James Poniewozik in TIME (unfortunately, behind a firewall) analyses the infamous Romney 47% video from a rather unique perspective: that of the hardworking staff catering the event. He argues that the video itself creates a near-perfect tableau of the yawning chasm that exists between the 1% and the 99% in 21st Century America.
...the most fascinating thing about the Romney video is how it's literally framed. We're watching him from what looks like the polished surface of a serving table, the hidden camera surrounded by gleaming barware, a decanter of wine and a candle, tucked away behind the objects of service. We can hear him loud and clear, but we can see only the tiny blur of his head and the backs of his supping $50,000-a-plate guests.
We see and hear everything, in other words, from the furtive vantage point of the help.
With telling strokes, Poniewozik fleshes out his tableau:
As Romney bemoans the culture of dependency in the background, servers in the foreground rustle up ice cubes. As guests ask about the stock market's prospects and why Romney doesn't more aggressively assert pride in his success, white-gloved waiters refill drinks. As donors loudly applaud a secondhand Marco Rubio story about aspiring to wealth through hard work, a waitress quietly asks for clean martini glasses.The author concedes that all politicians at some point in their career are forced to schmooze behind closed doors with their wealthy donors, but for a man like Mr. Romney, whose sole human and moral value seems to be that of a bag with a dollar sign on it, getting caught doing so is doubly damaging.
And if you are Mitt Romney, with Mitt Romney's biography, résumé and bankroll, there are certain things you don't want to be filmed saying in a dining room full of toffs in a Boca Raton, Fla., mansion that looks like a location from Eyes Wide Shut (and whose owner reportedly threw a tabloid-notorious sex party at an estate in the Hamptons). The visual and class ironies couldn't have been better laid out by the set designer for The Remains of the Day. As guests and candidates discuss the intractability of the dependent classes, cutlery clinks, stemware tinkles, a cork pops. You half expect someone to hoist a champagne flute, adjust his monocle and declare, "A toast, gentlemen! To industry!"In other words, if you saw it in a movie, you might think it overdone.
Poniewozik concedes that he doesn't know how anyone on that catering staff feels about Romney or the Ayn Randian philosophy he was espousing. Perhaps, he admits, one or two of them even envision themselves someday sitting at that table while others wait on them.
But when Romney talks about the "entitled" 47% whom he could never persuade to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives," I'm thinking, So does a cater-waiter in south Florida, maybe with kids, earn enough to owe income tax after deductions? When a guest asks, "How are you going to do it, two months before the elections, convince everybody, You've got to take care of yourself?" I'm looking at the server grabbing barware and thinking, You think she's got a health-insurance package? Does it not feel the least bit awkward up there? Because it sure does back here with the wine glasses.Like a scene from a modern-day Downton Abbey or the TV show Revenge, this video provides the perfect illustration of class division in our nation today.
3:05 PM PT: Thanks everyone for the recommendations and the compliments. Much appreciated.
Several of those commenting did a far better job than I at really crystallizing the uneasy relationship that has existed between the elite and the "help" down through the ages - and how this incident brilliantly captures that relationship. Some of the comments are diary-worthy in and of themselves in fact!