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Tom McCarthy, Tuesday 18th September 2012 22:53
We're going to wrap up our live blog politics coverage for the day. Here's a summary of where things stand:
• In response to an uproar over secretly filmed comments he made at a Florida fundraiser, Mitt Romney said the country faces a choice between dependency and self-reliance and that a vote for his opponent is a vote for the former.
• High-profile Republicans including William Kristol, David Brooks, Scott Brown and Linda McMahon condemned and distanced themselves from Romney's comments in the video, while members of the hard-right including Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh encouraged Romney to keep on fighting.
• Mother Jones magazine posted the surreptitiously recorded video online in its entirety, at Romney's behest. Our coverage of the video's contents is here.
• A new Gallup poll showed Obama's lead over Romney narrowing to one point, at 47-46, from a 7-point lead the president enjoyed after the Democratic national convention. An NBC poll showed the president's approval rating on foreign policy had fallen 5 points from last month. A Washington Post poll showed Obama leading Romney 8 points in Virginia.
• President Obama is scheduled to appear tonight on Late Night with David Letterman, his seventh appearance on the show.
A week after the killing of an American ambassador in Libya and violent anti-American protests around the world, approval of how President Barack Obama is handling of foreign policy has slipped significantly, a new NBC poll finds.
In the poll, 49% said they approve of the president's job in handling foreign policy, down from 54% last month. Disapproval of the president's foreign policy this month was measured at 46%:
Much of that drop can be attributed to increased political polarization just seven weeks until Election Day.
Indeed, 86 percent of Democrats approve of Obama on foreign policy, compared with just 10 percent of Republicans. Yet in August, nearly twice as many Republicans -- 19 percent -- approved.
Still, in the current NBC/WSJ poll, only 41 percent of independents approve of Obama's foreign-policy handling, versus 53 percent who did so last month.
Many Republicans are recoiling - some quite publicly - from their presidential candidate's disparagement of almost half of the country. But the hard-core right finally likes what it's hearing out of Romney, my colleague Paul Harris reports:
Chief among those backing Romney is conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, whose show attracts millions of conservative listeners across America and has brought him immense political influence.
"This is such a golden opportunity," Limbaugh said during his afternoon radio show. "This could be the opportunity for Romney and for that campaign to finally take the gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism. Start explaining liberty to people and what it means, and explain that they don't have to be in that 47%."
Limbaugh went on to say that he often attended big Republican fundraisers, like the one in Florida at which Romney was recorded, and that many politicians were often more bluntly conservative in private than in public.
"They are as conservative as you and I are. I've spoken to them privately. The candidates I see on the campaign trail versus the ones that tell me what they really think are two different people. He [Romney] was basically telling these people that we have reached a crossroads in this country. You and I talk about it all the time," Limbaugh said.
Read the full report here.
In his comments on Fox, Romney amplified his argument that President Barack Obama has erected a culture of dependency in the United States:
The problem is that so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes, they're relying on government... When the president took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Now the number is almost 15 million people higher, 47 million.
In secretly videotaped comments to donors, Romney wasn't disparaging voters who take any assistance from the government, he claims; he was actually decrying how much harder it is these days for working Americans to get by. He wasn't saying that families who rely on tax breaks have developed a pathology of victimhood; he was faulting the president for luring people onto food stamps.
What was notable about Romney's Fox appearance was its stubbornness – his tone was exactly that of the morning-after press conference in which he stepped up his blurted criticism of the White House on Libya – and its insistence on the basic moral friability of the American worker.
It is not the recession that has driven Americans to food stamps and other government assistance, Romney believes; it is a new culture of dependency advanced by the president. It is not the collapse of the housing market, the loss of jobs and the stagnation of wages that has pushed so many families against their will into debt and default on debt; it is a president whose advocacy of redistributing the wealth has been so insidious that it has fostered in the hearts of millions of Americans a new dependency.
What Romney is missing is exactly what David Brooks pointed out this morning that he is missing: a basic understanding of the culture of the American worker:
America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.
Romney described the same battle in his Fox response as he described in the fundraiser video: A battle between those who would create and those who would consume; between the producers and parasites. Romney sees it as the current fight for the American soul. His argument against Obama is that the president has bred a national parasitism, a new dependency; as proof he brandishes the statistical results of a three-year recession.
He finds moral fault next to economic failure. Donald Trump agrees with him.
Mitt Romney is on Fox News talking about the fundraiser video. Neil Cavuto asks him what he meant.
Romney portrays his talk in the video of mass American dependency as part of a larger argument about the size of government. He does not retract or significantly back away from his statements in the video, although he does allow that some of those not paying income tax – the people he called freeloaders – are retirees or those receiving military benefits.
Romney refers multiple times – three or four in an appearance that lasted as many minutes – to the current top story on the Drudge report, about an audio tape from 1998 in which Barack Obama says he favors some redistribution of wealth. Ten years after the tape was purportedly recorded, Obama would draw controversy on the campaign trail for telling Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher that to "spread the wealth around" would be good for economic health.
Romney finishes by saying that he "always appreciates" the council of Donald Trump.
Romney: "We were of course talking about a campaign, and he's going to get close to half the vote, and I'm going to get half the vote, hopefully... There's a tape that came out today where the president says he likes redistribution... I disagree.
"I believe the right course for America is where government steps in where people need help."
Cavuto: What about people who don't pay income taxes because they're retired or who pay other taxes. Is [47%] too high? Should more people pay income tax?
Romney: "Of course you're right, there are a number of retirees, members of the military who aren't paying taxes and that's as it should be.
"I think people would like to be paying taxes.
"The problem is that so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes, they're relying on government...
"When the president took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Now the number is almost 15 million people higher, 47 million."
Cavuto: Others have said that you just kissed half the electorate goodbye, that you all but called them moochers: did you?
Romney: "I'm talking about the perspective of voters who I'm not likely to get to support me. Those who are dependent on government, and those who think government's job is to redistribute... I'm not going to get them.
Romney refers again to an audio tape of Obama from 1998 in which he says he is in favor of pooling "resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution."
Cavuto: It might have boomeranged on you – do you worry about that?
Romney says he understands he won't get 60,70% percent of the vote. He says he is hoping for a majority.
Romney is asked about Trump saying he has nothing to apologize for. "I always appreciate his council," Romney says of Trump.
A second Republican Senate candidate has distanced himself from Mitt Romney's discourse on the miserable sloth and entitled arrogance of 47% of Americans: Sen. Scott Brown, facing a tough fight in left-leaning Massachusetts, emails The Hill to say Romney's Randian world view of producers-versus-parasites is not his:
That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs.
A new Washington Post poll has President Obama leading by a whopping 8 points in Virginia, where he scored a crucial victory in 2008. The telephone poll of both registered and likely voters has the president leading Gov. Mitt Romney 52-44, with voters saying they trusted Obama more on every issue except "dealing with the federal budget deficit."
Notably, more respondents said they trusted the president to handle the economy (47-45) and taxes (49-46).
Clint Eastwood implied Republicans were "dumb" for inviting him onstage at their national convention in a recent interview:
“People loved it or hated it, and that’s fine," Eastwood told "Extra" of his RNC performance. "I figure if somebody’s dumb enough to ask me to go to a political convention and say something, they’re gonna have to take what they get.”
[Interviewer Jerry] Penacoli asked if he would do it again, and Clint responded, “I never look backward. It’s done and it’s done. I probably would, I wouldn’t be afraid of it.” The 82-year-old added that he was inspired by acting and comedy legends with the chair act.
“Actually, I did a funeral speech for a friend of mine and I started talking to mythical people imitating him and I sorta stole that for myself," he said. "But it reminds me of the days of Shelly Berman… Bob Newhart, all those guys who used to do those phone conversations, all that sort of stuff.”
Mother Jones has just released the full Romney fundraiser video, in two parts. Watch it with us and tell us in the comments what you see.
The Obama campaign has produced a web video hitting Romney for dismissing 47% of Americans as craven spongiforms just looking to cadge the next handout from the producing class.
The video incorporates man-on-the-street reactions from today of voters shown the video on a tablet computer. Watch their reactions:
The Gallup tracking poll that had Barack Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by seven points in the immediate wake of the Democratic convention now shows a one-point race, with the president edging Romney 47%-46% based on interviews with registered voters conducted from Sept. 11-17.
Looks like Romney was right on the money when he said the president was getting 47%. Gallup sees a tight race.
At the behest of Mitt Romney himself, in one hour Mother Jones will release the full video of his remarks at a Boca Raton fundraiser, with a running time of nearly 50 minutes.
After declining to comment all day on the videos, Mitt Romney will appear on Fox News for an interview with Neil Cavuto at 4 p.m., his campaign has announced.
That leaves just enough time to watch the full video before watching Romney's explanation.
The Twittersphere is urging the Republican candidate to take a bow under the hashtag #RomneyEncore:
This is not the toughest question White House spokesman Jay Carney has ever faced: What does the president make of the secret video in which Mitt Romney puts down half the country as oxpeckers?
When you're president of the United States, you are president of all the people, and not just the people who voted for you. You've heard the president say, so many times, because he deeply believes it, that we're in this together, all of us. From the time he began his career in public service... his message has been about what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. That's fundamental to who he is.
Who are the 47% who Romney believes won't vote for him because as president he would shut off the sweet narcotized milk of the welfare state that paralyzes them in dependency and victimhood?
Floridians who paid income taxes their whole lives before they retired. People who pay payroll taxes but who benefit from George W. Bush tax breaks. Families with two kids who make less than $26,400.
Mostly, they live in states that lean Republican. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation broke down non-payers in 2008 state by state. The red states below have the highest percentages of filers with no liability. The blue states have the lowest percentages of filers with no liability.
The Tax Policy Center breaks the 47% – it's 46.4%, actually – down further.
28.3% pay payroll taxes; 10.3% are elderly; 6.9% are not elderly and low-income. Fewer than 1% fall under "other"
In Romney's words, "entitled" "victims" who refuse to "take responsibility" and "care for their lives."
We have yet to see Republicans in a strong rally around their candidate, although Rush Limbaugh sees a "golden opportunity" to finally draw some ideological lines in the sand in American politics:
Connecticut Senate hopeful Linda McMahon, the Republican in the race to replace Joe Lieberman, has taken the measure of the situation and decided to hit eject on Romney, saying in a published statement:
I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be. People today are struggling because the government has failed to keep America competitive, failed to support job creators, and failed to get our economy back on track.
I am sympathetic to the struggles that millions of Americans are going through because I’ve been there. As a young couple Vince and I lost our home and our car. With two small children it was not an easy time for my family.
He puts the fun in fundraiser: The host of the $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton dinner where the Romney tapes were recorded, hedge funder Marc Leder, is unalike the Republican candidate in that he has hosted parties detailed in the New York Post with phrases such as "guests cavorted nude in a pool and performed sex acts."
Leder appears to be a promiscuous political donor: he also gives money to Democratic candidates.
Conservative kingmaker William Kristol writes that Romney "seems to have contempt... for tens of millions who intend to vote for him":
It's worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well "believe they are entitled to heath care," a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they're not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.
It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn't blind us to the fact that Romney's comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.
In David Brooks' judgment, Romney is running a "depressingly inept" campaign:
Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.
Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?
In which Mitt Romney jokes about how being Latino would help his campaign: "Had [my father] been born to Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this... I mean I say that jokingly, but it'd be helpful to be Latino."
[This portion of the video was recorded at the same fundraising dinner as the Mother Jones cache but was uploaded to YouTube separately.]
"Mitt Romney is in the race of his life," political reporter Byron York writes in the conservative Washington Examiner. "So why isn't he running harder?"
Even as he faces a major new crisis and weeks of bad news to overcome – a lackluster GOP convention; deeply negative views of his handling of the attack in Libya; dissension in the campaign ranks – Romney is maintaining a remarkably light campaign schedule, York writes:
He had one public appearance on his schedule Monday, Sept. 17, a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.
He had one appearance scheduled Sunday, an airport rally in Pueblo, Colo., but it was canceled after a small plane crash there killed one person.
Romney had no public events Saturday. On Friday, he attended a single rally, at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. On Thursday, he attended a single rally, at a park in Fairfax, Va. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to hold a single campaign event at his headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., but instead appeared at a hastily organized press conference to denounce President Obama's response to the embassy crises in Libya and Egypt. On Tuesday, Romney had one event, a speech to the National Guard Association convention in Reno, Nev. And on the day before that, another single rally, in Mansfield, Ohio.
If he's not on the stump at the height of the campaign, what is Romney doing? After all, Barack Obama, when he's on the trail, usually manages to hold at least two public events each day, and he's supposed to have a full-time job.
My colleague Paul Harris has been considering the Romney tapes and in this post, he gets at what's so toxic about them – voters do not like a candidate who "talks about them behind their backs":
In many ways the true horror of Mitt Romney's secretly recorded remarks made at a private fundraiser is that they are a terrible breach of etiquette. People will discuss the ins-and-outs of his figures and analysis, his remarks about Palestinians and Hispanics and who pays tax and who does not. But there is a simpler and greater truth: voters do not like the idea of a candidate who talks about them behind their backs.
That is exactly what Romney looks like he is doing. Out on the stump his whole campaign is dedicated to the idea of bringing over hesitant voters in the middle ground, crafting an image of a decent man who has a philosophical beef with the president over how to make America better. That campaign is essentially a giant sales pitch to the electorate; a sophisticated public conversation aimed at bringing them over to his side.
What the Mother Jones video catches is the private reality. It's Romney speaking his mind in the sort of blunt language that never gets anywhere near a campaign stump speech:
Had [my father] been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this.
It's just like overhearing a friend at a party talking quietly to someone else, saying something completely different from what they had just spent an hour talking to you about. It's being caught red-handed bad-mouthing someone. It sparks a playground emotion in voters of being seen as a fool, of being belittled and taken for granted.
President Barack Obama knows all about it. He did this too. Back in 2008 when he was locked in a furious battle for Pennsylvania with then nomination rival Hillary Clinton, he was recorded speaking in San Francisco. His topic was essentially the poor, rural whites of the mountainous centre of Pennsylvania: a demographic that was going for Clinton over him. Obama said then:
They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
The politics are very different between these two events but the parallels with this latest Romney misstep are eerie. Both men were talking privately to people perceived to be their “base” (California liberals for Obama, wealthy donors for Romney). Both were talking about dismissively about people who were definitely not in the room at the time. Both did so in broad, patronising generalisms very different from their public speeches.
In some ways, everyone knows that this is what goes on in reality. No one really believes that Romney (and Obama) do not have private views sometimes very different from their public pitches. But – like overhearing someone gossiping about you at a party – it is another thing to actually see and hear it. Your ears burn, you get angry and your perception of that person can fundamentally shift. Clinton ended up beating Obama in Pennsylvania by ten points. Romney's team know that and will be wondering what this unwanted glimpse behind the campaign curtain will do to them.
In which Mitt Romney describes views on the Middle East "which I've had for some time": "The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
In which Mitt Romney describes his campaign strategy for winning independent voters, specifically those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008: "Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but [Obama] just wasn't up to the task. They love the phrase that he's 'over his head.'"
We will be embedding the Romney tapes as prelude to our reporting and discussion of their contents and our analysis of where this leaves the presidential campaign.
Richard Adams will take an up-close look at the claims Romney makes in the videos; Paul Harris will compare the video leak to an April 2008 leak at a fundraiser that threatened the primary campaign of then-candidate Barack Obama; and our Jerusalem team will discuss how Romney's newly stated position on the Middle East crisis departs from longstanding official US policy.
Here's a bit from the video in which Romney says of retirees, low-income families, veterans receiving benefits and other voters who pay no federal income tax that "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Good morning and welcome to our politics live blog. Here's a summary of where things stand:
• The Mitt Romney campaign is in damage control mode after footage surfaced yesterday afternoon of the candidate accusing nearly half the country of irremediable parasitism.
• At a hastily arranged press conference at 10pm ET last night, Romney said the video had caught him speaking off the cuff and inelegantly. He did not disavow the views he expresses in the video, recorded surreptitiously at a private fund raiser at the home of a Florida hedge fund manager.
• In the video, Romney says the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax (the number is actually 46%) consider themselves victims and are beyond his helping. He also says Palestinians do not want peace and a two-state solution is unpracticable; if he had been Mexican he would have things easier; and that he has "inherited nothing" and the only silver spoon in his mouth was his American birth.
• Mother Jones obtained the videos, which can be found on the Mother Jones website with description and analysis by David Corn.