Don’t wait to clarify comments
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stepped into a mess of his own making on Monday, with a big push from Mother Jones magazine. So far, Mr. Romney hasnít backed off the dismissive views stated in a private May fundraiser and surreptitiously captured on video. While conceding that his words ďwere not elegantly stated,Ē he added, ďIím sure I can state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that, and so Iím sure Iíll point that out as time goes on.Ē
It canít happen too soon.
Referencing the 47 percent of Americans who, according to a 2011 study, donít pay income taxes, he said at the Boca Raton fundraiser: ďThere 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 ó thatís an entitlement. And [they think] the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what ...
ďMy job is not to worry about those people. Iíll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.Ē
In short, Mr. Romney contended that all Americans who donít pay federal income taxes somehow view themselves as victims who are incapable of personal responsibility and self-reliance. And that they will vote only for a candidate who will help them remain wards of the government.
Of course, there are many Americans who believe the government should do more on their behalf. And they naturally tend to support the Democratic Party, which shares their expectations for more and costlier social programs. In serving that constituency, the Democrats have cultivated an entitlement mentality.
But Mr. Romney canít believe that everyone who doesnít make enough money to pay income taxes, under rates designated by the federal tax code, thinks the government owes them a living. Almost everyone pays taxes of some sort, including federal payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security. Sales taxes, gasoline taxes, property taxes, taxes masquerading as fees.
Nearly half the nation canít be written off as deadbeats or drones.
Maybe Mr. Romney was playing to the crowd at that fancy fund raiser. Maybe he got caught up in campaign mode. But his comments reflect a dreary world view that he needs to repudiate.
Mr. Romney isnít the first candidate to be caught in the snare of his own words, or to be captured unawares on tape. And his message canít be simply summed up by what he said in May at a fund-raising event.
But itís up to Mr. Romney to clarify. And soon. Then he needs to make a case for his candidacy to the nation, not merely those who are likely to vote Republican. Ronald Reaganís conservative message resonated broadly across America. It was a message of hope and self-reliance, not of dismissiveness. Mr. Romney should take note.