05 October 2012

Romney apologizes, sort of

After refusing to apologize for anything more than clumsy phrasing ever since his now-infamous candid remarks about "47%" of Americans were made public, and after weeks of hardcore Republicans cheering those same remarks and urging him to "double down" on them, Mitt Romney swallowed his pride and told an interviewer yesterday that his comments were "completely wrong." To an extent, it was an act of political courage, because the interview was on Fox News, where the viewership was most likely to be disappointed if not disgusted with any apology for sentiments resembling their own. But while he might deserve some credit for admitting error, it still should be asked what part of his remarks he actually considers completely wrong. Given his statement last night that he "care[s] about 100 percent," Romney seems specifically to be repudiating his earlier comment that his job was not to worry about the "47%." I had given him the benefit of the doubt about that, more so than some other commentators, because it seemed clear in context that he meant that as a candidate he could not bother worrying about winning over the intractable 47%. Now, however, Romney may mean to suggest that he isn't writing anyone off during the campaign. That's nice of him, I suppose, but we should note that he did not actually recant his description of the 47%, which was probably the most offensive part of his original statement. He did not renounce his belief that nearly half the population has an unjustified entitlement mentality and an actual aspiration to dependence upon government. He did not, at least in the sections of the interview I've seen quoted, contradict his assumption that he can never convince those people to accept personal responsibility for their lives. So until Romney elaborates further on what he feels was "completely wrong" about his unguarded comments, we're basically where we already were. His basic position is that his policies will benefit 100% of the population whether the 47% believes it (or likes it) or not. That summation isn't inconsistent with his private remarks to donors and it's not inconsistent with what he told Fox News last night. Nevertheless, Romney's latest remarks do seem consistent with a move toward the center that some observers of last Wednesday's debate noted. Of course, his fellow Republicans can always be depended upon to make Romney look like a centrist. Consider his response to this morning's report that the unemployment rate had fallen below 8%. While some GOP extremists (and corporate cranks) accused the White House of cooking the books to make the President look good -- regrettably, that idea probably shouldn't be rejected automatically -- Romney was content to be unimpressed with the numbers, as is his prerogative. We can all be unimpressed or dissatisfied with the slow movement back toward full employment without believing that Romney can do any better or even as well than Obama. It'll be interesting to see whether some intrepid reporter challenges Romney to endorse or repudiate the conspiracy theories of Rep. West, Jack Welch and others. That may not be fair, but it's his party, so we can make him cry if we want to.

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