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Conservative reaction mixed to Romney 47 percent video

Conservative writers, pundits, thinkers, and strategists are coming down on both sides of the Mitt Romney video controversy -- critical or supportive.

David Brooks in the New York Times delivers outright criticism; The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol is critical of the statements but likens them to President Obama's "bitter" clings to guns and religion remarks.

According to the Tax Policy Institute, although 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income taxes, they do pay payroll taxes. And contrary to Mitt Romney's claims, those people are not living off the other 53 percent. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Related: Leaked video is the latest hit for Romney

Others like Erick Erickson strongly defend Romney; National Review's Jonah Goldberg is somewhere in between -- conceding Romney's wording is problematic and off base but that the general argument Romney was trying to make holds true. Some, like Michael Walsh at National Review, say Romney should "double down" and make the case in the national spotlight. 

Charles Dharapak / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane in Santa Ana, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, as he travels to Salt Lake City, Utah, for campaign events.

Here's a wrap:


David Brooks, The New York Times.

Headline: “Thurston Howell Romney.”

“This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn't know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? It suggests that Romney doesn't know much about the culture of America. … The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. … 

“The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view - from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There's no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn't have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own. … 

“[A]s a description of America today, Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy. It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney. Personally, I think he's a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not - some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.”

Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard.

Headline: “A Note on Romney’s Arrogant and Stupid Remarks.”

“It's worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well "believe they are entitled to heath care," a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they're not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.

“It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn't blind us to the fact that Romney's comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant. Indeed: Has there been a presidential race in modern times featuring two candidates who have done so little over their lifetimes for our country, and who have so little substance to say about the future of our country?”

Another Weekly Standard post wraps some conservative criticism.

Headline: “Conservatives Agree: Romney's Wrong.”


Erick Erickson, Red State.com on Twitter:

“Seeing these undercover videos actually make me wish Romney would talk more about this issue on the trail.”

More Erickson, from Red State:

“Bluntly, the general rule for Team Romney should be to treat the press as an enemy collaborator with Barack Obama with exceptions only as appropriate. ... The Romney campaign should double down on what he said. They should own it. The trouble for the left and media (but I repeat myself) is that most Americans agree with Mitt Romney. Most Americans consider themselves part of the 53% and it is not a winning proposition for Barack Obama to convince Americans they are less than they think they are when most Americans already recognize he has made them less than they were. Team Romney should force this debate onto the national stage. They should not walk it back. The American people are with him.”

Jonah Goldberg, National Review.

Headline: "Quick Thoughts on Freeloaderdammerung"

“To read many of the reactions on Twitter, you’d think Mother Jones had just found video of Mitt Romney strangling a hooker with her own pantyhose.

“Indeed, many people understand what Romney is getting at here, even if he’s saying it badly. Some may even welcome a little spark and snark from a guy who so often seems so polished he has no rough edges. Lots of people, most importantly lots of independents, understand the basic and irrefutable point that there are too many people who feel entitled to consume a lot more tax dollars than they contribute. …

“Some people — even people who don’t pay income taxes — will just hear Romney being passionate about fixing this imbalance and vote for him because of it. What’s best for the country, and not just for them, will be foremost in their minds. No, I don’t think this video is good news for Romney. But if Romney showed a little more of the spirit he shows in this video, I’m not sure it wouldn’t help.” 

In another post this morning, Goldberg writes:

"In fairness to Romney, I do think he believes things. The problem is he doesn’t have an organic understanding for politics or conservatism  — I think I was the first to say a while back, he speaks conservatism as a second language. So when he tries to express his ideas he either sounds too detached or as if he’s parroting the idiom of a language he doesn’t fully understand.

"That’s the problem with what he says in that video. It’s not that everything he says is wrong, it’s just that it’s wrong enough to both hurt him and make it hard to defend what he’s saying. Ironically, I think if he were less articulate (like George W. Bush) or even spoke with a foreign accent, this would be more clear. But it is precisely because he is such a precise speaker that he gets himself in so much trouble. ... 

"No, I don’t think this is the end of the Romney campaign or that he’s doomed or any of the wishful thinking being passed off as sober analysis in the mainstream press. Many liberals hear Romney in the video and in their sympathetic condescension think the 47 percent will hear themselves being called 'moochers.' That’s not how people hear these things for the most part. But the clock is ticking. There are only so many days left until the election, and too often this campaign finds itself on defense or explaining what it 'really' means. There’s just not a lot more time for that sort of thing. 'Stay on course' doesn’t strike me as a winning strategy."

Michael Walsh, National Review.

Headline: “Mitt’s Gettysburg Moment.”

“He ought to own it. For sure, even Team Romney knows what’s coming next. The barrage of media criticism. The shrieks of ‘how dare you?’ The tsk-tsking of ostensible friendlies. The constant press corps demands for clarification or, better yet, groveling abnegation. … It’s going to get very, very ugly very, very quickly. …

“But now he has a choice — to back away from the implication of his off-the-cuff remarks, and try to blame his sentiments on infelicity, or to embrace the stark dichotomy he laid out and go with it. This chance encounter should be the thing that forces Romney out of his crouch, away from his krack kadre of kampaign konsultants, and fleeing from his over-reliance on conventional wisdom and polls. What he ought to do is step up and embrace the basic division in our nation, including the fact that nearly half the country pays no income taxes. Acknowledge it — and then explain why, morally, this is not a good thing. …

“Will Romney rise to the occasion and fight? Or will he retreat? Only one path can lead to victory in November. The fate of his candidacy will hinge on the answer.”

And Walsh dismisses Brooks as having “faulty logic.”

“Already, both lefties and house cons like the New York Times’s David Brooks have their knickers in a twist. … There’s plenty to say about Brooks’ faulty logic, including his assertion that Romney’s comments somehow indicate that wicked Republicans want to rend the safety net and turn it into tying rope for their yachts.”

Laura Ingraham on FOX:

“The idea that you’re declaring, ‘Well, the race is over. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about people,’” Ingraham continued. “Meanwhile, you have a president whose policies have undermined the 47 percent. …  I’m very pumped up about this. I think it’s ridiculous that people are seizing on it and that we’re even giving all that much airtime to it, frankly.”

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) on FOX:

"Mitt Romney probably could have better explained himself. I think he was a little clumsy in doing this. …

"I think that when you look at us moving toward economic dependence instead of economic freedom ... the fact we had [a] 46 percent increase in food stamp recipients, more Americans in poverty over the last three and a half years thanks to the Obama administration, the unemployment that is probably actually closer to 14.7 percent with the computation. …

"I think most of us are still focused on what is happening overseas, the fact that our embassies are being attacked and people are chanting, 'Death to America.' "

Republican strategist Rick Davis (formerly McCain’s 2008 campaign manager) on CBS This Morning:

"Obviously it's a bad day for the Romney campaign. What he does with it is going to be very critical…. "This is a character building moment," Davis said. "It may be a fresh opportunity for Mitt Romney to try and connect with voters. This is an opportunity that he can try and do better. Now he is going to have to take a step back a little bit and say the reason I have these views about my economic plan is because of who I am. He's going to have to double up that message a little bit.”

Yesterday, before the tapes came out, here was Bill Kristol:

“Early Friday morning, September 14, a movie-loving and Romney-supporting friend emailed: ‘I'm starting to panic. Tell me not to.’ I sent back the obvious response, citing the great Aladdin: ‘Abu, this is no time to panic. . . . Start panicking!’ … So if it's time to panic, it's time to panic about the prospect of four more years of Barack Obama as president.”