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Romney’s Comments About the Poor Are Revealing: Updated

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s victory in the Florida Primary, the big story has been the Mittster’s ill-conceived comments yesterday in which he said to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, paraphrasing, that he didn’t worry about the poor since they have a safety net or something. Most of the attention on his remarks has focused on the fodder this will provide to Obama’s upcoming billion dollar negative campaign, and there’s no doubt Team Obama is already using this material to cut ads depicting Romney as an out of touch country club Republican who doesn’t worry about the poor and likes to fire people.

Romney, of course, is today whining that CNN and the rest of the media took his comments out of context in order to alienate Democrat voters. Notwithstanding the irony of having the guy who just spent millions of dollars in Florida taking Newt Gingrich out of context, who cares? If he’s worried about being taken out of contest, perhaps he shouldn’t have said something that begs to be, um, taken out of context.

But, for me, the fact that his comments will get him in trouble with Democrats is irrelevant. Despite the assurances of the Republican Establishment that Mitt can get moderates and liberals to vote for him, he can’t. At least not in significant enough numbers to matter. If offered a choice between Democrat and Democrat Lite, they’ll go with the Democrat every time. What really struck me about Romney’s remarks, though, is that they’ll further alienate conservatives who are already deeply suspicious of the Mittster.

I say this for two reasons. First, in trying to justify his comments, Romney’s suggested the social safety net needed to be strengthened. This should be alarming to all conservatives. The social safety net has become a way of life for far too many people. One half of Americans pay no income taxes. The percentage of Americans on food stamps is at a record level under Obama. Jim DeMint notes "we’re at a point in America where about half of the people are getting something from government, and the other half are paying for it." And Romney is suggesting that we’re not doing enough? Leaving aside the fact that we’re broke and can’t afford to throw any more money at these failed programs, how is creating more dependency a good thing? How is this a conservative idea?

I submit that it’s anything but. It’s Democrats who believe that a society’s compassion is measured by how many people are benefitting from government programs. Conservatives believe that this fosters dependence and destroys the potential of millions of Americans by convincing them they can’t succeed without a government handout, so they don’t even try. Who knows, one of these people, if they were properly motivated, could be the individual who comes up with that elusive green energy source which supplants fossil fuels that liberals are so interested in. But we’ll never know, will we?

The true measure of a society’s compassion is measured not by how many people are dependent on the government “safety net”, but by how many people don’t need it. The so-called safety net has been an abject failure and created a growing sub-class of Americans who will never share in the American Dream. And, to a significant degree, the safety net has become a recruiting tool for Democrat voters, as its practical effect is to create an ever-increasing number of Americans who are dependent on government and, thus, dependent on the party of government.

This is tragic, and America can’t survive if it continues much longer. Merely trying to strengthen the current system with a little technocratic tinkering around the edges won’t change anything. This abomination needs to be torn out by the roots and completely revamped into a system that encourages productive behavior rather than sloth. Romney’s comments yesterday illustrate that this fundamental conservative belief eludes him utterly. I can only conclude it’s because he doesn’t share it.

The second problem with Romney’s comments goes to the heart of why conservatives find it impossible to believe him when he claims to be one of them. Yesterday’s remark that he doesn’t worry about the poor or the rich, only the middle class, set off a very loud alarm bell. Conservatives simply don’t think this way.

Conservative ideas, when implemented, will benefit everyone, not just a certain class of people who happen to be in the government’s good graces at the moment. Since when is it conservative doctrine to divide people by income? Or anything else, for that matter (e.g. race, religion, ethnic heritage, etc.)? Shouldn’t the Republican candidate want to enact policies (consistent with the constitution) that benefit everyone, regardless of any of the above irrelevancies? I thought it was only Democrats who thought this way.

But Romney clearly does. Even the tax reform proposals in his silly 59-point plan were largely segregated by income level which, the Wall Street Journal notes, “eviscerates most of the tax cut’s economic impact and also suggests that he’s afraid of Mr. Obama’s class warfare rhetoric”. Indeed. This suggests to me that he at least partially accepts Obama’s contention that tax law should be less about raising revenue than redistributing it. This is not conservative.

Last night on Fox News, Charles Krauthammer suggested that Romney’s inability to avoid stepping in it when discussing issues elemental to conservatives is likely due to the fact that he only recently began calling himself a conservative, and therefore doesn’t possess enough understanding of them to be "fluent":


Via The Right Scoop, the last word goes to Mark Levin, who makes many of the above points and then some, as only he can. Click the image to watch:

Update: Steve Hayes at The Weekly Standard makes some of the points I made above (emphasis mine):

But in many respects Romney’s words are more problematic because of their context. He seemed to consign the poor to a station in life. He suggested that society has done its duty because of the fact that “we have a safety net.”

In so doing, Romney seemed utterly unaware of a long strain of conservative thought on the morality of capitalism. He seemed oblivious to the argument?—?central to the conservative movement?—?that free markets allow the poor to transcend their position, that poverty is not destiny. He seemed not to realize that the “safety net” does not allow policymakers to “focus” elsewhere, but requires them to fashion policies to reduce the need for such programs.


Romney has had trouble connecting with conservatives because many of them believe his conservatism is clinical, not visceral. They worry that he has learned conservative arguments in order to become the Republican nominee, not because he has been drawn to conservative ideas for their own sake.



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  • patnatasha

    if romney is nominee look for obama to use this soundbite against romney throughout the campaign.

  • c4pfan

    It’s worse than I thought. He’s already talking liberal before he even wins the nomination!

    • Leroy Whitby

      Romney needs to shore up his left flank after he made those annoying gaffes about firing people and not caring about the poor. Some media buttering up should do the trick to help old Romney get in the John McCain position of a stately and dignified drubbing by Obama. Maybe a statement that Romney supports automatic minimum wage increases will do it!

      And Romney can shore up his left flank now that Gingrich lost Florida and the next contest is in a heavily Mormon state. Good job, by the way, on the Florida victory by Romney, all you Santorum and Paul supporters! Job well done.

  • bigsun24

    Newt had a great response with using a "trampoline" not a safety net.  Obamney is a liberal.

  • John_Frank

    Good post Doug. What Romney’s remarks to O’Brien should tell conservatives is that while Romney may be pro-life, he is not a conservative. He is a statist.

    Carville: Romney "Doesn’t Understand Conservative Doctrine"
    “Well, it was an eruption among conservatives in the Weekly Standard, in the National Review,” Democratic operative James Carville said. “I saw three or four comments that people came out. It was just a really, he just not a very good candidate. And by the way, he doesn’t understand
    conservative doctrine. I mean, I happen to live with it in my house. They say they really care about the poor and these kinds of programs actually hurt the poor. Not only does it come across as sort of [for] voters in the middle as kind of callous and that’s after saying corporations are rich people. To real conservatives, it comes across as just dumb and doesn’t represent what they say they think.”

  • MaMcGriz

    Beautifully written, Doug, and totally spot on.

    This man is scary.

    Time to dig out that old blue glove picture from the ice cream shop to refresh everyone’s memory and remind them what’s coming if mitt is elected.

    • Betsey_Ross

      That’s my very favorite. 

  • PhilTan

    This guy will implode. Based on the outcry at Fox, they’re concerned about the vote challenge in FL. They don’t want the delegates apportioned , no how no way. They also don’t want him having to face a 50 state primary. This whole thing is a completely contrived act being pushed on us by the GOPE. Having him act like the nominee. GMA$B . People usually say what they really mean. I seriously overheard people talking about what he said last night at a store. Way to energize the liberal base Mittens.  

  • Lennart Bilén

    Does Romney belong to a cult?
    Did Hillary seek* the occult?
    If you are and adult
    It is not difficult
    You’d rather a cult than occult consult.

    *Following the November, 1994, midterm elections, in which the Democrats were thoroughly defeated by the Republicans, even losing control of both houses of Congress, Bill and Hillary turned to a group of New Age channelers and spiritualists for advice. This shocking development further proves our contention that Bill and Hillary are practicing witches, for this kind of action is precisely what witches would do.The very fact that Bill and Hillary turned to these type of people at a most trying time in their lives further proves our point that Bill and Hillary are practicing witches. Witches regularly practice this type of spiritual activity, all of which God severely and consistently condemns.Let us continue with our feature story, as Jean Houston and Mary Catherine Bateson get together several times over the next year, to conduct seances with Eleanor Roosevelt. You will remember the stories in the first year of the Clinton Administration, when Hillary confessed that she regularly communicated with Eleanor; stories at the time even labeled these communications as seances. Not only did Hillary admit she talked to Eleanor, she said Eleanor talked back ! This admission clearly identifies these sessions as seances, since an imaginary, creative mind exercise where a person only imagines they can talk with an historic figure, and can only imagine what response that figure might make based upon what is known about them, never, ever involves that historic figure talking back. (

  • onparade

    romney tells you what he is going to do but he never says how….trump endorsed him because china is not trading  fair with us and romney says yes andhe is going to work on that but he doesnt say how…

  • Theodore Baker

    We need a Gingrich/West ticket or a Gingrich/Palin ticket to take back AmericaSave America and Vote For a Newt Gingrich and Allen West to beat Romney definitely take down Barack Hussein Obama this November

    • Amarissa WS


      • Exgunman

        IMO Sarah will "NEVER"again nor should she accept any VP slot!!!!!!!( absolutely worthless position for someone of her abilities, unless the  Pres has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel)

  • Lennart Bilén

    Donald Trump just endorsed Mitt Romney.
    Is not this the same guy that thought Obama had the potential of being a GREAT president?
    So much for his judgment


    The libs don’t need Mitt’s help to smear anyone or anything.
    Has mitt forgotten that he hasn’t gotten the nomination secured as of yet.(minimum wage reference)
    Newt’s pissed and not quiting even if Santorum continues to keep applying for mitt’s VP.

  • nkthgreek

    "Romney" and "conservative" are mutually exclusive.

  • Norcalo

    I don’t buy the "out of context" argument. Just to say those words, in
    any context, shows a stunning lack of compassion. We voters are totally
    within our rights to make up our minds on such scraps of information as
    this, and in my opinion even this one statement makes Romney
    unelectable. He should drop out.

    But he won’t.

    What an empty moron.

    And his quote will follow the GOP around for decades, just like Regan’s quote, "If you’ve seen one redwood tree you’ve seen ‘em all."

  • independents4palin

    Most conservatives are christians and christians believe in helping the very poor, through their church and other organizations. For Romney to say he does not care for " the very poor" is not going to play well in the rural areas in this country. That comment is going to harm him during the general in heaven forbid he wins the primary elections.

  • Susan Ally

    Unfortuantely it was Dr Krauthammer who told the person who spoke fluent Conservativism brillantly that she should "leave the room"

    If Dr Krauthammer is an expert on Conservativism how come he failed to understand Sarah Palin’s language?

    • Yankee4Palin

      Because Krauthammer until recent years has been a Registered Democrat and worked for Walter Mondale.  He still has the traits.

  • Norcalo

    Why should Palin stay in such a party as the GOP?  The days of Lincoln and MLK are long, long past.

  • Nathan Webb

    Well Romney is up 20 points in the next 5 states, must be the Trump endorsement.  He will need to work on his image with very poor people before November.  Do we have any really poor people out there (on the dole) that could endorse him to help with this?

  • AmsterdamExpat

    Dan Riehl calls attention to an older remark of Romney’s that’s similar but even a bit more flagrant:

    "Despite the assurances of the Republican Establishment that Mitt can get moderates and liberals to vote for him, he can’t. At least not in significant enough numbers to matter." I am not even sure that MR recognizes this as a problem for himself at all.

    On her side, the Governor is acutely aware of its importance.

  • Amarissa WS

    "Since when is it conservative doctrine to divide people by income? Or
    anything else, for that matter (e.g. race, religion, ethnic heritage,
    etc.)? Shouldn’t the Republican candidate want to enact policies
    (consistent with the constitution) that benefit everyone, regardless of any of the above irrelevancies?"

    This is a great point for Newt to bring up in his next debate!

  • 01_Explorer_01

    Could it be that Trump endorsed Romney to actually take him down.  One millionaire endorsing another is hardly a positve endorsement.  Do you think it is by design rather than actually a heartfelt endorsement.  A reverse opposite outcome calculated by Trump.

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