WASHINGTON — Oh, for the days when we thought Mitt Romney didn’t stand for anything.
As a secret video from a Boca Raton fundraiser with high rollers in May shows, Romney in private stands for so many bizarre things that it’s hard to tell what’s crazier — his domestic policy or his foreign policy.
Less than 50 days before the election, we learn that Romney may have given up on half of America and on Mideast peace.
In a reply to a fat cat at the $50,000-a-plate dinner, he wrote off 47 percent of the country as deadbeats, freeloaders and “victims” who feel they’re entitled to stuff — stuff like basic sustenance.
“Well, there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he said. “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’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
The candidate, who pays so little in taxes relative to his income that he has to hide tax returns and money in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, then added, condescendingly: “These are people who pay no income tax.”
“So my job is not to worry about those people,” he blithely concluded. “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” What kind of presidential candidate shrugs off wooing whole groups — we’re talking many seniors and white-working-class voters in battleground states who are, if he actually knew what he was talking about, his own natural constituencies?
A “stupid and arrogant” one, as Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, put it.
Conservatives knew that Romney was no Reagan, but the tape left many Republicans and Obama strategists gobsmacked. One top Democrat called it “a treasure trove of stupid answers.”
On Fox News on Tuesday, Neil Cavuto gently asked Romney if he had “prematurely” presumed that he couldn’t get all of those voters. Mitt’s rambles to the donors, released by Mother Jones magazine and, in a bit of poetic justice, unearthed by Jimmy Carter’s grandson, were a stunning combination of wrong facts, callous sentiments and dumb politics.
He seemed to have bought into the warped canard that some conservatives inside and outside of Congress have pushed: that the president and Nancy Pelosi were nefariously hooking people on unemployment benefits so they’d get addicted and vote Democratic to keep the unemployment bucks flowing like crack.
It’s literally rich: Willard, born on third base and acting self-made, whining to the rich about what a great deal in life the poor have.
We thought Romney was secretly moderate, but it turns out that he’s secretly cruel, a social Darwinist just like his running mate.
You’d assume that it would be hard now for Romney to resume bashing President Barack Obama for demonizing and pandering on class warfare, with lines like he’s been using on the trail: “He and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups.”
But, even as Mitt was spitefully demonizing and dividing in Boca, he remained cardboard-cutout un-self-aware, musing: “The thing which I find most disappointing about this president is his attack of one America against another America.” This is the absolute height of cluelessness.
At another point in the video, Romney once more showed his foreign policy jejuneness, questioning the workability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which is U.S. policy endorsed by W.
Mr. Sunshine said he sometimes felt “that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace — and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
He continued: “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” adding “And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it.”
Wow. That’s leadership. He said a former secretary of state had called him to suggest that after the Palestinian elections, there might be a prospect for a settlement, but that “I didn’t delve into it.”
After months of doggedly trying to seem more likable, sharing his guilty pleasures like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snooki, Romney came across as a mean geek, a Cranbrook kid at the country club smugly swaddled in class disdain. He thinks being president is his manifest destiny. His father didn’t make it, so he will — no matter what far-out conservative positions he must graft on to in order to do it.
We’re in search of the real Romney. But, disturbingly, so is he.
One thing we have to give Mitt, though: He is, as advertised, a brilliant manager. He’s managed to ensure that Obama has a much better chance of re-election.
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist who writes for the New York Times News Service.