“There are 47 percent who are with him,” Romney said of Obama, “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. These are people who pay no income tax.”
In response, New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks compared Romney to Thurston Howell III, the wealthy character from the television show “Gilligan’s Island” who embodied for many television viewers the behavior of elitist New Englanders.
Brooks wrote that Romney’s comments suggest he “doesn’t know much about the culture of America” and later that he “doesn’t know much about the political culture.”
“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,” Brooks added. “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.”
Brooks called Romney “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. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?”
Brooks was not alone in condemning Romney’s remarks. William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said it remains critical that Romney win the election, “But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Romney’s comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.”
Kristol was referring to comments Obama made in April 2008 when he said that certain voters “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy” to explain their frustrations.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he agreed that the former governor inartfully articulated his argument, but added that the Republican presidential candidate was broaching a subject worthy of further discussion.
“When I campaign, I campaign on four pillars: fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability and a strong national defense, and I talk about the need for the government to provide a safety net,” Chaffetz said. “But we should be encouraging training and other types of things to get people back on their feet so they don’t have to have this government dependency. That’s totally consistent with what Governor Romney has been advocating and campaigning on.”