he made it quite clear that he was not. While his remarks were “not elegantly stated,” he said, he doubled down on the basic message.
“It’s a message which I’m going to carry and continue to carry which is, look, the president’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them so I’m not likely to atrract them into my campaign.”
(As an aside, note Romney’s mention about his support for lowering taxes, a position that he explicitly denied in Wednesday’s debate in Denver.)
In the days that followed, Romney continued to defend his remarks and continued to press that argument. So did Paul Ryan, his running mate. That is what they truly believe; the passionate, dismissive statements about the 47 percent that Romney made to a roomful of people contributing $50,000 each to his campaign reflect his true value system.
His attempt to come out more than two weeks later and try to claim that his statements were “just completely wrong” and “didn’t come out right” is ludicrous and devoid of credibility.
Believe him at your peril.
– Jay Bookman