Election 2012

Romney Caught on Tape: Moochers, Sweatshops and Freeloaders

My Tuesday column dissects the hidden camera Romney video and, specifically, his claim that the 47% of Americans who didn't pay taxes in 2009 are freeloaders.

The clandestine video footage of Mitt Romney telling wealthy donors that nearly half the nation is composed of freeloaders, layabouts and welfare queens isn't actually part of the recent hard right turn by the Romney campaign. This is how Romney really thinks. He really believes that reaching out to half the country is a waste of time because they -- we -- would rather collect our Obama Bucks while regular working stiffs like Mitt Romney pay all the bills.

How do we know this? The video was recorded at right-wing financier Marc Leder back on May 17, 2012, long before Limbaugh, Ingraham and others demanded that Romney, shall we say, service the base. And that he did. Romney turned hard right last week and careened into a gigantic dump truck filled with crapola, Biff Tannen style. But the hidden-camera video shows that Romney had embraced "severely conservative" talking points five months ago, and with frank language that went far beyond any of his public statements during the primary campaign.

Regardless, this is when things will get really crazy.

It's conceivable that Romney will continue his desperate move to right by actually embracing his 47% speech at Marc Leder's house. In a brief Q&A session with the press Monday evening, Romney said his video remarks weren't "elegantly" worded but that it's the "the same message" he delivers in public. No sign of backing away from the substance of what he said, just the way he said it. Continue reading...

  • D_C_Wilson

    This is truly the most awful person to run for president in my lifetime. And I was born during the Nixon era.

    • bphoon

      I agree and I was born during the Eisenhower era…

  • bphoon

    Is Romney actually lying or is he really bullshitting? I saw an interesting piece by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian here (thanks to @ebertchicago for pointing it out) that makes a distinction between the two. It expands the premise put forth by Princton philosopher Harry Frankfurt:

    In his 2005 bestseller, On Bullshit, the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt made a crucial distinction between lies and bullshit. To lie is to intentionally deceive, by saying what you know (or believe) isn’t the truth. Romney does this all the time. To bullshit, though, is to talk without regard for the truth, one way or the other. The liar and the truth-teller, writes Frankfurt, “are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game”; the bullshitter, by contrast, refuses to play. “He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all.”

    Burkeman illustrates several episodes where Romney and Ryan are, shall we say, truth challenged. Romney telling two stories of what he was doing when he heard about 9/11, Ryan embellishing his marathon time (by a full hour!), Romney claiming he’d been a hunter all his life, Ryan bragging about his mountaineering adventures. Were these sinister attempts to subvert the truth or were these guys just bullshitting? At least in instances such as these, Burkeman posits they were simply bullshitting and points out why:

    …These incidents all involve candidates emitting words from their mouths, in roughly grammatical order, to sound plausible, as circumstances demand. These statements aren’t the truth, nor a deliberate attempt to evade the truth. They’re pure bullshit.

    Burkeman points out, too, that “bullshit’s easiest to spot (or smell)” when candidates are responding to “‘soft’ questions about [their] hobbies and biographies…” But, when it comes to more important topics:

    …it’s harder to distinguish bullshitting from lying, because it’s difficult to imagine that someone running for the presidency or vice-presidency of the United States might really make nakedly untrue claims about his opponent’s healthcare policies, or about major episodes in American history, out of anything other than coldly calculated intent.

    Then, he comes to the true crux of the matter, especially as regards the Romney/Ryan campaign:

    But I wonder. Through “excessive indulgence” in bullshitting, Frankfurt writes, “a person’s normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost”. Bullshitting breeds bullshitting. And ultimately, that’s worse than lying, Frankfurt argues: at least liars remain in some kind of relationship with the truth.

    I think Burkeman’s hit on something here: The Romney/Ryan campaign–and, by extension, the entire right wing–simply don’t know what the truth means anymore. Where there are hard, objective facts to refute them, they’ll lie, knowing what they’re saying isn’t true (the only skill they need to know this is the ability to read; I know, challenging for many of our friends in the Tea Party&reg, but still…). At other times, however, since they no longer know how to tell the truth (or alternatively are scared to do so), they’ll simply lay out a line of bullshit to keep the masses at bay for another day.

  • zirgar

    Romney will be just fine. His supporters will simply say, “He got caught speaking the truth.” This kind of callous thinking does not bring them any shame, whatsoever. It should, but it doesn’t.

    • agrazingmoose

      You could be right. Most Rs that I have talked with (say, while getting a haircut) are on public assistance of one sort or another and don’t even realize it until you point it out to them.

      I think that the Obama campaign should write a little ad that tells people what government assistance is: federal student loans and grants, social security, medicare, medicaid, veterans benefits, WIC, public school lunches, etc.

      It is not all unemployment and SNAP.

      • Brutlyhonest

        Those who know they’re getting money from the government feel justified because they earned theirs; you know, they aren’t lazy and/or brown.