Mitt Romney

Eileen McNamara wonders why anyone is shocked by Mitt Romney's latest private comments when he has been saying the same thing in public all along.(AP File Photo)

Spare me the shock. Anyone stunned to learn that Mitt Romney is contemptuous of the poor, oblivious to the struggles of ordinary people and clueless about international affairs has just not been paying attention.

That the former governor of Massachusetts and the increasingly out-of-touch Republican Party consider Americans (specifically 47 percent of Americans) who receive any government benefits “entitled” slackers invested in their self-image as “victims” is not news. It is the heart of the GOP’s “We Built It” campaign, the conceit that those who make it in America do so entirely under their own steam. (Having a father who was president of American Motors before he was governor of Michigan apparently had nothing to do with Romney’s opportunities in life.)

The videotaped candor Romney displayed at a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida last May mirrors remarks he has been making on the campaign trail all year.

Wealth does not disqualify a candidate for public office; willful ignorance of the world beyond his country club set does.

Remember the TV appearance last January when he told a CNN interviewer, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” a reference to federally funded social programs that, in their deficit-cutting zeal, Romney and Paul Ryan have vowed to slash if elected?

Remember his response last February to an Associated Press reporter who asked whether he followed NASCAR? “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans,” he said. “But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”

Remember his appearance in Detroit the same month when he told an audience in a city with the highest poverty rate of any major U.S. city that “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”?

Remember the town meeting last March in a Youngstown, Ohio assembly plant when a high school senior asked how, in the face of escalating tuition, he could afford a college education?

“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that. Don’t just go to one that has the highest price,” said the man with two Harvard graduate degrees. “Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

Remember his appearance last April in Westerville, Ohio when he told students at Otterbein University that they should emulate the entrepreneurial spirit of Jimmy John, who borrowed $20,000 from his dad to open Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches?

“Take, take a shot. Go for it. Take a risk. Get the education. Borrow money if you have to from your parents. Start a business,” he exhorted students, obtusely unaware that not everyone’s parents have a spare $20,000 to lend.

These were not the gaffes of a tone-deaf presidential candidate, exploited by a headline-seeking press corps. These were not evidence of a tin ear. These were an honest reflection of Romney’s limited life experience, a narrowness of perspective and exposure that he has shown no interest in broadening across 65 years and two national campaigns.

Wealth does not disqualify a candidate for public office; willful ignorance of the world beyond his country club set does. The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy could hardly have had a more privileged upbringing but he spent 47 years in the United States Senate educating himself about those born in less favored circumstances, here and abroad.

Romney has done exactly the opposite, surrounding himself with the moneyed interests he promises to protect if he becomes president. In July, at a Jerusalem fundraiser, Romney was seated beside Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Las Vegas casino owner who has dumped millions into the Republican race this year, when he demonstrated that his gift for pandering to his Israeli hosts outstripped his understanding of the politics or the economics of the Middle East. No wonder he is heard on the videotape from Boca Raton insisting that “there’s just no way” a separate Palestinian state could work and that there can be no discussion with the mullahs of Iran because they are “crazy people.”

“Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said in Jerusalem in a simple-minded explanation of the economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians. “And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”

Never mind the World Bank report earlier this year which concluded that “the government of Israel’s security restrictions continue to stymie investment” in the Palestinian territories. Romney apparently had not read it.

He did claim, however, to have read “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at UCLA, which helped form his notion that culture explains why some nations are weak and poor while others are strong and rich. “That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it,” Diamond wrote a week later in an op-ed in The New York Times, adding “Mitt Romney may be our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world?’”

Only if we continue to feign shock every time he opens his mouth.

Tags: Election 2012, Mitt Romney

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  • DaddyWri

    Once more regurgitating the Kool-aid of the Obama campaign. Read what Romney actually said next time.

    • Jim Boyson

      A puerile comment if ever I’ve seen one, DaddyWri.

      EMcN bases her comments very openly on material in the public domain, with links to direct those who have either short memory or know nothing of the candidate’s previous ‘form’ regarding those not born in a drawer of silver spoons.

      Your rather meagre two lines are based on what, exactly?

    • jefe68

      I not only have I read what Mitt Romney has said I’ve heard it. The man is not fit to be president, period. Nice to see you backing up Eileen McNamara’s claim that the Rpublicans are out of touch. I would add that you also show the how nasty and full of mendacity the right can be.

  • ICE

    Nicely said Eileen. Even tales of Romney’s empathy like the ones brought out at the RNC reflect that even his acts of kindness are directed to those in his “tribe”, i.e. his Mormon church or his Private Equity firm. He simply does not have the ability to feel for other people beyond his own world.

    I want a president with a sense of compassion and humility, who can look at those with less than him/her and think: “would but for the grace of God go I”. Romney is not that person.

  • sjw81

    Agree with everything in this column, well said. However Obama in not so in touch either. He bailed out wall st and his 1% friends, thats why they are doing well 4 years later but the rest of us are stuck in this recession and 8% unemployed. He says he was going to hold wall st accountable and reform it, but he really didnt. he didnt even appoint liz warren. he says he wanted to lower health care costs, but instead gave the insurance company more customers. he said he wants to end the war but instead keeps sending our kids, not his, to fight in afgahnistan (whom are we fighting exactly?. and lastestly our economy and govt is bankrupt and our debt bubble, and corresponding college “aid” ie loans, bubble will soon burst…then a depression will really set in…

    • Don_B1

      Dodd-Frank is not enough, and the banks are using suits and every other obstruction in slowing and weakening the rule making Dodd-Frank called for, but there are some parts, allowing an orderly winding-down of a too-big-to-fail bank in the future, which will give bank CEOs the incentive to understand the risks the bank is taking on. This is a task still in progress and I hope the Republicans do not remove even this regulation as they continually claim they will.

      It is true that a public option (not to mention single payer) would have been better, but those can be added within the PPACA structure; the presence of at least two Democratic Senators (Ben Nelson (D-NB) and Joseph Lieberman (D/I-CT)) meant that the 60 votes for cloture to pass it over a certain filibuster were never there. But the rate of premium increase has been lower the last two years and only a few pieces of the actual law have taken effect.

      He campaigned in favor of making the Afghan war an effective fight; he may not have fully appreciated the deterioration of Afghan support for our effort during the period George W. Bush abandoned our supporters there in favor of a “war of choice” with Iraq. We are approaching a crucial decision on the Afghan effort, which will depend on what approaches the military can make to continue training the Afghan army safely. Note that Obama has effectively extracted us from fighting in Iraq without abandoning the Iraqi people.

      Our government is NOT bankrupt as the market demonstrates every day when there is a large demand to buy government debt at effectively negative interest rates. That is largely the money of corporations and the most wealthy who do not see a good return on their money anywhere else, like a new company for whose product/service they do not see any customers. If the government took a little more of that money and spent it on NEEDED infrastructure, it could put to work many unemployed, whose spending of those wages would create demand for other products and services, thus growing the economy toward full recovery, when that excess government spending would no longer be needed. I can understand why macroeconomics is not well understood, with some economists who should know better supporting Republican austerity policies which can never work in a depression, particularly one bad enough that the economy is in a liquidity trap (where Fed monetary policy has hit the Zero Lower Bound).

    • Mahmood Anwar

      I was agreeing with you, until you said, he is not sending his kids to Afghanistan. I think it might not be appropriate for a 13 & 10 yrs old girls to be in Afghanistan fighting for USA? What do you think?

  • J__o__h__n

    Every time he goes off script he reveals how out of touch and/or mean spirited he is (it is better concealed in the script unless you look into the details like the Ryan plan which he supports except when he doesn’t).

  • vito33

    Willful arrogance is more like it.

  • Karl_Marx

    Anybody remember the comic book characters Richie Rich and Scrooge McDuck?
    Now there’s Mitt Romney. What a character.

  • Imran Nasrullah

    Bravo Eileen. You have said exactly what I have felt. In a bit of foreshadowing, we saw Romney throw Massachusetts residents under the bus when he was governor; whenever he left the state he would trash Mass citizens, making me wonder, how will he trash Americans when he is President. Now we know. The fact that he can throw half the country under the bus, just shows the contempt he has for the less fortunate.

  • Pam

    Excellent article-tells it like it is.Thank you.

  • Bridgit

    A shining example of willful ignorance – what it is and what it is not.

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