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Election 2012: Image World (3)

A. D. Coleman, 2010. Photograph copyright by Willie Chu.The Man Behind the Mask

Ignorance is a condition; dumbness is a commitment.

— Richard Kirstel

Mitt Romney is a deeply committed fellow. As a result, he has serious image problems.

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A week after falsely describing a statement from the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya as a policy statement from the Obama administration and misrepresenting it as an apology (for which he’s been rebuked by Democrats and Republicans alike), video recordings of Romney speaking forthrightly to his wealthy supporters and prospective backers made its way to YouTube, thanks to the investigative journalism of Mother Jones magazine.

The first of these missteps actually occurred chronologically second. Romney compounded his premature ejaculation on the consulate attack and killings by “doubling down” on it, in the current parlance. Looking to score political points while the country was still grappling with the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans didn’t sit well with anyone except Romney’s dwindling crew of media apologists.

A certifiable idiot named Richard Williamson, one of Romney’s top foreign policy advisors, actually asserted that “There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation.” In other words, such attacks wouldn’t happen under a Romney administration — because, presumably, the entire Muslim world quakes before the might of Mitt.

Christopher Stevens, Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 12, 2012. Photographer unknown.

Christopher Stevens, Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 12, 2012. Photographer unknown.

The visual imagery at play here didn’t involve Romney himself; the horrific scenes of Stevens in his last moments and the torching of the consulate — and Obama in statesmanlike response thereto — predominated. But it left Romney looking not nearly ready for prime time, much less the White House.

The second misstep, as I said, happened months earlier, during a private fundraiser held at the Boca Raton home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder, co-chief executive officer of Sun Capital Partners Inc., on May 17, 2012, but has just now come to light. Running for an office in which he’d have the responsibility of representing all Americans, Romney makes clear to his moneyed friends his absolute disdain for Obama’s supporters, in these words:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who 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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. . . . These are people who pay no income tax. . . . [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Mitt Romney, still from fundraiser video 5-15-12, screenshot.

Mitt Romney, still from fundraiser video 5-15-12, screenshot.

To pinpoint just one aspect of the profound dumbness of this comment, the majority of those very same undecided voters Romney went on to say he’s courting, “the five to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful,” support a strong social safety net, believing that government has an obligation to help those in need, including a guarantee of basic food and shelter. So Romney disparaged the swing voters he needs to win this election. Does he think these “thoughtful” people won’t notice?

Many Republicans have begun to distance themselves from these positions as fast as their little legs will carry them; William Kristol termed them “arrogant and stupid.” Despite that fact, Romney has opted not to apologize — expressing regret only that his remarks were “not elegantly stated” — or even to walk his comments back. (Not that he has much choice in the matter, as he’s clearly visible in the video making these statements, excerpts from which MoJo published in a report by David Corn datelined September 17.)

Indeed, he has since doubled down on these and other disparaging and racially loaded comments as well. Running mate Paul “Marathon Boy” Ryan has joined in him in that, adding another whopper to his record by describing Romney’s comments as “obviously inarticulate,” when they’re anything but. This is not “off the cuff,” as Romney claimed afterward, a man winging it. Romney delivers his thoughts in full sentences and complete paragraphs, without any break in his flow. He’s practiced these lines, and used them before. It’s a polished performance, with whose content he’s familiar and comfortable — and with which his well-heeled audience is also familiar and comfortable.

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At his press conference, perhaps unwisely, Romney also “urged the person who filmed the video to release his comments in their entirety,” according to Brett LoGiurato’s September 17 report in Business Insider. “I hope the person who has the video will put out the full material,” LoGiurato quotes Romney as saying. MoJo took him up on the challenge; view the whole tape here, in two parts. (The same page contains links to a two-part audio-only version of Romney’s talk, plus a full transcript.) The full monte doesn’t make him look any worse; the juice was in the excerpts. But it doesn’t make him look better, either.

Clint Eastwood with chair, RNC, 8-30-12, screenshot.

Clint Eastwood with chair, RNC, 8-30-12, screenshot.

I’ll wager that request for publication of the complete video ends up ranking right up there on the political dumbness scale with Gary Hart’s daring the press to take his picture with a bouffant blonde on his lap. (Note: Before putting the whole enchilada online, MoJo released additional video excerpts from the same recording the next day, these concentrating on Romney’s radical — and uninformed — views on the conflicts in the Middle East.)

Thus spake the real Mitt Romney, selling himself to his fellow crony capitalists in the language and tropes they share and understand. This is how the 1 percent think and talk among themselves — because, as Clint Eastwood enunciated their credo at the RNC last month, “We own this country” and “Politicians are employees of ours.”

As the headline reads over Josh Barro’s September 17 op-ed on this in Bloomberg, “Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election.” It’s the words that condemn him, of course, but it’s the photographic documentation of him speaking them in the plush setting in which he does so that makes this so devastating.

The Book of MormonA week ago, Romney accused Barack Obama of being somehow against God, then proclaimed, “I will not take God out of the public square.” With that anti-American rejection of the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, Romney declared his own faith a fit subject for consideration in this election. Clearly Romney, who professes himself a devout Mormon, considers his beliefs as enunciated in that fundraiser commentary absolutely consistent with Mormon theology. I take that as gospel, coming as it does from a former bishop in that faith, confirmed by the fact that so far no Mormon spokespersons have come forward to contradict or denounce it.

If so, it suggests a a direct link between Mormonism and Calvinism, which also preached that wealth signified God’s favor. (So much for Jesus and his blather about rich people, heaven, camels, needles’ eyes, and such.) With Willard Mitt Romney as this faith’s poster boy, what the Salt Lake Tribune trumpeted early this year as “The Mormon Moment” looks less and less auspicious for the church’s faithful.

Physical height does not equate to stature; the sad fact is that Mitt Romney isn’t half the man his father George was — and this is pathetic, not tragic, as befits the son’s mean-spirited smallness. There’s no mensch there; indeed, there’s barely a there there. Just another mouthpiece for the military-industrial complex, a sanctimonious, privileged corporate thug in an expensive suit.

That has ramifications. Mitt Romney now functions as the public face of both the Republic Party and the Church of Latter-Day Saints; hence his image problem is theirs. Let’s see the Republic Party spinmeisters dervish-dance their way out of this cul-de-sac, and the exegetes of the Church of LDS rationalize their high-profile acolyte’s application of Mormon scripture to real-world exigencies.

Mitt Romney, still from fundraiser video 5-15-12, screenshot.

Mitt Romney, still from fundraiser video 5-15-12, screenshot.

By the way, the video from that fundraiser appears to have been made by setting a small videocam or cellphone down on a waitstaff serving station at the side of the room, screened by some pitchers of wine and water. I’ll venture a guess that said camera belonged not to one of Romney’s moneyed chums but to one of the hired help who, invisible among the plutocrats, like Bob Dylan’s Hattie Carroll, “emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level.” Citizen journalism at its best, from that component of the citizenry that Willard Mitt Romney despises. And it was James Carter IV, grandson of the unjustly much-vilified ex-President Jimmy Carter, who persuaded that citizen to release the video to Mother Jones for publication as a little “September surprise.” Poetic justice, in other words.

Scott Prouty "The Ed Show," MSNBC, 3-13-13, screenshot.

Scott Prouty, “The Ed Show,” MSNBC, 3-13-13, screenshot.

(Postscript: My analysis of the videotape’s source proved out. Scott Prouty, a bartender at the Romney fundraiser, finally came forward to take the credit on March 13, 2013, in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” For background see, “Scott Prouty, recorder of ‘47 percent’ video: An unlikely political gadfly,” by Jerry Markon and Krissah Thompson, Washington Post, March 14, 2013. For an excerpt from his interview with host Ed Schultz, click here. Prouty gets my vote for Citizen Journalist of the Year 2012.)

For an index of links to all posts related to this story, click here.

This post supported by a donation from the Estate of Lyle Bongé.

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