The Corner

Mitt’s Gettysburg Moment

Mitt Romney found himself in an unexpected place last night — in the public eye. He ought to make the most of it.

Milk-Carton Mitt’s surprise turn upon the stage — did you know he was running for president? — came courtesy of the currently unemployed James Earl Carter IV, son of James Earl Carter III and grandson of the ineffable James Earl Carter, Jr., and a big fan of Barack Hussein Obama II, who found and relayed a surreptitiously recorded video in which Romney sounded remarkably like . . .  a real conservative. 

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. And more video’s on the way — be sure to read this story by David Corn for the full details. It’s going to get very, very ugly very, very quickly.

Already, both lefties and house cons like the New York Times’s David Brooks have their knickers in a twist. Here’s Brooks:

These are not the sensible arguments that Mitt Romney made at a fund-raiser earlier this year. Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. . . .”

Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.

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.

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. But let’s move on to some Brit or other:#more#

When was the last time a president fighting for re-election was handed such a gift? Remind me, someone: how did the GOP end up with this idiot as their candidate?

Hey, buddy — he’s our idiot, so don’t get this Irish-American started on your idiots, the House of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha, the family of Germans who’ve been ruling your country since Queen Victoria snuggled up with Prince Albert and produced Edward VII and, thanks to a family squabble among Georgie, Willie, and Nicky, drove your country right into World War I — a disaster from which it’s never recovered.

And, of course, the philo-moocher Kos Kidz are turning cartwheels. After criticizing Romney’s quickie presser last night, somebody named Kaili Joy Gray wrote:

It took the Romney campaign a whole lot of hours to come up with that non-response response. To be fair to Mitt, of course, it’s not like knowing exactly how to respond when Americans are under attack in Libya. That’s easy! Just blame President Obama. But when Mitt’s caught on tape being a dick, even for Mitt? Yeah, well, they’ll have to think about that one and then spout out some completely unrelated talking points about America and stuff.

Worst presidential campaign EVER.

What about those precious “moderates,” you ask?

You’ve heard about Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill”? Mitt Romney may have handed Barack Obama a presidential race on a glittering silver platter at a press conference.

Did Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney quickly called press conference aimed at stemming quick political bleeding from a leaked secret video of him talking to supporters at a fundraiser hand Barack Obama an issue on a silver platter? And is the issue potentially so bad for Romney’s already vulnerable image that the press conference did more harm than good? Perhaps fatal political harm?

And Josh Barro at Bloomberg says Romney’s lost the election.

Well, as Jonah has famously said, the hell with them. This is Mitt’s time, this is his moment. As at the Battle of Gettysburg, neither side was really looking for this fight at this time and in this place, but here it is. And that means going all in.

Sure, Mitt might have phrased things more elegantly — and certainly would have had he known there was a rat in the audience. (Every candidate — hell, everybody — simply must assume henceforth that their every word and email, thanks to technology and the Bush administration’s overwrought defensive reaction to 9/11, is being monitored, taped and weaponized, if need be.)

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. Why having no skin in the game while at the same time demanding a say in the proceedings at the federal level is fundamentally undemocratic. One need not embrace the Starship Troopers ethos of Robert A. Heinlein to understand that in a democracy, everyone should pay something — and that to confuse the issue of the (Progressive-era) 16th-amendment-sanctioned federal income taxes with Social Security (“payroll”) levies and state and local taxes is intellectually dishonest. 

And then put a tax plan on the table that blows everybody away — a top-to-bottom rethink that asks something of everybody, but rewards the labor of all, and eliminates the built-in bias toward class warfare that Democrats have long counted on and continue to exploit. 

When Lee — on his way to Harrisburg or even Philadelphia — collided with Union troops while searching for shoes, he precipitated the biggest battle of the Civil War. It was not a battle he sought, but once started it was a battle he had to win. And he lost. Similarly, Meade — fresh to his command of the Army of the Potomac — was taken by surprise, but organized a skillful defense in the face of the Confederate onslaught and emerged victorious. For three days, the fate of the nation hung in the balance.

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.

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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