The Video That Could Doom A Candidate

by James M. Wall

The presidential election is still four and a half weeks away, but the video that tells all about Republican Mitt Romney’s inner beliefs on Palestine and U.S. tax payers, may already have doomed his candidacy.

Mother Jones, a non-profit progressive publication, obtained the video of Candidate Romney speaking at a $50,000 per guest fund raiser on May 7, in Boca Raton, Florida. It is difficult to see how the Republican ticket can survive the fall-out from what it reveals about Romney.

Romney had started his current spectacular slide when he chose Clint Eastwood to speak before Romney’s nomination acceptance speech in Tampa. The off-color humor that Eastwood used was inappropriate and tasteless. It also upstaged Romney’s dull content-less speech.

Of course, Romney’s slide to a possibly doomed candidacy was already greased by Romney’s refusal to come clean on his personal finances, some of which have been stashed away in tax-free havens overseas.

Three presidential and one vice-presidential debates await the candidates. The Republican ticket of Romney and Paul Ryan could start a major comeback with those debates, but nothing in their campaign rhetoric thus far indicates they are ready to speak to any but their right-wing admirers.

Take a look at the 3 minute video clip above, lifted from the longer 70 minute video. The views he expresses indicate a low level of awareness of the issue that is at the heart of the unrest throughout the Middle East.

Because Romney is a devout Mormon, we assume he does not drink alcohol. So we should be on safe ground to say that the man we see waxing eloquently to his financial supporters is a sober adult male, revealing that he is as knowledgeable about world affairs as that tired business executive you were stuck with as a seat mate on your last long airline flight.

You know the man I mean, the one who saw you reading a book on the Middle East by Rashid Khalidi.

His first comment would be, “things are a mess over there, right?”  Then he would proceed to talk like a tired business executive who knew as much about the Middle East as anyone whose information was limited to the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. You doubt that he has even heard of Rashid Khalidi.

The host for the fund raiser was Marc Leder, a private equity manager, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida. The entire video runs for 70 minutes. The evening’s tab was $50,000 per diner, but as Candidate Romney knew, the guests were capable of giving, and raising, a great deal more money for him.  Romney is, after all, one of them.

Most of Romney’s comments caught on the video focused on the economy. The most revealing and damaging comment came when he explained that he would not even try to gain the votes of 47% of the voting public because they are the ones who are dependent on the government to support them. These are people, he said, “who don’t even pay federal income taxes”.

What Romney said in his off  the cuff, far-ranging remarks to his financial backers, was so outrageous that even members of his own party have been thrown into disarray. Here is a clip from, perhaps, the critical moment of the tape:

Even writers who know and like Romney are pained to criticize him, even as they do so.  He is, after all, as John McCain once said of Barack Obama, “a good family man”.

Which he no doubt is, but in the clip above, this “good family man” answered a question from a $50,000 donor guest about the “Palestinian problem”, with the wild assertion that the Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”

How will that play if a President Romney sits down to talk with a Palestinian president?

Romney’s potential leadership on this crucial significant foreign policy issue revealed that what he knows about the topic comes from a narrow group of neoconservative Republican hardliners who fully intend to do with this candidate what they so successfully did with President George W. Bush. This crowd molds candidates to suit their pro-Zionist, pro-military industrial foreign policy.

With Vice-President Dick Cheney leading the way, this is the same crowd that led President Bush to invade Iraq. With Romney in the White House, they would be poised to join with Israel in an attack on Iran.

In speaking to his Boca Raton audience, as waiters moved about, Romney knew this was a group that shared his fondness for Israel. This led him to address the “Palestinian question” with a candor he would never use when speaking to a wider audience. As Juan Cole explained:

Romney typifies the American duplicity toward the 12 million Palestinians. His campaign speaks of a ‘two-state solution.’ But in private he admits that such a thing, involving giving Palestinians their own state, is “almost impossible to imagine.” So the talk of a two-state solution is just a smokescreen for keeping the Palestinians stateless.

Romney had already shown his hand on which “side” of the “Palestinian problem” he favors, when, during a recent trip to Israel, he said the Israelis have a culture that is “superior” to that of neighboring Arab states. That comment registers very high on the “racist” scale.

It is difficult not to begin to realize that Romney is an empty vessel waiting to be filled by foreign policy “guides” like Romney’s foreign policy consigliore, Dan Senor, who previously had served as the lead public relations official for the Bush Administration in Iraq after the initial “shock and awe” invasion.

Think Progress describes how Senor emerged as a key advisor in the Romney campaign:

Since his 2008 run for the presidency, Mitt Romney has gotten his foreign policy advice from a gaggle of moderates and neoconservatives and other hawks. In this election cycle, the neoconservatives and other “Cheney-ites” reportedly marginalized moderates on the staff. One of the neocons — Dan Senor, who has been advising Romney since 2006 — seems to have stepped into the breach.

Romney’s July, 2012, trip to Israel was the brain child of Senor and his friend, Ron Dermer, the American-born political operative who is Netanyahu’s chief strategist and speechwriter.  The Jewish Tablet reports on the trip:

Senor—who is famous in pro-Israel circles as the author of the best-selling 2009 book Start-Up Nation—has taken Romney to Israel twice before, once in 2007, before the governor’s first presidential bid, and again last year. This spring, he accompanied New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has endorsed Romney, to the prime minister’s office in Givat Ram to meet with Netanyahu and Dermer.

But the current trip, coming so late in the campaign season, was planned quietly, for fear of provoking a possible last-minute visit by President Obama, who has been criticized by some Jewish groups for failing to return to Jerusalem since his inauguration. Late last month, while Senor was in Jerusalem for his niece’s bat mitzvah, he met Dermer for breakfast at the King David Hotel; a few days later, with the Romney campaign’s blessing, Dermer gave the scoop to the New York Times.

Senor’s book, the Start-Up Nation, praised the spirit and ingenuity of the Israeli people for the manner in which they have been able to “start-up” many businesses that have become the driving force of Israel’s economy.  He contrasts that with surrounding Arab states, which may have been the source of Romney’s comment on Israel’s “superiority” in matters cultural.

The media coverage of the Boca Raton video, which runs for 70 minutes, has been extensive. Most attention has focused on the class bias, which Romney admits to when he describes the 47% of  U.S. voters as essentially  moochers living off of the largess of the government that the “rest of us” have to finance.

Since the video surfaced, polls indicate a swing away from Romney. Republican candidates for the Senate and House have begun to distance themselves from their presidential candidate.  Worse yet, for Romney, even conservative media pundits have joined in the outrage.

Few have expressed that outrage as effectively and with such regret, as the New York Times‘ David Brooks. Evoking Thurston Howell, a television character who epitomized stuffy rich people, Brooks gave his piece the title, Thurston Howell Romney. Ouch. Brooks’ final words include this harsh indictment:

Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? . . . .

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.

Brooks is at least a moderate, well-mannered conservative. AlterNet, a progressive blog, found ten reactions to the video from disappointed and angry conservatives. The survey begins this way:

Team Romney’s biggest problem continues to be Mitt Romney. It’s tough to build a campaign around a cartoonish 1-percenter whose CPU doesn’t appear to be programmed for human empathy and who lacks an effective filter between brain and gums.

Mark McKinnon, a John McCain staffer who withdrew from the McCain campaign before it was over, had this to say for The Daily Beast in his read on what is next for Romney, post-video.  McKinnon calls his post, Why Time is Running Out for Milt Romney.

I’m still a Republican. Trying to be, anyway. The progressive caucus is a lonely one these days. Nevertheless, we soldier on in hopes of regaining a voice in the party.

Well, the release of the Romney tape was a moment that certainly revealed something about him. But not what I was hoping for. Just the opposite. It reveals a deeply cynical man, who sees the country as completely divided, as two completely different sets of people, and who would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us.

The video that could doom a candidate was secured surreptitiously with a cell phone. It was delivered to Mother Jones by President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, James E. Carter IV.

The CBS station in Atlanta gave this Associated Press version of Carter’s work:

The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter says he persuaded the source who secretly taped Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a fundraiser to release the full video to the media. James Carter IV of Atlanta says he was intrigued after seeing what he describes as a short, mysterious clip of Romney talking about Chinese factory conditions.

He told The Associated Press that he tracked the source down on Twitter in August and convinced them to trust a journalist at Mother Jones magazine with the clips.

The younger Carter has been looking for his niche in the political world.  He appears to have found a career on his own, tracking down obscure video tapes for wider, productive tasks. He has already received several job offers from prominent media outlets.

Various media reports on Carter’s work described his finding the video and placing it with Mother Jones to be “poetic justice”.  The reference, of course, to those who remember Jimmy Carter’s loss to his Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan.

Young Carter’s action constitutes poetic justice because his grandfather, President Carter, lost his bid for a second term bid when Reagan’s handlers created an “October Surprise”, by negotiating with Iran to delay release of American hostages until after the election. These were the hostages Carter had labored so long to set free.  They were set free on the morning of Reagan’s inauguration.

The picture of Romney, Dan Senor and Prime Minister Netanyahu is from The Jewish Tablet. The videos are from Mother Jones.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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4 Responses to The Video That Could Doom A Candidate

  1. Montana says:

    In the end it will be Willard Milton Romney’s own words that will bring down his seven year run for the presidency. I thank you Romney for speaking your real mind, sure its ugly but it just confirms my feeling that you act more like a Corporation than a person with compassion who realizes that a majority of my country is suffering. Hey the empty chair was a great it, thanks for the laughs.

  2. John Remington Graham says:

    Let’s distinguish between our blind pro-Israel foreign policy in the Middle East, which has been a gross moral error of both Republicans and Democrats since 1948, and the current dilemma which Americans must face in choosing betweeen two hopeless candidates for President in 2012. If the “Mother Jones” tape determines the election, it will prove only that we have a terrible way of electing a President, because it allows so important a decision to be made on account of political accident. We had such an unfortunate election in 1860: only those deluded by the propaganda of the winning side of the worst of all American wars actually believe that Lincoln was a great President. He redeemed himself by seeking reconciliation at the end of his life, and on this account I will lovingly forgive every error he ever made, but his election was a tragedy. And anybody who imagines that the reelection of Obama or the election of Romney would be a positive good for the United States, either in the Middle East or at home, is likewise lost in confusion. There is no man alive who, caught in a candid moment unawares, has not made a stupid, awkward comment, Neither Obama nor Romney is an exception to this rule, nor is anybody else I know, myself included. The only thing we can do un 2012 is to make the best of misfortune. Frankly, I don’t see how we can avoid a final decline of American civilzation and empire with either Obama or Romney in the White House, so I pray for the mercy of God. Respectfully, — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  3. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thanks for your multi-exposure of Gov. Romney.
    Romney is certain to fail, as CEO of a country. He has a fancy cover, but no Business Plan. He looks down upon half of his “Target Audience”, enjoys firing employees, and outsources his foreign business affairs to a double agent.
    I am beginning to think that Clint Eastwood may have actually had someone sitting on that “empty” chair. No one could see him, of course, because he was so light and airy. In fact, Gov. Romney was sitting there, speechless, the entire time.

  4. Roy Hayes (The Rev.) says:

    Jim, One of the things I admire about your writings is that you never leave a stone unturned. I’m looking forward to what you’ll have to say about the upcoming meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City. Obama will be speaking on Tuesday, September 25.Peace, Roy

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