Romney’s ‘47 percent’ incites Dems

Republicans take Obama to task over ‘redistribution’ comment
The Colorado Statesman

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio tore into Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday, charging that the former Massachusetts governor’s secretly recorded remarks about 47 percent of Americans betray “something very deep, potentially deeply flawed about his character” at a press conference at a Denver park.

“It’s often been said you really know the character of an individual by what they say in private — and yes, this is an election about the economy and jobs, but it’s also an election about character and vision and the future and leadership,” said Udall. “I think Gov. Romney has failed that test.”

Flanked by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and state Rep. Crisanta Duran, Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio blasts presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sept. 18 in Sunken Gardens Park in Denver for remarks the Republican made at a fundraiser.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“It’s hard to believe that someone who wants to be president of all of the people of this country would write off half of them,” said Palacio, adding that Romney had “failed the character test” when he decided to “write off and insult half the country you’re hoping to lead.”

The two top Democrats piled on mounting criticism of Romney for describing what he called “47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” a group he said “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.”

According to a recording posted online Monday afternoon by the magazine Mother Jones, Romney went on to tell an audience of wealthy donors, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

While Romney described his remarks as “not elegantly stated” and “off the cuff” during a hastily called press conference on Monday night, he didn’t back down from what his campaign contends is a serious argument about preventing the country from sliding further into a society where too many Americans are dependent on the government.

But Democrats, some conservative commentators and even Republican candidates around the country criticized Romney’s remarks this week, saying that by lumping together everyone who doesn’t pay federal income tax — a good portion of whom pay payroll taxes along with state and local taxes — Romney was wrong to call them all moochers.

The remarks were part of a conversation Romney had with donors at a $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser in May and were recorded surreptitiously. In the rare glimpse of what the presidential candidate says to his most vested supporters, Romney also joked that he would have a better chance getting elected president if he were Hispanic, despaired that Palestinians don’t want peace in the Middle East and predicted that the economy would surge simply in response to a Romney win in November.

Denver Area Labor Federation President Sheila Lieder and state Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, await a press conference called on Sept. 18 in Denver to blast remarks made by Mitt Romney that were caught on secret recording of a Romney fundraiser.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

While Palacio didn’t have anything kind to say about Romney’s other remarks — the conclusions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are “irresponsible,” he said and just laughed at the notion a Mexican Mitt Romney would be faring better than the Anglo one — he reserved most of his criticism for the 47 percent of Americans Palacio said he was writing off.

“These are seniors, working families, students and people with disabilities,” he said, “and the vast majority pay a significant portion of their income in taxes — and they often pay even a higher share of their income than wealthier families like Mitt Romney’s.”

Udall said that when he had first heard the recordings, he couldn’t help think of his mother, who raised a family, volunteered for the Peace Corps and ran a small business.

“She would have been included in the 47 percent of the people that Gov. Romney said it’s not his job to worry about,” Udall said.

By coincidence, Udall said, about the same number of Colorado voters pulled the lever for his opponent in the Senate election four years ago.

“Roughly 47 percent of Coloradans did not vote for me, but it’s my job to worry about 100 percent of Coloradans,” he said.

Udall tied the release of the secret recordings to continuing turmoil in the Romney campaign, which was reeling over the weekend after a Politico story that portrayed a campaign operation in disarray, filled with infighting and blistering criticism of campaign manager Stuart Stevens. In response, hours before the recordings consumed the news cycle, the Romney campaign promised to get more specific with his policy prescriptions.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall says his own mother “would have been included in the 47 percent of the people that Gov. Romney said it’s not his job to worry about” during a press conference on Sept. 18 at Denver’s Sunken Gardens Park.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Instead, Udall said, “We got specifics about how he really feels about half of Americans uttered behind closed doors.”

It was the very specifics that alarmed Udall, he said.

“This suggests to me, as I’ve said, that Gov. Romney’s focused on a narrow slice of Americans, that he doesn’t understand the plight of the middle class, that he doesn’t understand we have to build our country from the middle class out, not from the top down,” he told reporters.

Also on Tuesday, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks ripped Romney as “Thurston Howell Romney” — precisely the out-of-touch millionaire image the Obama campaign has been propagating for months — and wrote that “as kind, decent man who says stupid things” and who is “running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.”

After offering “a quick denunciation” of Romney’s remarks — “You wonder how he gets up in the morning” if he’s written off nearly half the electorate — conservative commentator Peggy Noonan wrote on Wednesday that it was time for the Romney campaign to face “an intervention” in a column for the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one,” she wrote. “It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment.”

In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, distanced herself from Romney’s argument, joining GOP Senate candidates in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Nevada, who said they disagreed with what Romney said.

“We have a lot of people that are at the poverty level in New Mexico, but they count just as much as anybody else,” Martinez said. “There is a net that does allow them to be caught and taken care of, whether it be through medical services, whether it be food services, whether it be with funding for apartments, for housing.” She added that the state’s safety net “is a good thing” and that she hoped that voters, regardless of economic status, would get out and vote in November.

Colorado Republicans swung back on Wednesday with a press conference meant to draw attention to its own recently unearthed recording, this time of Obama speaking in 1998 at a Loyola University conference about how to make government more effective.

“I think the trick is how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot,” Obama can be heard saying on the audio recording.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com