Mark Leibovich recently interviewed Mitt Romney for The New York Times Magazine. Here's what Leibovich tells us about Romney's "47 percent" remark:
Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.In response to this, Ed Kilgore writes:
"My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man," Romney said. "If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man." I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the "47 percent" line by a ranting supporter.
... I'd say it captures the central nature of Romney's entire 2012 campaign. Throughout the primaries he was always in effect talking to some angry if not entirely coherent Republican voter or donor or media opinion-leader, and trying to "reflect back" to their POV, which Mitt did not entirely share but had to take very, very seriously. It's an almost impossible habit to break, and at a crucial moment, he couldn't.To which I'd add: Well, if he couldn't break the habit at that moment, isn't it obvious that he never would have broken the habit as president?
There were a lot of people telling us, especially after the first debate with Obama, that all Romney's wingnut talk was just for show -- surely he would govern as a right-centrist. This bit of conventional wisdom reached its nadir when Buzz Bissinger, a self-proclaimed Democrat, endorsed Romney after that first debate. Bissinger wrote:
Romney finally did what he should have done all along instead of his balky cha cha with the old white men of the conservative Republican wing: he acted as the moderate he is, for the first time running as himself, not against himself, embracing his record as governor of Massachusetts....(Show of hands: Does anyone seriously think that the Romney who's been patting himself on the back lately for his hard-line foreign-policy talk during the campaign would have rejected the counsel of the "dirty old white men" as president?)
I believe that Romney’s move to the center is not yet another flip-flop sleight of hand, perhaps naively. I believe he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran....
Romney sounded like a moderate in that one debate because the people whose wingnuttery he'd chosen to "reflect back" for months -- long after he won the nomination and was expected to swing to the center -- clearly gave him permission to say something, anything, in that debate that would allow him to gain ground on Obama. Before and after that, however, all he did was "reflect back" what his most feral supporters believed (especially the ones with money -- hey, apart from money, do you think there's any real difference between those right-wing billionaires and your uncle who watches Fox all day?).
Romney would have "reflected back" these people's opinions for four years -- or for eight. He would have been a Sam Brownback gone nationwide -- a veteran Republican acting like a tricorn-hatted zealot.
Grover Norquist had Romney pegged, as David Frum reported in early 2012:
Norquist: Romney Will Do As ToldIn Kansas, Brownback has done the Koch brothers' bidding, with disastrous results. Romney would have done exactly the same as president, or would have let Congress do it for him.
... In his charmingly blunt way, Norquist articulated out loud a case for Mitt Romney that you hear only whispered by other major conservative leaders.
They have reconciled themselves to a Romney candidacy because they see Romney as essentially a weak and passive president who will concede leadership to congressional conservatives....
The requirement for president?
Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.
I want to add that the Romney article itself is rather repulsive. Mark Leibovich postures as a guy with a jaundiced take on the world of politics, but he gives us the faux-Leave It to Beaver schmaltz just the way Mitt and Ann Romney spoon it out to him:
"Hey, Ann, can you come here a sec?" Mitt Romney called out, sinking into the cushions of a walnut-colored easy chair, his legs outstretched on a matching ottoman. Romney's blue work shirt was tucked into faded jeans; sockless ankles peeked out from his New Balance sneakers. He paused as Ann Romney entered from the kitchen, where she was baking chocolate-chip cookies. "Sweetie," he continued, "what are some of the items we gave away at the Yankee swap?"Gag me.
The credulous Leibovich goes on to tell us:
The Romneys are in downsizing mode. They have sold their Belmont, Mass., townhouse, and they also might sell the villa in La Jolla, Calif., which they purchased for $12 million in 2008 -- the one with the zoning and renovation troubles, the disdainful Democratic neighbors and the much-derided plans for a car elevator. On a lark, they recently decided to make their permanent home in Utah, where they are building a house adjacent to one of their five sons' 2.5-acre property.Really, Mark? They're downsizing? That's not what the Salt Lake Tribune told us last fall:
... Mitt Romney's soon-to-be-constructed Holladay [Utah] house ... -- with nearly 5,900 square feet of living space -- will replace a rambler Romney is tearing down near Walker Lane and will be his second home in Utah. He recently bought a Deer Valley mansion that was on the market for $8.9 million.In fact, the Romney family bought two houses in Holladay, Utah, in 2013 -- "each of which is zoned for equestrian use," according to the Tribune. Yeah, Mark, they're jes' folks.
With his vacation cabin in New Hampshire, a house scheduled for renovation in San Diego, Calif., and his condo in Belmont, Mass., Romney will have five homes across the nation, all of which are near the cities where his five sons live.
(And regarding the property in La Jolla -- where the Romneys have set out to replace a 3,000-square-foot-house with an 11,000-square-foot house -- read this about the Romneys' efforts to get through the permitting process. If they really plan to sell the place, it's because they can't do what they want, not because they're embracing voluntary simplicity.