The XX Factor

Romney Was Begging in Boca, Not Baring His Soul

Mitt Romney possibly saying what he believes. We’ll never know.

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages

Last night Mother Jones unleashed this video of Mitt Romney insulting precisely 47 percent of the electorate. Romney was speaking to donors at the home of Marc Leder, a Boca Raton based millionaire who makes a nice living in private equity. The New York Times calls it a “rare glimpse into Mr. Romney’s personal views.” Jonathan Chait says we’ve seen “an authentic Romney,” echoing the general journalistic consensus. Given that Romney is at this event to beg, flatter, and beg some more, the assumption is strange. It’s not clear why a slippery candidate would, amid wealthy donors, suddenly bare the dark deep hidden recesses of his soul. Strategy does not suddenly fall away when rich men pull out their checkbooks.

Romney is a clean-living Mormon talking to a man who hosts parties wherein sex acts are performed poolside. These aren’t guys who would choose to commune under other circumstances. He is at this event to tell people who can afford to drop $50,000 on dinner exactly what they want to hear. You mislead the base because you want their votes. You mislead donors because you want their money. That Romney made these remarks on that night tells us only that this is the sort of bedtime story Marc Leder and his friends ask to hear over and over again. It is perfectly likely that Romney believes 47 percent of Americans sit around being entitled, this being standard Republican fodder, but if we don’t buy what Romney says in his convention speech I’m not sure why we’d believe what he says to people he needs even more immediately than he needs voters. 

Romney’s remarks divide the world into upstanding producers of wealth, like the people with whom he is in conversation, and lazy poor leeches demanding to be fed and housed like immotile newborns—and who do not, as Romney claims, pay income taxes. But my sense is that the most successful spongers are actually quite hard workers who wake up early in the morning to go to their jobs at, say, Halliburton, or Archer Daniels Midland. These corporations are, as we know, people. And they’re people who pay income taxes.