Eugene Robinson Live

Sep 18, 2012

Robinson discussed his latest columns and political news.

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Hello, everyone, and welcome. What's this world coming from, huh? A candidate for president can't even share a few words in confidence with his fellow zillionaires -- "Yeah, that 47 percent of the voters, what a bunch of losers" -- without someone taping it and leaking it to Mother Jones. Not Mitt Romney's best day on the campaign trail, or for that matter his best couple of weeks. We've learned so far today that he also said (at that Florida fundraiser) that the Palestinians aren't interested in peace, so the two-state solution, which has been bipartisan U.S. policy for decades, is history, far as Mitt is concerned. Wonder what other pearls of wisdom he imparted? Anyway, let's get started before another excerpt comes out.

I'm betting much of this chat will be about the Romney 47% issue. It is quite clear that his statements do not need to be "clarified" - he stated his beliefs quite clearly. The GOP disdains those who are not rich, white, and also "entitled". I think his emphasis on "entitled", joined with 'food, housing, medical care' is most telling - aren't we, as 21st century Americans kind of "entitled" to food? to "housing"? To some sort of medical care? Whether or not we have a higher or lower tax rate than Romney? I really hope this is his final "Macaca" moment! I hope this energizes the 47% to vote!

I, too, was fascinated by the list of "entitlements" Romney so disparaged. To "promote the general welfare" was one of the reasons the founders cited for declaring independence, right? I thought we were supposed to want our fellow Americans to have the necessities of life. I guess Romney disagrees.

As much as I love the idea that the President will come out and say he's the President of everyone, not just those that vote for him, I'm not suprised at Romney's statement. That being said, if you look at the map of where the 47% who supposively pay no taxes (not true actually) none of the 10 states with the highest percentage of non-payers is a swing state- actually almost all of them are solid red states. So come November, is Romney's admission actually going to affect a single state?

Obviously I don't know if it will or not, but I kind of think it will. Where you should expect it is at the margin in those pesky swing states. Polls already showed Obama leading in Ohio and even Florida. If those two states become solid for the president, Romney is toast.

Romney says "47% of Americans don't pay income taxes, and think they're entitled to healthcare, food, and housing. And they'll never vote for me." Does he know that a lot of them are retirees like my Aunt living off her well-earned Pension and Social Security? I think he's right, now she'll never vote for him.

Apparently he doesn't know much about who the 47 percent really are.

This may seem like a silly question, but I ask it honestly: is Mitt Romney trying to lose the election? Remarks like his won't exactly draw voters to him, and he makes it worse for himself when he actually stands by said remarks.

I don't think he's trying to lose. But you're right about his standing by his remarks. Really, Mitt Romney? That's what you meant to say? You're going to defend the proposition that half of American voters will never take personal responsibility for their lives? This includes the retirees? The people working two minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet?



Gene, how do you think Obama should handle this latest gift from the Romney campaign? The fact that this video was surreptitiously filmed kind of taints it for me. I mean, what he said is fair game, but it would strike me as unseemly for Obama to bring it up in the debates, for example. What do you think? Is this incident best left for Obama's surrogates to bring up, or is it fair game for Obama to bring it up?

Fair game. Recall that Obama was bitten by this same snake, when he said at a San Francisco fundraiser (surreptitiously taped) that some Americans clung to the guns and their religion. Nobody gave him a pass on that, and I doubt he'll give one to Romney.

I think the most important result of the GOP nominating Willard as their standard bearer is that it finally seems, after 40+ years, that a majority of Americans are beginning to realize that Conservative economic dogma, is as Bush 41 stated, nothing more or less than Voodoo economics...Tinkle down economics is all they have...Doesn't look good for the future of the party...

I agree that the Republican party needs to come up with something to say other than trickle-down, trickle-down, trickle-down... What kind of nominee doesn't even try to speak to the 47 percent? What kind of candidate aspires to represent, at maximum, 53 percent of the country?

It's a bit rich for a group of multi-millionaires to saying that other people are depended on government to provide for them. It's like they completely forget September 2008 where all of Wall Street was on Capitol Hill asking for taxpayer money to bail them out of their complete failure?

That's the kind of entitlement they like, apparently.

While I voted for Obama four years ago, and will vote for him again in 49 days, I never felt that John McCain held me in contempt. Thanks to the video, I now know that Romney not only holds me in contempt, but my father as well. My dad's a veteran and relies on Social Security and Medicare to survive. He contributed to those programs for over 45 years. And the sad thing is that my father will vote for Romney (he lives in the deep red Deep South).

"Contempt" is a word that came to me, too, when I saw the Romney footage. If you're so contemptuous of half the American people, why would you want to be their leader? Wouldn't they just disappoint you?

So, does Romney really believe that the only people who support the President are people who don't pay income taxes? And that no person who pays no income taxes will vote for him? Obviously he was just pandering to his fat cat friends. But when you see the evidence of who the people are that don't pay federal income taxes it's hard to believe that all of them support the President. And you have all of these rich blue states where plenty of us pay our share of federal income tax (among lots of other taxes) that support the President. Is Romney really as dumb as this makes him sound?

Another way of asking the question is: How much of that performance is pandering, and how much is worldview? My initial view was that it was mostly pandering, but now that Romney has decided to stand by his words, I guess that's what he really thinks.

comments aside, what are your thoughts on the use of hidden cameras to catch politicians off guard. Obama famously slammed some groups for clinging to guns and religion, while Romney had his thoughts secretly recorded more recently. Obama has not gone as far to ask everyone to turn in their cell phones to avoid embarrassing moments. I'm guessing you will defend Obama and attack Romney, but there is something to be said for being allowed to speak candidly.

I think it's a fact of life, and any candidate who doesn't understand that is an idiot. (I note that both Obama and Romney have been victims of technology that is now ubiquitous.) Unless you confiscate cell phones and pat people down, anyone can record your words at any time. Subjecting VIPs to a strip search generally does not put them in the mood to write five-figure or six-figure checks, so campaign fundraising events are always going to be venues where unguarded remarks can be captured for posterity. That's the way it is. Everybody has to deal with it.

Do you think there are any people that would have considered voting for Romney that would be surprised or change their vote based on his 47% moocher statements ? People I know who are voting Romney feel a similar way as he expressed and even if they receive benefits from the government, don't feel that they do. I think this is similar to him not releasing his taxes for the (presumed) reason that he paid a very low rate - people who would consider voting for Romney think that is a plus.

If Romney only gets the votes of those who believe in the ideology he expressed at that fundraiser, he loses big time. He needs the votes of some Americans who believe this country is a common enterprise. You know, E Pluribus Unum.

The most telling part of Romney's thoughts on the 47% will come in the next few weeks. When he and Ryan go wandering around the swing states telling white working class people - no no we weren't talking about you, we were talking about 'them'. Anyone who has ever asked you why black people, a key constituency of 'them' at least in the republican world view, don't vote for the GOP tell them to pay attention. There is going to be a lot of talk about what 'real' Americans deserve and how they aren't moochers, Tyrone and Jose over there are the problem.

If only Romney hadn't been so precise. Mathematically, that 47 percent can't just be African-Americans and Latinos. There have to be a lot of "real" Americans in there, too.

The media went nuts about Gov. Romney "jumping the gun" on the comments. But his message was that American doesn't apologize. Since that time, the polling gap has closed. Now he's saying that the 47% wants government handouts. Supposedly this will hurt him, but fact is nobody ever thinks that THEY are part of this 47%. Again I predict this will help him. Then he'll get up on the podium, and speak briefly and concisely while Obama talks and talks and talks. Twin that with the massive money advantage, and Romney wins as pundits ask what in the world they missed.

You might want to e-mail this pep talk to Romney headquarters in Boston. They do not seem to appreciate -- at all -- the subtlety of the trap they've laid. They seem to think this is pretty much a disaster.

The only thing more shocking than the things coming out of the Romney campaign is the possibility that this man may become president. The untruths and callous disregard for many of the citizens of the country he wishes to govern is nothing less than despicable. As someone who works in foreign affairs, I was particularly stunned that one of his advisors, Rich Williamson, blamed the Obama Administration for the tragedy in Libya, pushing the message that the last U.S. ambassador killed was under Jimmy Carter. What he conveniently omitted was the fact that the last U.S. diplomat killed was in Khartoum while he was special envoy to Sudan. Every day brings something new and nauseating, and I just don't think I can make it to election day without a breakdown. How do you manage to process this dreck day in and day out without going mad??

You assume I haven't gone mad?

To me, the most damaging excerpt of Romney's off the cuff remarks is the video that is on YouTube but for whatever reason Mother Jones didn't include as part of their reporting. Romney is discussing a trip he took with another Bain executive to view a sweatshop they just purchased in China (women working long days for a pittance and living on site in cramped rooms, surrounded by guard towers and tall fences) with the weirdest, matter of fact tone... Why didn't this video get more play? Here you have a guy who is sort of in awe at the conditions the Chinese will work in for a pittance, while folks in this country are losing jobs because of outsourcing policies like he put in place at Bain.

I'm sure Mother Jones will get around to that segment. I've seen it highlighted by other news organizations.

What bothers me the most about the video is the alarming fact that this simplistic conservative ideology about lazy liberals goes all the way to the top. Here's the GOP's presidential candidate, speaking behind closed doors to a group of wealthy elites, and he's spewing the same partisan nonsense you see from half-educated Post comment board chatters. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I'd always assumed that the GOP's more offensive rhetoric was sort of said with a wink to the mainstream -- don't listen to it, we're just throwing the right wingers a bone. Nope, it turns out. That's actually what they believe.

Pretty stunning.

Am I the only person who's disgusted by Mitt Romney's comment about Mexicans (in the context of his father having been born in Mexico)? I can see that cutting into Romney's already likely small Hispanic-American voter turnout this November.

Right, he said he'd be doing better if his father had actually been Mexican, rather than just born in Mexico. Romney was on track to lose the Latino vote by better than 2-to-1, so there's not much support to cut into.

Does it seem probable to you that someone would've paid $50K to get into the Romney fundraiser in Boca Raton in order to videotape it surreptitiously, in hopes that Romney would stick his Gucci-loafered foot in his mouth? Or could it have been taped by a waiter or bartender working for comparative peanuts at the event?

My view is that it doesn't matter who taped Romney, not one bit. Listen, people, take my advice: If you're speaking to a group of people, and they're not all members of your family, and you haven't confiscated cell phones at the door, then there is the possibility that your words will be broadcast to the entire world. That's just the way it is.

So we knew Mitt Romney doesn't like the lazy, unemployed poor, but now we know that he apparently also doesn't like the working poor who are working so that they will no longer be poor. Geez., what does it take to get ahead with this guy?

Duh. Don't be poor.

He could turn this into a gauranteed win. Just come out and embrace what people are saying he meant. Romney - "That's right, the 47% of you that vote for Obama ARE a bunch of freeloading losers, the 53% that vote for me are winners! Be a winner, vote Romney !"

What has he got to lose? Besides the election, I mean.

Anyway, you're all winners for participating in our discussion today. Time's up, but thanks for dropping by -- and I'll see you again next week.

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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