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Is Romney’s 'Gift' Doctrine as Bad as It Sounds? | The Nation

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Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

Is Romney’s 'Gift' Doctrine as Bad as It Sounds?

Republicans from Bobby Jindal to Chris Christie to Kelly Ayotte are fleeing from Mitt Romney after he tried to excuse his defeat by telling donors Obama had bought the votes of blacks, Latinos, women and youth with “extraordinary financial gifts from the government.” Which sounded a lot like Romney’s secretly recorded assertion during the campaign that “47 percent” of the electorate are living off of government goodies, and, try as he might, he could “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Romney himself will always be one of the greatest gifts the Democrats will ever get.

But is it possible that Romney’s gift doctrine isn’t quite as bad as it sounds nor as pejorative as the 47 percent insult? Maybe Mitt Romney is saying—in his own tongue-tied, convoluted, plutocratic, and incredibly insensitive way—that Obama’s voters are no different than… Mitt Romney.

That may seem insulting in itself. But Romney, so practiced at the art of telling people with money the bad news he sees in their spreadsheet, was talking turkey: that as much as he, or any rich Republican money man, is a self-interested, rational actor, so is the American voter. And Romney’s telling the people who bankrolled him that in a competitive market, this democracy thing is always going to be a loser for them if they can’t sweeten the deal.

Granted, you may have to dig deep, as deep as a proctology exam (to use the visual Haley Barbour[!] inflicted on the GOP) to find this ever-so-slightly more enlightened Mitt. And you have to probe behind his offensive use of the term “gifts” for what are commonly known as “policies.” But grab a scope, and look at what he said in one of the two recent conference calls with yet more high-level, wealthy donors, as The New York Times listened in. Obama, Romney stated, won the election by pulling out the

“old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups—  “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “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 2008.”

And, wow, how that healthcare can bribe poor folks and “illegals”:

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity—I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “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.”

Pity the poor quarter-billionaire candidate of austerity, because “giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with.”

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Shades of Moderate Massachusetts Mitt: If he were a Dem, he says, he’d throw dental coverage into the mix! I’m all in!

Of course, it’s cowardly of Romney to blame poor people for his electoral failure, rather than his ideas, organization, lack of vision or prostration under the heel of the far right. But just possibly Mitt is saying: Let’s face reality. Our old tax-cutting default position doesn’t work anymore. Those days are over. We’re outnumbered. And unless we start tossing out “gifts” to the masses, too, we’re over.

Romney was talking to his fundraisers—not the crazies, but the elites, for whom bribery is honorable, in fact, a sound business plan. These are his people. And though he lost the election, he doesn’t want to lose touch with them.

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The Times writes that during the conference call, Romney suggested that the group meet annually and start up a monthly newsletter to, in Romney’s words, “stay informed and have influence on the direction of the party, and perhaps the selection of a future nominee, which, by the way, will not be me.”

That was a joke. You had to be there.

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