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Mitt Romney's Sneering Farewell to the '47 Percent'

A Commentary By Joe Conason

Friday, November 16, 2012

Trying to explain away his decisive, sweeping and very expensive rout to his disappointed supporters -- those one-percent Republicans -- Mitt Romney offered a new version of the discredited "47 percent" argument that was so ruinous in its original form. In a Wednesday afternoon conference call, the defeated Republican nominee told donors and fundraisers that President Obama had won by lavishing generous "gifts" upon certain groups, including young voters, African-Americans and Latinos.

"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," said Romney, after apologizing for losing what he called a "very close" election (he lost by more than 100 electoral votes and more than 1 percent of the popular vote, perhaps as much as 4 percent when all the state results are eventually certified).

"Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2009 ... Likewise, with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group."

It's amusing that at this late date, the Republican who distanced himself from health care reform claims that Obamacare helped Obama to win.

Remember, Romney vowed every day to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he clearly knew was bad policy but believed was good politics. He and his fellow Republicans thundered about the president thwarting the will of the people by pushing through Obamacare -- yet now he wants to use it as an alibi because it was so popular. Keeping up with his constantly conflicting, endlessly convenient, versions of reality was never easy.

Now before dispensing with Romney for good -- as most Americans (including many Republicans) are understandably eager to do -- it is worth noting that these churlish excuses to his donors represent the ultimate falsification, not only of his campaign but of his own character.

Recall how he disowned the "47 percent" remarks when he realized how damaging they were to his chances for victory, telling Sean Hannity on Fox News that what he had been caught saying at a $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton fundraising event was "just completely wrong." His mea culpa was factually accurate, of course -- as we have discovered again lately with the news that so many food stamp recipients reliably vote Republican. Those who don't pay income tax include plenty of Republicans, especially the elderly on Social Security and military personnel on active duty and poor white evangelical voters who simply don't earn enough. They also include thousands of wealthy Romney supporters who, like their candidate, have learned to manipulate the tax system.

But as a matter of feelings rather than facts, Romney evidently cannot stop himself from sneering at society's struggling people and the politicians who seek to improve their lives. It is not as if the donors he was addressing don't want "gifts" from government -- such as the big new tax breaks that Romney had promised them, the huge increases in defense spending that would swell their profits, or the various individual corporate favors that they regard as their very own "entitlements." Just don't expect that kind of honest introspection from Romney or his crowd.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com.

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