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September 18, 2012 11:49 AM Romney’s Bitter Clingers

By Mark Kleiman

One of the most damaging moments in the Obama campaign of 2008 was his getting caught on a cellphone video talking about how the bitterness of rural folks caught in an economic downdraft might lead them to cling to guns and religion. His tone was compassionate, but the people he was talking about understood it as contemptuous: instead of dealing with their beliefs as opinions, Obama merely diagnosed them as the product of bad conditions. It hurt him.

Turns out Mitt Romney isn’t smart enough to benefit from the errors of others. He seems to have done roughly the same thing, much more viciously, dismissing almost half of the population as non-taxpaying moochers who think they’re entitled to get everything from the government. And Harold Pollack isn’t alone in reacting with rage to the Tax-Dodger-in-Chief complaining about his political opponents not paying taxes, when lots of us pay much more than he does.

This is the lead story on Memeorandum, and yet virtually all of the commentary is from the Blue team; even Romney’s most die-hard backers have decided they can improve on silence.* Certainly the Romney campaign couldn’t, as it shattered the hope some supporters must have had that this would turn out to be a hoax by having a spokesgeek issue this nonsense:

Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.

Right. The people he plans to “move … off government dependency and into jobs” are the same one’s he’s already decided can never be “convinced” to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

From the Obama side, this is mostly a mobilization election now; he’s got a solid majority among the registered voters, if our folks turn out. Very sporting of Romney to give such a timely assist. Obama should invite him to the White House for a non-beer after the Inauguration.

I suppose it’s reasonable that O’Bama should have the Luck of the Irish. But his talent for finding self-destructing opponents – or perhaps for inducing otherwise sane opponents to self-destruct – is preternatural.

*Update Yes, they were right to keep silent, to judge by what came out when they opened their mouths. John O’Sullivan on NRO offers a stirring defense of what Romney didn’t say, ignoring what he said. Jonah Goldberg acknowledges that Romney was completely full of it factually and that his comments weren’t helpful politically, while more or less admiring Romney’s courage in expressing his contempt for the same people Goldberg despises.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.
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