Mitt Romney picks up the pieces after damning videos
Mitt Romney’s path to the White House has new obstacles after secretly-recorded videos showed him branding Democratic voters as welfare-hungry freeloaders and denouncing Palestinians as aggressors who make prospects for Middle East peace “almost unthinkable”.
The Republican presidential candidate began the week with a new communications strategy intended to clarify the specifics of his economic manifesto, but was yesterday trying to dig himself out of a hole over views expressed during a private fundraising event, leaked by a guest and brought to prominence with the help of former US president Jimmy Carter’s grandson.
The damning hidden camera pieces – taped in May during a private $50,000-a-head dinner in Boca Raton, Florida, and brought to public attention late on Monday by the liberal investigative magazine Mother Jones – show Mr Romney telling supporters almost half of Americans will vote for president Barack Obama “no matter what”.
Mr Romney said: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
“There are 47 per cent 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 healthcare, to food, to housing … These are people who pay no income tax.” .
About 46 per cent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2011, although many of them paid other forms of taxes such as sales taxes, property taxes and state and local taxes. Many who paid no income tax were poor, or in the military. More than 16 million Americans avoid federal income taxes because of tax breaks that apply only to the elderly, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Centre.
In the video, Mr Romney also said his father had been born in Mexico and joked: “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.”
At a hastily-organised press conference on Monday night, Mr Romney said his remarks had been “off the cuff” and “not elegantly stated”.
But he stood by the thrust of his sentiments, saying that despite his inability to win round Obama voters, that did not mean that he would not pay attention to their needs as president.
Mr Romney said: “It’s a message which I am going to carry and continue to carry, which is that the president’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes, because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them. Therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those in the middle.”
Democrats said the comments laid bare his contempt for those he seeks to govern.
Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager, said: “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
More videos posted on the Mother Jones website yesterday prompted further unease over his world view.
Suggesting a laissez-faire attitude towards one of the most pressing foreign policy issues, he is seen telling supporters: “The pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish … I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel. So what you do is … you move things along the best way you can.
“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognise that this is going to remain an unsolved problem … and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
Mr Romney’s spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg, attempted to clarify his remarks yesterday, saying that as part of his election campaign he had “laid out a detailed description of the many difficult issues that must be solved in order to reach a two-state solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli question.
The release of the videos by Mother Jones came about with input from James Carter IV, grandson of the 39th US president, who helped to bring them up from YouTube, where they had been posted by a female attendee at the Florida fundraiser tagged only as “Anne Onymous”.
Carter, gloated to New York magazine yesterday that the video furore had boosted his prospects from a hitherto little-known volunteer researcher for the Democratic cause.
He said: “I’ve been trying to get paid for this but it hasn’t worked out yet. This might help.”
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