The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Romney’s Comments Reveal Much

What do you call a family of five who makes a combined income of $50,000, maybe with one or even both parents working two jobs to make ends meet?

I call that family typical, hardworking Americans — the people to which Kix cereal and Chevrolet commercials are geared.

Mitt Romney calls that working-class family freeloaders, dependent on government, and claims that he will never be able to convince them to take “personal responsibility” for themselves.

And, oh by the way, vote for him to be president.

By now, Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent of Americans who he believes will vote for President Barack Obama, no matter what, have been discussed ad nauseam. In case you missed it, Mother Jones last week released a video of the Republican nominee telling supporters at a fundraising dinner that 47 percent of the country is reliant on government, and that he could never convince them to take personal responsibility for themselves.

While many fed-up conservative elites have blasted Romney’s remarks, he and his surrogates on the campaign trail have tried to explain them. Kelly Ayotte, a senator from New Hampshire, claimed that his words were “a political analysis,” on NBC’s Meet the Press, while the candidate himself admitted to speaking inelegantly.

What’s missing in the spin that followed the release of the controversial video? Romney taking back the dishonest and hurtful things he said — that almost half of Americans are essentially lazy freeloaders who rely on the government for their every need. In other words, he’s missing a retraction. There’s been no “I misspoke,” or “I was wrong,” just that he shouldn’t have phrased his words the way he did.

To me, that, more even than the words themselves, show how unfit he is to lead this country.

Romney has been cast throughout the campaign season as out of touch, and his private sector career at Bain Capital has been scrutinized in more detail than any other presidential candidate’s former job in recent memory.

Generally, I think judging the merits of a candidate based on his or her background and upbringing isn’t a very good idea — most presidents, with a few exceptions (like Obama), came from some sort of wealth or privilege, and their resulting political ideology has varied wildly. You can’t tell a person’s political beliefs based solely on their income growing up.

But in Romney’s case, he seems, even after nearly two years of campaigning, to not have a single clue of what most Americans go through. And it’s reflected in both his tax plans — which would cut taxes heavily for the wealthiest but are mathematically impossible without large increases on the poor and middle class— and the callous words he said about nearly half of his potential constituents behind closed door.

Ayotte’s comments — that Romney was making a “political analysis” — were clearly spin (watching her trying to defend the indefensible on Meet the Press was painful to watch), but nobody should be fooled into giving Romney even the benefit of that  copout defense. Much of the Republican base is located firmly in the 47 percent — senior citizens and white working-class voters.

See, when you insult half the country, there’s inevitably some collateral damage.

Romney doesn’t know what it’s like to live poor, or even middle-class. He, despite his assertions to the contrary, inherited a million dollars from his father, and was lucky enough to attend both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. There’s nothing wrong with that, and attacking him for winning the birth lottery is as unfair as him attacking the poor and middle class for their lot in life.

But it also means that he never had to struggle. He never knew what it was like to be worried about making rent, or paying certain bills. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, except that he never bothered to learn how the average person — or the “47 percent … who are dependent on government,” according to Romney, lived.

I don’t begrudge Romney his wealth. But I do begrudge his belief that a person’s income is tied to how hard they work and how much responsibility they take for themselves. Romney himself earned $14 million in 2011, despite being unemployed. It betrays a man that, more than just being unsympathetic to the plight of most Americans, has no clue what most Americans go through.

Both campaigns have harped on “doing the math” this election year. Whether they’re talking about proposed tax cuts or the changes involved in “Obamacare,” each side thinks the numbers are on their side. But this situation poses another math problem: the president is supposed to represent 100 percent of Americans. If Mitt Romney chooses to not understand and write off 47 percent of this country as lacking personal responsibility, it isn’t just wrong – to quote his running mate, Paul Ryan, “the math is downright scary.”

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About the Contributor
Michael E. Cunniff
Michael E. Cunniff, Editor-in-Chief
I'm Mike Cunniff, a junior journalism major and the sports editor here at the Torch. When I was a little kid, I decided I wanted to be a sports announcer when I grew up. I used to turn down the volume while my beloved Patriots played and do my best Greg Gumbel impression as Drew Bledsoe fired pass after pass into the waiting arms of opposing cornerbacks. That was my dream until I was about 14, when I realized that I had neither the dapper looks or silky baritone voice to warrant plastering my face all over television (and billboards, and magazine covers. Dare to dream, right?). I realized, when I wasn't plagiarizing Sparknotes when writing English essays (kidding, mostly) that I actually enjoyed writing, and decided that writing about sports suited me better than talking about them. My favorite sports to watch/cover are basketball and soccer. I actually used to be a halfway decent shooting guard back in the day, before I did my knee in the offseason before senior year. I still love all four Boston teams (the Revs don't count), as well as Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League (I talk about them too much). I'm probably better than you at FIFA 12. Outside of sports and journalism, I like The Office, Bagels 'N' Cream, road trips and karaoke. __________ I like to joke with Mike that he’d react the same way to the Zombie apocalypse as he would in covering a major news break on campus — which is to say he wouldn’t really react in any particular way at all. Nothing seems to phase him. Anything — ANYTHING — could happen on campus, and I am confident that Mike would lead the Torch in the best possible reportage for that story. He has already demonstrated that ability in his superb coverage of the Sports section, and I know that ability would translate in a much larger role next year. -Bill San Antonio Editor-in-Chief, Emeritus
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