The Bullpen

The Mitt Romney we have always known

The political world is shocked — shocked! — by the Republican's glib dismissal of 47 percent of Americans. But these comments were very much in character

Dana Liebelson

Shortly after Mother Jones leaked the now-infamous videos of Mitt Romney speaking at a private fundraiser, I repeatedly got this question (I work for the magazine): Are the tapes real? Besides the fact that my confidence in David Corn's reporting is ironclad, I could reassure readers of the videos' authenticity for another reason. This is the Romney we've known all along.

Romney admitted as much himself at a last-minute press conference on Monday. He didn't deny the statements, but instead said they were "not elegantly stated." You could practically hear the baffled wheels of his brain cranking: "Why is this such a big deal? This is why my supporters are voting for me. Next news cycle, please."

Unfortunately for Romney, the people who don't know his true colors are the "five to 10 percent in the center" that Romney says vote based on "whether they like the guy or not." For them, hearing Romney spout his beliefs sans airbrushing is "very, very ugly," as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman described the tapes.

And maybe that's why the videos have taken off: They're real and unvarnished. But really, we shouldn't be so shocked by the videos' big "shockers." Because when it comes to his campaign's ugly side, Romney can be a pretty consistent guy. Let's have a look:

"Shocker" #1: "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 him, who believe that they are victims…so my job is not to worry about those people — I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Why it's not shocking: Romney has already shown us his plan to make sure he doesn't have to worry about the 47 percent. Under VP nominee Paul Ryan's economic model, federal spending for Medicaid — the program that serves 60 million low-income Americans — would be slashed by $800 billion over the next 10 years. If Romney is in office, up to 30 million of those Medicaid users could lose their coverage. Is it really a surprise that he conceded that he's not worried about the 47 percent?

The Romney-Ryan plan would also change Medicare into a voucher program for Americans under 55. As Steve Vernon of CBS News puts it, this is a "faith based" plan, because it rests on the idea that insurance companies will actually compete, and consumers will actually make smart decisions about their medical care. Vernon makes the excellent point that "based on what I know about insurance companies and consumers, this is a gigantic leap of faith."

As Romney said in his press conference, "my campaign is about helping people take more responsibility." And he's shown exactly how he'll do that: By removing the safety net so Americans don't have any other choice. But for those who rely on Medicaid and Medicare to survive, the real question isn't whether Romney cares about them. It's what will happen when they fall.

"Shocker" #2: "And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, 'There's just no way.'"

Why it's not shocking: Romney has said in the past that he believes in a two-state solution, which is in alignment with this year's GOP platform, according to Mother Jones. So in that respect, it's plain bad diplomacy for Romney to slam a two-state solution behind closed doors.

But Romney's apparent distrust of and generalizations about Palestinians is nothing new. During his trip to Israel this summer, Romney drew a parallel between Israeli "culture" and economic prosperity. Leila Hilal, director of the New America Foundation Middle East Task Force, told me at the time that his remarks demonstrated "extraordinary ignorance, insensitivity, and bias."

And according to The Jewish Journal, Palestinians are none too surprised to hear Romney's latest thoughts either: "The impression is that Romney has been extraordinarily hostile and negative towards Palestinians all along," says Ghassan Al-Khatib, a professor of contemporary Arab studies at Bir Zeit University.

"Shocker" #3: "We make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life. [Audience laughs.]"

Why it's not shocking: Romney likes to put a lot of emphasis on "the right kind" of immigrants: foreign-born residents with advanced degrees who are coming to America to start companies. (Nevertheless, Romney has inexplicably promised to veto the DREAM Act, which provides permanent residency to young immigrants who graduate from an American university.)

But Romney ignores the fact that unskilled immigrants play an important role in the workforce, by operating in a different job set: engineers, versus sewer-pipe cleaners, for example. And according to the Los Angeles Times, even "the favorite economist of immigration restrictionists admits that the net gain to the U.S. from immigration is about $7 billion annually."

But Romney's lack of nuance on immigration has been a theme throughout his campaign. Not only has he not proposed a concrete plan for immigration, but he favors "self-deportation," which is exactly what it sounds like: Unskilled workers are just supposed to pick up and leave.

Finally, if you need any more proof that the Romney videos are simply a more candid look at the Romney we've known all along, check out what a pro-Romney member of my family told me when I sent him the videos:

"I think Romney sounds great and I agree with him!"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.


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