Perception Just Became Reality

Published: September 20, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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For months the Democrats have painted Mitt Romney as out-of-touch, elite, and uncaring about the middle class. In conversations, I’ve defended him against many of those generalizations. While that was before his Libya statements, I kept thinking, he’ll bounce back.

All that went out of the window with a video we shall now euphemistically call The 47% speech:


“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 take 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. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.

“My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look voting one way or the other depending upon some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”

Caught in yet another Explain-athon, I kept hoping that Romney would come out and explain how his words were taken out of context. Wrong. The front page of the New York Times (Sept. 19): Romney Stands Behind Message Caught on Video. So, according to Romney, this wasn’t a gaffe, but a belief statement.

Let’s go to the analysis:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.”

So far, so good. He’s quoting the national polls.

“…there are 47 percent who are with him,”

No problem.

“… who are dependent upon government,”

Ah, oh.

“…who believe that they are victims,”

Oh, no. Please, don’t go rogue…

“… who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”


“My job is not to worry about those people.”

Wrap it up… get off the stage…now!

“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The next sound we heard was the clattering of a million keyboards fast and furiously typing, posting, blogging, printing, and broadcasting the undeniable fact that Mitt Romney has just confirmed the perception by Democrats.

NY Times columnist David Brooks (Thurston Howell Romney, Sept. 17):

“You could say that the entitlement state is growing at an unsustainable rate and will bankrupt the country. You could also say that America is spending way too much on health care for the elderly and way too little on young families and investments in the future. But these are not the sensible arguments that Mitt Romney made at a fund-raiser earlier this year. Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers.

“Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?”

Times columnist Maureen Dowd (Let Them Eat Crab Cake, Sept. 19) gave us the Full-Romney:

“The thing I find most disappointing about this president is his attack of one America against another America… he and his allies are pushing us even further apart by dividing us into groups.”

And Romney’s a wiz at foreign relations policy: “Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace – and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish… You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem… And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it.”

Statements like that make Sarah Palin look almost wonkish!

Even Republican guards like Peggy Noonan were in crisis mode, (Time for an Intervention, Sept. 18):

“This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk….

“What should Mitt Romney do now? He should peer deep into the abyss. He should look straight into the heart of darkness where lies a Republican defeat in a year the Republican presidential candidate almost couldn’t lose.”

Actually, Noonan’s advice reminded me of words, perhaps better suited to Romney’s situation, in a scene from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Young broker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) has just been caught by the SEC but doesn’t know it yet. He arrives at the office amid looks of demise from everyone. Wise, old guard Lou Manheim (Hal Holbrook) approaches, puts his hand on Bud’s shoulder and gives him the speech:

“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”

Or maybe he should default to Republican wordsmith Frank Luntz who once wrote, “Words can sometimes be used to confuse, but it’s up to the practitioners of the study of language to apply them for good and not for evil. It is just like fire; fire can heat your house or burn it down.”

Mitt, your house is on fire.


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