As you may have heard, Mitt Romney said in Iowa today that “corporations are people.” Dems immediately pounced on Romney’s gaffe. In fairness, the full context shows that’s not what he meant, but it’s still an in­cred­ibly tone deaf thing to say.

Here’s the video being circulated by the Democratic National Committee:

Here’s the full exchange:

ROMNEY: We have to make sure that the promises we make — and Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare — are promises we can keep. And there are various ways of doing that. One is, we could raise taxes on people.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Corporations!

ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, they’re not!

ROMNEY: Of course they are. Everything corporations earn also goes to people.


ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: It goes into their pockets!

ROMNEY: Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets! Human beings, my friend. So number one, you can raise taxes. That’s not the approach that I would take.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom is already protesting the Dem attacks, arguing: “Do folks think corporations are buildings? They’re people who incorporate to conduct business. They create jobs and hire more people.”

And it’s true from the larger context that what Romney meant is that corporations are made up of people, and that when you tax corporations, you also end up taxing the people who comprise them. The merits of that argument aside, that isn’t the same as arguing that corporations as entities have the legal rights of people.

But, see, Romney does not accord the same fair hearing to Obama’s words that his spokesman is now demanding for his boss. Romney has repeatedly trafficked in one of the rankest of falsehoods out there: That Obama doesn’t believe in “American exceptionalism.” Romney’s book, “No Apology,” bolsters this case by quoting Obama this way: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” This conveniently omits the rest of Obama’s remarks, in which he went on to explicitly profess his belief that core American values are “exceptional” and that America has “a continued extraordinary role in leading the world.”

Separately, in recent days Romney’s camp has also expressed high dudgeon about an alleged Obama plot to attack his bio and identity, even though he himself has publicly insinuated in multiple ways that Obama is culturally suspect and unsettlingly alien and fundamentally isn’t one of us.

So if his campaign wants to protest that the Dem attacks on his latest gaffe aren’t really fair, they aren’t on terribly solid ground.

UPDATE: Also, as David Dayen notes, Romney’s larger substantive message about entitlements and taxes is far worse than his “gaffe.”