Both Kevin and Carol discussed the latest object of media concern-trolling last night. Rather than let this narrative sit out there and fester, Mitt Romney opted to take the bull by the horns, explain exactly what he meant at that closed-door fundraiser, then face reporters' questions:
The closest he came to apologizing is to allow that some of his phrasing may not have been "elegant." He used the balance of his comments and responses to drive home the message he's been pushing for months, and from which he did not back away: Barack Obama's government-centric vision for America causes -- and, in fact, requires -- increased dependency of the citizenry. He turned what could have been a defensive press conference into be a relatively aggressive clarification of the battle lines in this election. A few points:
(1) More than 49 percent Americans did not pay any federal income taxes in 2009, though many of those citizens contributed via other forms of taxes (payroll, state, etc). That percentage ticked up from...47 percent, which was likely Romney's point of departure for the rest of his remarks in the original video.
(2) "For the first time since the Great Depression, households are receiving more income from the government than they are paying the government in taxes."
(3) Romney should not have implied that 47 percent of Americans are seeking government hand-outs, or see themselves as "victims." Painting with this broad brush -- the strokes of which certainly apply to a sizable chunk of Democrats' core constituency -- was unfair and a mistake. Many Americans with zero or negative federal income tax liabilities work hard and don't ask much of government. Indeed, many of these people will vote for Mitt Romney in November. The Republican nominee also needs to stop saying that he doesn't need to "worry" or be "concerned about" any group of Americans. Many of us understand what he means, but those clumsy formulations make it awfully easy for Democrats to point and yell, "he doesn't care!" Learn, Mitt.
(4) As Allahpundit and Ben Domenech point out, one of Romney's big saving graces here is that most Americans share his distaste for bloated, wasteful government and those who exploit it. Few people see themselves as society's "takers," even if they might technically or temporarily fall into that category. In other words, Americans still want to live in a "maker" society, not one where people are incentivized to sit around waiting for their next government check arrives in the mail.
(5) If Romney can stay on offense and endure the initial round of predictable media fainting spells, he has a real opening to parlay his "gaffe" into a substantive criticism of the president's policies. Under this president, one out of every six citizens is living in poverty. A record 47 million -- 47 million -- Americans are now dependent on government food stamps. Since the "recovery" began, more Americans (3.1 million) have claimed federal disability benefits than have secured private sector jobs. This president unlawfully bypassed Congress to issue waivers that will allow states to swell welfare rolls while watering down the definition of "work." And he raided one nearly bankrupt safety net program (Medicare) to partially fund a brand new, unaffordable entitlement scheme (Obamacare), which vastly expands another faltering program for the poor (Medicaid) to include millions of middle class Americans. His method of payment for this huge expansion -- sticking states with a massive bill -- has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Barack Obama's policies foster increased government dependency, alright, and he has absolutely no problem with that. But more than a few of the '47 percent' most assuredly do.
(6) You know whose vote Mitt Romney wouldn't earn? Julia's. This figment of the Obama campaign's statist imagination doesn't need self-determination -- or a husband or family, apparently -- to live the ultimate federally-fulfilled life. "Julia" is the very embodiment of what makes Mitt Romney's skin crawl. He isn't alone.
(7) Most people probably won't much care about even the least charitable interpretation of Romney's comments.