This is a Holiday for my folks. So I’ve only been half in touch with the news today. And I’m just getting up to speed on this purported tape of Mitt Romney saying he thinks the 47% of Americans who support Barack Obama are moochers who believe the government has to take care of them. It’s rare when the impact of some gaffe or embarrassment or revelation isn’t overstated on first blush. But this may just be that rare exception. This tape strikes me as absolutely devastating.
First, provenance. Our news team is currently reporting the story out. I don’t know the provenance of the tape. It’s apparently been bouncing around on the interwebs before getting published by Mother Jones. But I know David Corn. And he wouldn’t have posted it under his name if he weren’t pretty certain he had the authenticity of the tape nailed. So I’m assuming the tape is legit for the purposes of what I say below.
As for the tape itself, this is a fine distillation of the most rancid version of the libertarian conservative worldview. Democrats are moochers and losers who can’t get their act together and think the government owes them food, board, health care and basically whatever else they want. You don’t need to look long to find this version of reality on the web. But this isn’t some right-wing blogger. It’s the Republican candidate for President of the United States.
Here’s the actual text …
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 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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Shortly after this part Romney says this: “My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
And here’s the video …
Fringier folks in the GOP say things like this. Gary Bauer did just a couple days ago when he said Obama’s coalition was made up of welfare recipients and vote fraudsters. Bauer though was smart enough not to put a percentage to the charge. Doing so deprives Romney of a vital wiggle room. He’s not just talking about some few percentage points that make up the moocher vote. He’s talking about everybody who supports Obama.
So if some Democrat says that if you support Barack Obama, Romney is talking about you, that Democrat would be on steel-reinforced ground. Are you one of those 47% of the electorate that the polls consistently tell us support Barack Obama? He’s talking about you. It’s not an exaggeration.
So the country is divided in two: on one side, the self-sufficient and high-achieving Republicans and on the other side the losers who think government needs to take care of them.
This is the caricature of Mitt Romney, who was born on 3rd base (in Ann Richards memorable phrase), thinks he hit a triple and thinks the broad middle class who’ve relied on government for student loans or social security or anything else are losers who can’t get their act together and take responsibility for themselves. Only this tape says that caricature Mitt Romney is the real Mitt Romney.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.