I have to say that after transcribing last night’s first segment of The Rachel Maddow Show, the very thought of a Romney presidency frightens me to the core. Throughout it I kept thinking about the part of the final episode of HBO’s The Newsroom where the Will McAvoy says:
It's ironic because the biggest enemy of the phony Republican isn't Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, it's this man. He said Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Care for the weakest among us. And always pray in private.If you haven’t seen this video yet, be sure to take some time to watch it over at YouTube. If you can’t watch videos, the transcript is below the fleur-de-orange in this diary. I’ve been up all night transcribing this segment, and quite frankly, I’m just too tired to add much comment at this point. I need to get some sleep, but I think it’s important to get this up because Rachel Maddow points out some things about the Romney fundraiser tape that I haven’t seen anybody else mention so far.
● Ideological purity ● Compromise as weakness ● A fundamental belief in scriptural literalism ● Denying science ● Unmoved by facts ● Undeterred by new information ● A hostile fear of progress ● A demonization of education ● A need to control women's bodies ● Severe xenophobia ● Tribal mentality ● Intolerance of dissent; and a ● Pathological hatred of the U.S. government
They can call themselves the Tea Party. They can call themselves conservatives. And they can even call themselves Republicans; though Republicans certainly shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are: The American Taliban.
This, as you know, is a nuclear bomb. This is what a nuclear explosion looks like. This is a nuclear bomb. This is not a nuclear bomb [image of small explosion]. This is something that's called a dirty bomb. Actually, technically, that is just a regular bomb, but it could be a dirty bomb. Any bomb could be a dirty bomb. Doesn't look any different; a dirty bomb is just a bomb that you have put radioactive material in. It's not a nuclear bomb. It's not a nuclear explosion. There's no mushroom cloud. A dirty bomb is just a regular explosive bomb that has been packed with radioactive material so when it goes off, it sprays radioactive junk everywhere. And the dirty bomb explosion is both a metaphor for what's going on right now in the presidential campaign. And it specifically is one of the myriad next things that the Romney campaign is going to have to deal with out of this tape of Mr. Romney speaking at a fundraiser which has just been published in full by Mother Jones. Let me explain. Last night, after Mother Jones posted about five minutes of the tape from the fundraiser, Mr. Romney convened a rather hastily called press conference in California, at which he did not apologize for the remarks he made at the fundraiser. But he suggested that maybe the editing was making him look bad. He suggested that if he could see the whole thing in context then maybe it might be better for him. He called for the whole tape to be released.
Mitt Romney speaking at hastily called press conference: We don't even have the question, given the snippet there; nor the full response, and I hope the person who has the video would put out the full, the full material.You want to know how bad Mitt Romney is at running his presidential campaign? If you want to know how bad his campaign is right now period. What he said there about not having the question released. The question had already been released, and at that point in the evening, the people who had published the first five minutes of the tape, had already said both in print and on t.v. that they were about to publish the entire tape of the entire evening. And so, there he is at his press availability calling for the question to be put out there, and it's already out there, and he's calling for the whole tape to be released and the whole tape is already being released. And today, like they said they would, Mother Jones magazine released the full 50 minute, unedited tape of Mr. Romney's appearance at that Florida fundraiser. And because of that, the whole Haley Barbour adage that in politics bad tends to get worse, has never felt more true for Mr. Romney's campaign than it does today. So now we've got the whole tape, and first of all, there's the dirty bomb thing. This is what Mr. Romney said during that fundraiser in response to a question about the threat posed by Iran. Listen carefully here.
Mitt Romney: I mean, if I were Iran, if I were Iran--I mean--and--and a crazed fanatic, I'd say, "Let's get a little fissile material to Hezbollah and have them carry it to Chicago or some other place. And then if anything goes wrong or America starts acting up, we'll just say, "And guess what? Unless you stand down, why we're gonna let off a dirty bomb."Okay. So we can add to the list of foreign policy worries about a potential President Mitt Romney that he doesn't know what a dirty bomb is. A dirty bomb is not a nuclear explosion. It is not a mushroom cloud. You do not need to have a nuclear program in order to make a dirty bomb possible. You don't need fissile material from somebody's nuclear weapons program to be able to put together a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is just a regular bomb that explodes the regular way except that it's packed with radioactive material and that radioactive material can come from anywhere. It can come from medical waste. It can come from nuclear power plants. It can even come from smoke detectors. Every country in the world has plenty radioactive material around to make a dirty bomb if they wanted to. And so by singling out a nuclear armed Iran as a threat to the U.S. in terms of what it would take to make a dirty bomb, Mr. Romney has just displayed a profound ignorance on a really important subject. Mr. Romney has just shown us that he apparently does not know the difference between a dirty bomb and a nuclear bomb, and therefore, foundationally he totally misunderstands what is important or not important about Iran having a nuclear program. And that, of course, is one of the main reasons he says he is running for president is how important he takes that threat. Honestly, this is an important issue. This is not a gotcha moment. Nobody was asking him about dirty bombs when he brought up that prospect. He brought that up himself. But now, as a follow-up, reporters really do need to ask him to explain if he knows what a term like dirty bomb means because if he does not know, then we are dealing with a whole new fundamental problem with this candidacy that was unknown before these tapes were released.
Also, asked about the Mid East peace process, the conflict between Israeli and Palestinians in which the United States has been deeply engaged for decades, Mr. Romney said at that fundraiser that to his mind, quote the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. He said, These are problems. And they're very hard to solve, all right? [These are] thorny issues, that I say there's just no way. And so what you do is you say you-- you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is gonna remain [an] unsolved problem.Mitt Romney: We sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it.Kick the ball down the field ... hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it. That's the plan. This is a really hard issue. I don't really want to work on it. I'm going to hope it gets better. Mr. Romney currently trails President Obama by 45 points among Jewish voters. He has tried to narrow this gap in part by saying that Mr. Obama has not been a strong enough leader on the issue of Israeli. Well, now we know what Mr. Romney is pledging to do on Israeli, which is to hope everything gets better 'cause it seems like it's too hard to work on. Just to round things out in terms of this international house of wrong; this united nations of wrong. Mr. Romney also attempted to make a funny at this event about how much better his life would be if only he were Mexican.
Mitt Romney: My dad, you probably know was--was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company, but he was born in Mexico. And--had he been born of Mexican parents I'd have a better shot (laughter) at winning this, but he was--unfortunately born o f Americans living in Mexico. They'd lived there for a number of years. And uh I mean I say that jokingly, but it'd be helpful to be uh Latino.It would be helpful to be Latino. Take it from Mitt Romney, a man who's known real hardship in his life, right? Mexicans are the ones who have it easy in this country. Oh, how he has longed to be a Mexican American. All of these new statements are in the rest of the video tape from that May fundraiser in Florida which Mr. Romney called for the release of in full last night in his first attempt to tamp down the firestorm that his remarks had set off. But all that that means; all of these new things, right? All this means is that he has a whole bunch of new problems to add to the problem that he got yesterday from the first clip of these remarks that was released, right? He's got a whole new list of problems to add to the problem he got yesterday that he is likely to drag with him all the way to the election.
Mitt Romney: 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. And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49 4--he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.Mr. Romney last night was asked by reporters if he wanted to retract any of that statement and he said no. Although he said he might have put it differently if he weren't speaking off the cuff.
Mitt Romney speaking at hastily called press conference: Well, uh, you know it's not elegantly stated. Let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question and I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that.What would it mean to say it more elegantly? (holds monocle up to eye) Right? (Pops open top hat) Top hat; monocle. Would that have made ... I don't know about elegant, but in terms of saying what he said there more effectively, he's right. And in fact, as a candidate, Mitt Romney has said this thing more effectively in the past because it is the policy of the platform of the Republican Party this year. It is the policy of the Republican Party to pursue the kinds of policies he described there, inelegantly (holds monocle up to eye) or not. It is the policy of the Republican Party at the presidential level and throughout the party.
Mitt Romney at Campaign Event: I think it's a real problem when you have half of Americans, almost half of Americans, that are not paying income tax.It is a Mitt Romney position in this campaign. It is a Republican policy more broadly for the whole country that people who have less money; people on the lower end of the income spectrum in this country are not paying enough in taxes. And the Republicans would like to raise taxes for those people.
Video of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): I think it's abysmal that the bottom 51% do not pay income taxes.That's a problem. That's an economic problem in this country to Mitt Romney and the Republicans. And that is a real problem that his tax plan would fix. The Romney tax plan would quote result in a net tax cut for high income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers [See On The Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform [PDF], Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, August 1, 2012]. That's from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center which analyzed Mr. Romney's tax proposal last month. Cut taxes for the rich; raise taxes for the poor. That is what Mitt Romney's tax plan as a matter of policy would do, and it is also what Republicans have pursued in the states; since they took over the governorships and state legislatures in so many states in the 2010 elections. Earlier this year the Republican Tax Reform Bill in South Carolina proposed raising taxes on the poorest families in that state and cutting taxes for people who were well off [See SC House Tax Bill Would Raise Taxes on Some Low-Income Families, WSPA 7 On Your Side, March 21, 2012]. Because, I guess, South Carolina Republicans believe that South Carolina poor people have too much money.
Video of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia): Over 45% of the people in this country don't pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that's fair.
Video of Mitt Romney at Campaign Event: I think it's a real problem when you have half of Americans, almost half of Americans, that are not paying income tax.
In Wisconsin, when the Republicans took over there, what got all of the attention was the new law to strip union rights, which is now tied up in the courts. But the budget that Republicans introduced in Wisconsin when they took over in that state would have cut taxes for everybody in the state except for poor people [See Report confirms Walker budget would cut tax aid for poor, decrease overall taxes, Wisconsin State Journal, April 16, 2011]. The Wisconsin budget in the state would raise taxes on the poorest people in the state because Republicans there also think that poor people have too much money.
In Kansas, where the Republican take over has gotten, I think, much less national attention than it ought to have, Sam Brownback, the Republican governor there, signed a big tax reform bill into law which takes rich people's taxes and cuts them in Kansas, and takes poor people's taxes in Kansas and it raises them [See Brownback tax plan would hit impoverished Kansans the hardest, The Kansas City Star, January 18, 2012].
The Republican Party has an anti-tax brand. Right? They like to be seen as being for cutting taxes and being against raising taxes, but they really only believe that for upper income people. Republican budgets like Mitt Romney's and like the Republican budgets in the states, they do not ignore the poor, the specifically target poor people for higher taxes. The Republican approach to poverty is to say the problem with poor people is that they have too much money, and the government has to fix that by taking some money away from them. As a matter of policy what was spoken at that fundraiser in Florida this Spring that's now been released and that's now turned the campaign on it's head; as a matter of policy, this was a gaffe, not an error. This was not a misstatement, it was a blunt statement. There is a reason that they did not take back what Mr. Romney said on that tape. They are restating it now in a way that is less blunt, but it is actually their worldview and their policy. And that's why this tape has been like a nuclear bomb, not a dirty bomb in the Republicans' campaign for the presidency this year. Joining us now is Dan Rather. He is the anchor and managing editor on Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV. Mr. Rather, thank you for coming back and joining us again.
Dan Rather: Thank you for having me again.
RM: Let me ask your blunt reaction when you heard Mr. Romney's remarks at this fundraiser when they were publicized yesterday.
DR: My first reaction was, can't be true. The tape must be edited. Somebody must have played games with the ... he can't possibly have disparaged almost half of the population in the country with seven weeks to go in the election campaign. Alas, it turns out to be exactly what he said and when you have a dedicated Republican such as Bill Kristol, one of the real powers in the party describing this as quote arrogant and stupid unquote [See A Note on Romney’s Arrogant and Stupid Remarks by Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard, September 18, 2012]; that tells you a lot. This is a deep wound to Romney's chances. I think disastrous but I'm not prepared to say catastrophic yet. He's got to have, now, he's got to have 30 to 45 days playing errorless campaign politics and have a very good first debate in early October. Otherwise, I don't see how he can win.
RM: We have seen a rift on the right over this issue. My colleague Ed Schultz was covering this very, very well on the last hour; talking about how the Romney campaign didn't take it back, but they're obviously getting shy about these sentiments but there are elements on the right lead by talk radio and some sort of harder edged right-wing media people saying, You know what? This is what we believe. We ought to take this as an opportunity to articulate that that 47% of the country that does not pay income taxes, Mr. Romney articulated, they are freeloaders and we ought to be targeting ourselves to the country in a way that does not pay any attention to those people and instead talks to the creators and not the moochers.
DR: Absolutely true that with his core base, the solid base for Romney, they love this, and they also detest if not outright hate Obama. So they will go to the polls. The problem for candidate [Romney] is that the election is going to be won in about seven or eight swing states with independent and sometimes up and down voters, and I can't believe this appeals to them. One doesn't have to come out everyday and speak up for the hungry, the homeless, the helpless and those who think they've lost hope. But it's not in the American character to say in effect, to hell with them, they need to work harder. They're there only because of their own purposes. This is something, I can't find anything comparable in American presidential campaign history, at least for the 50 plus years I've been covering it, that's anywhere comparable to this. You know, Goldwater talked about extremism but he talked about it at the convention as the nominee, and it cost him a lot. McGovern had difficulty with his '72 campaign with the Democrats when Eagleton acknowledged he'd had psychotherapy. But nothing I've covered, in comparison to this' everything else pales by comparison. Now, having said that, the next six to seven days I think are absolutely critical for Romney. Either he can steady his operation; either he can get some momentum going forward on his core issues, which are jobs and the economy. Either he does it in the next six or seven days; it gives him a chance for say the following 29 or 30 days, including that first debate, or he doesn't and it will be very interesting to see how it goes.
RM: I think that the sleeper issue in these tapes, and I think it's interesting chronologically that we had the Libya and Egypt gaffe by this candidate right before this happened, but I think the sleeper issue is foreign policy and national security stuff. To have made comments that blunt and reckless about the Palestinian-Israeli peace process; to have come out while the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was still being attacked and attacking that Embassy himself politically, and to have displayed, nobody has been talking about this at all today, but to have displayed I think basic ignorance about nuclear national security in terms of conflating a nuclear bomb and a dirty bomb today in the context of Iran, I feel like that stuff ... Stop and take a breadth. That stuff makes me hyperventilate a little bit about this campaign in a way that is not about the way these guys are competing but its just about how close this man is to the presidency with some real, real serious weaknesses on national security.
DR: Well, you can bet that a lot of people are asking themselves that question. It's less the specifics of his foreign policy, Palestinians, Libya, or whatever. It is, is he really ready for the presidency? He already suffered, rightly or wrongly, of an image of being brittle, awkward, inauthentic, not quite ready to be president. Now when he makes these gaffes one after the other, reminiscent of what Casey Stengel said about the Mets in the 1960s, Can anybody here play this game? Many Republicans are asking themselves now about the Romney campaign. Is there anybody there that can really run this game? But I think it's the accumulate affect of these things saying, Well, I was prepared to consider Romney, but you know, he just doesn't strike me as leadership material. It goes back to that, I think we said on this program before, it's less what he says about is specific policy than it is how he makes people feel. And I think what he's shown in the last couple of weeks, sort of beginning just before the Republican convention, is he makes people feel a little uneasy when they try to imagine him as president.
RM: In terms of the actual tax related statement that's got him into so much trouble, the reason that a lot of people don’t' pay federal income taxes in this country is because mostly of deductions and exemptions that we put in the tax code because mostly that has been a preferred Republican way of legislating social policy; to reward work and reward child bearing and reward education. Democrats have done it too, but it really was very much championed by Republicans over this time. Are we actually seeing an ideological shift in the Republican Party around taxation? Their basic ideas about the legitimacy of taxing people at all that's allowing them to essentially criticize the results of all of their own policy making that created deductions for people in the military, people getting college educations, people having kids and all that stuff that made possible this 47%?
DR: Yes, yes. Short answer is yes. You've had this ideological change within the party, especially with those most active in the party, coming for some time. It's now come full. The Obama is out with a new television ad today, which basically says, get this clear people, candidate Romney wants to cut taxes for the wealthy, increase taxes for the middle class and those below. Now the Romney people have their answer, but this a very effective argument giving what the candidate himself has said and what the party platform says.
RM: Yeah, and what the Republicans have done in the states where they have control which I think is overlooked in terms of making manifest Republican intentions here. This is just mind boggling. Dan Rather, it is so great to have you here; always, but particularly tonight. Thank you.
DR: Thank you very much.
RM: Dan Rather is the anchor and managing editor on Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV. Dan's latest program is called College on the Cheap and it airs tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Okay, so there may be a more elegant way to say this but (holds monocle up to eye), where are Mr. Romney's tax returns? Who's paying? Who's not? And why? Next. Ow. Do people really wear these?