“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” took off this week on the Romney team’s “campaign reboot,” which was intended to reenergize the campaign before it hit a hiccup when Mother Jones magazine released a video with the Republican appearing to cast aspersions on nearly half of the American public at a private fundraiser.
Romney told an audience at the fundraiser in May that 47 percent of the people who would vote for President Obama see themselves as victims who are entitled to government assistance.
In essence, the Comedy Central host said on his show Wednesday that Romney was “seemingly characterizing a broad swath of Americans, which would include veterans, the elderly, the working poor and much of the middle class as a bunch of lazy freeloaders,” and touched off a “firestorm” of protest.
Romney and a stream of conservative pundits, particularly on Fox News, suggested that while the nominee’s words were “inelegant” (Romney’s word), he essentially was telling the truth.
One commentator even suggested Romney “was saying that the American Dream should be open to everybody.”
Certainly on the campaign trail, the candidate is now saying he is “interested in 100 percent of Americans.”
“You’re looking and hearing the cynical, condescending, plutocratic words he was saying, not the aspirational, optimistic message that he, in retrospect, should have been meaning,” Stewart said. “ It’s like Romney Jazz. It’s the words you don’t hear, that’s the, so, inartful words from a dubious source.”
In the May video, Romney certainly seemed to have a fairly coherent agenda as he told the well-heeled audience what he thought about a range of issues from jobs to trade with China to neutralizing Iran to how aggressive fundraising would help him win the general election.
After Mother Jones released portions of the videotape, he complained that wished people could see his remarks in full, rather than snippets. A full transcript of the event is on the magazine’s website as is the 70-minute video.
“…the great thing about this story, one thing that I take pleasure in, is that you don’t have to take my word or anyone else’s word, you can watch the tape again and again and again and see what Mitt Romney’s saying. And in those remarks, he shows—I think you can only call it contempt or disdain for 47 percent of the public,” David Corn, the Mother Jones reporter who got the videotape, said in an interview with Democracy Now.
“He doesn’t just say, you know, ‘There’s an issue here that they don’t make enough to pay taxes, and I’ve got to lift their incomes. That’s what I’m in this race for.’ He calls them moochers, parasites, people who do not take personal responsibility for their own lives.”
Corn went on to say that Romney lumped together a couple of different subsets of voters to make his point, not making a distinction between those who get Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, assistance from the Veterans Administration, farm subsidies and corporate welfare.
“So, he’s basically creating this caste for the election, in which the—you know, the politics is divided between those of us in this room, strivers, people who have made what we made purely on our own initiative, and the rest of the—you know, of America, who are moochers who want to basically be parasites living off us. There is really no other way to see that tape. It just shows his disdain for all of—you know, for half of America, when he claims to want to be president for all of America.”
Romney’s remarks have even divided his supporters, with some arguing he should clarify his remarks – or stop talking about the issue altogether – and those who say there is truth in what the candidate said and he should stand behind his words. Some even suggest that once people see Romney’s comments in their entirety, they will be more inclined to support him.
So to sum up the event, Comedy Central’s Stewart said, “This inartfully stated, dirty, liberal smear is a truthful expression of Mitt Romney’s political philosophy and it is a winner.”
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”