On Tuesday evening, while packing for a month-long, pre-presidential-election trip to the United States, I turned on the Fox channel to calm my nerves. Though the news is equally bleak on every station, there is comfort in hearing conservatives discuss it. This is not solely because I agree with right-wing assessments. On the contrary, pundits on my side of the political spectrum are just as capable of arousing my ire as those in the opposite camp. This week’s hysteria over a “major gaffe” on the part of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney constituted a perfect case in point.
The brouhaha began on Monday, when the leftist media outlet “Mother Jones” posted a video recording of a fundraiser for Romney that took place in May at the Florida home of private equity manager Marc Leder. During what was described in the expose as an “intimate” event, one of the potential donors present asked the candidate about how he would defeat Barack Obama.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney answered. “All right, there are 47% 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 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 … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Immediately, Obama supporters magnified and disseminated this statement, serving it up as proof that Romney is as elitist as he is out of touch with the American people. Romney may be a businessman — they argued — but the one thing he has no business doing is running for president.
This was to be expected. It is the job of the Obama campaign to attack the competition, and grasp at any and all straws to prevent Romney from achieving an electoral victory on Nov. 6.
Less understandable was the response of many Republican pundits to Romney’s words. Because I do not wish to participate in the “friendly fire” I am about to criticize, I will not name the people in question. Instead, I would like to appeal to them to stop helping the other team score goals — particularly during the final playoffs. With six weeks left before one of the most critical elections in American history, the last thing Romney voters need is a dose of internal demoralization.
Ironically, many of the very analysts who grasp that America is not at fault for the bashing it is receiving from the Islamic world find it hard to acknowledge that Romney is not to blame for every surge Obama enjoys in the polls. Never before has an incumbent with this abysmal a record been given such a break by the media and the public.
Indeed, by this stage of the game in 1980, even Ronald Reagan — a former movie star previously portrayed as a dimwit reactionary — was a clear shoo-in against Jimmy Carter. High unemployment rates, a U.S. embassy under siege in Tehran for over a year, and a contender who was cheering America’s greatness, rather than bemoaning its decline, led to Carter’s ouster.
If the current, eerily similar, state of affairs leads to a different outcome, it will be due far more to the depressed condition of the American people than to the imperfections of the Republican candidate. Obama may have said he was “leading from behind,” but he has forcefully taken the reigns in dragging the country to despondence at home and surrender abroad.
Which brings us back to Romney's comments, made months ago, that caused such a stir this week. In the first place, he was not speaking on a podium in a public forum, but among a small group of sympathizers with whom he could be blunt about his strategy.
Secondly, when he said that he would “never convince [the 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what] that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he was referring to his inability to garner their electoral support. He was not saying that, if elected, he would not become their president. He was asserting that he would not be able to cause them to adopt his position on personal responsibility.
Third: Everything he attributed to the people who adhere to Obama’s worldview is accurate. Obama believes that government is the key and the solution to everything. It is no secret that socialism is the system suited best to people who see themselves as victims, and who consider the government to be both at fault for their plight and responsible for rectifying it.
These are the people who scream “pro choice” in relation to abortion, for example, but who expect the government to fund the termination of their pregnancies when their choice not to use birth control leads to unwanted consequences.
These are the people who think the “millionaires” aren’t paying enough taxes, but who go on the government dole when those “fat cats” (aka the industry bosses who provide them employment) are forced to shrink or dissolve their businesses when hindered financially.
These are the people whose handouts and bailouts and subsidies force the government on which they so depend to raise everybody else’s taxes.
Yes, these are the people who will never vote for Romney — and not because of his “gaffes,” but rather due to his views on how to stop the vicious cycle and downward spiral caused by government control and intervention.
Islamists hate America not for what it does wrong, but for what it does right. Obama supporters hate Romney not for his failures, but for his successes. It is this that the conservative camp should be shouting from the rooftops. Anything else they have to say on the matter should be reserved for the privacy of their own homes — minus the video cameras.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’" now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.