Carol Platt Liebau

Update: To paraphrase the pithiest way of summarizing this non-story: "Julia" won't be voting for Mitt Romney (h/t: JustKarl)

The left is seeking to make great hay of a statement by Romney -- filmed secretly at a private event and then leaked to left-wing outlets -- in which he says the following:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent 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 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…These are people who pay no income tax.

To all the lefties hyperventilating, my question is this: IS HE WRONG?

Back in 2008, Barack Obama said:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The problem with that gaffe was that it showed a fundamental misunderstanding and ignorance of rural Americans, accusing them of "cling[ing]" to guns, religion or bigotry because of job-loss-related frustrations.  It showed a level of contempt and ignorance that was truly breathtaking and truly at odds with the "healer" Obama presented himself as being.

Here, however, what exactly has Romney got wrong? Unlike Obama, he didn't accuse anyone of bigotry. Doesn't Obama's base on the left believe that they're victims (feminists and Jeremiah Wright come to mind here), and/or that people are entitled to housing, health care, food - and that the government has a responsibility to provide it for them?  Aren't these the politicians (or the voters) who scream like their hair's on fire when there's even a mention of cutting "entitlements"?  And isn't it a fact that 47% of people do pay no federal income tax -- and yet a sizable percentage of them nonetheless believe (and are encouraged by people like Barack Obama to believe!) that those who are paying aren't contributing "their fair share"? Don't Democrats say this stuff all the time? So where is the big scandal?

No doubt all 47% of non-federal-tax-payers do NOT believe that are entitled to all those things; no doubt some people who are paying some income tax believe that people are.  Using 47% as a sort of shorthand was, obviously, to some degree inaccurate. But Romney's larger point (being made to a private audience) is that people who are looking to the government for support and handouts are not going to be persuaded to vote for him.  Their candidate is already in The White House.

Americans already know this, too.  Romney has said before -- to gasps from his "friends" in the press corps -- that his focus isn't on the poor, or at least those who are already content being cared for by government programs . . . because they're already being cared for. His focus is on the struggling middle class, people who want to be independent of the government -- but who are being sucked into the pit of government dependency by the terrible Obama economy.  Those who have no problem depending on the government aren't ever going to support him, as "spreading the wealth around" to make things "fairer" isn't his preferred modus operandi, it's Obama's.

On the night he won the New Hampshire primary, Romney said this:

Our plans protect freedom and opportunity, and our blueprint is the Constitution of the United States.

The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I’m not your President. You have that President today.

But if you want to make this election about restoring American greatness, then I hope you will join us.

What he said privately to donors is, in essence, a less graceful way of making the same point.  He should apologize -- but only if a sizable percentage of the left is willing to argue that there is no entitlement to government provided food, health care, housing, or other "entitlements" and that Romney was wrong in stating that a sizable portion of the country believes that there is (or should be).


Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.