Most outlets ran with the stories suggesting Romney was describing 47 percent of American voters as government-dependent slackers who pay no taxes. In fact, Romney suggested nothing of the sort. The videotape of Romney's remarks received publicity after James Earl Carter IV -- grandson of former president Jimmy Carter -- promoted the tape through the left-wing magazine Mother Jones. It turns out, the version of the tape available via Mother Jones was edited, with important sections left out.
But even the edited version didn't justify the media feeding frenzy it provoked. Romney did not say 47 percent of Americans were freeloaders. What he did say was: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what." His words were simply a statement of fact. The electorate is polarized, with each party winning the loyal support of nearly half of the voters.
But the most controversial parts of his comments had to do with who makes up the 47 percent who are unconditionally in Obama's camp. It's important to note the context in which the statements were made. Romney was answering a direct question, which asked: "For the last three years, all everybody's been told is, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of you.' How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you've got to take care of yourself?"
His reply listed among the 47 percent who won't vote for him those "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."
But Democrats have been encouraging Americans to believe just that since the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. And President Obama reiterates it every time he has the chance. So why is Romney's repeating the Democratic mantra controversial? Isn't it logical to assume that those who support President Obama agree with him about the role of government in providing health care, housing, food stamps -- you name it?
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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