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Susan Estrich
10 Feb 2016
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I used to joke that there was no hat that Michael Dukakis could have put on in a school or hospital that would have doomed his campaign the way that helmet did (with the strap fastened) at the tank factory. What was he doing at a tank factory? The short answer is that the defense hawks in the Democratic Party thought he looked weak on defense and needed to confront it by doing a defense event, where he ended up looking like a guy who didn't belong on a tank.

Presidential politics, for all the talk about handlers and fundraising and paid media, is painfully transparent. Even the ads that turn out to matter are often the ones that most people never see except on the news, which would include the famous daisy ad in 1964 (which was shown once) or even the anti-Kerry Swift Boat ads that got more attention than air play. And much of the time, the insight comes some other way. For instance, George Bush looking at his watch during his "public forum" debate with Bill Clinton.

With 50 days to go, a lot can still happen. Yada Yada. That's what we always say until it's over.

But if you had to guess, the "Romney tape" will, in retrospect, be the moment that defines a candidacy and a campaign because it reinforces precisely what everyone has long seen as Romney's fundamental weakness.

He's a rich, self-satisfied guy who just doesn't get it — meaning us.

He stands in a room full of rich people and it never occurs to him that someone out there — maybe the kid in the kitchen, or the woman who served his dinner, or the son or daughter or friend of one of the rich hosts — isn't a member of the club that Mitt has belonged to all his life. All he sees are the people who look just like him. Everyone else is invisible, or worse — irresponsible, lazy, the object of his contempt.

He doesn't get that some of the people who need a helping hand from the government aren't "victims," but seniors who built this country, or disabled vets who put their lives on the line, or students who need help to go to college, or children who otherwise won't get a hot meal in the day.

He thinks of these "others" as tax wastrels, unlike he and his friends who make their money not by working but by having money. And he doesn't even realize that the way he sees the world is not the way the world really is for most people.

In the days since "the video" came out, I've been asked a lot how his advisers could have been so stupid as to allow him to stand by his comments. There is an easy answer. The fish rots from the head.

Oh, I'm sure there was someone at the table, probably more than one, who told Romney that he should do just what he did: dismiss the phrasing, but stand by his comments. Maybe because they see the world the way he does. Maybe because saying no to power is always harder than saying yes. But I'm equally sure that there were others who told him just the opposite: stop the bleeding; apologize; take it on the chin; eat some crow and try to turn it into a one-day story. There isn't much new under the sun. In a campaign, at this stage, a lot of smart people are sitting around. There is rarely an option (much less an obvious one) that doesn't get put on the table. And then the guy (or gal) who is in charge decides. And in deciding, he reveals himself.

I remember once, back in the 1988 campaign, then Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen said something pretty stupid. I don't remember what it was, and neither did anyone else a few days later because of how he handled it. I don't make many mistakes, he said, but when I do, it's a doozy. End of story. Big guys have no trouble admitting mistakes.

Mitt Romney stood by his comments because he believes them. He made them because of who he is. And who he is isn't a person who can win a Presidential election.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



16 Comments | Post Comment
One should never apologize for what is fundamentally true. The fundamantal truth in Romney's statement is that there is a sizable parasitic section of the population out there [in which one would likely include public school teachers and retired public school teachers and public union members and retirees, but in which one would never count those seniors, veterans or the like who have by their past labors have actually earned their benefits ) who like ticks are feeding off the producers and who are content to be dependent upon hand outs, upon welfare, upon food stamps, upon means tested entitlements, upon you name it (whatever is free to them). These blood suckers play the system, have no wish to work, no interest in working and for so long as the benefits and entitlements come easy, thick and fast have no wish to leave the plantation that the welfare slavers of this Administration and the Democrat party keep them chained upon. They are all Democrats or at least to the extent they can get off their lazy a$$es to vote, vote Democrat. In short they are the tax eaters not the previous or present taxpayers. This is the percentage (probably nearer to 30 % than 47%) that effectively vote themselves a living at the expense of the productive. These are the leeches that have no interest in the future save to find the next hand out and no interest in a vibrant economy where jobs are available.

This recipient class along with the idiot class will never cast a vote based upon a need for fiscal responsibility or freedom to earn and keep what is earned and the class that will do its best to ensure the ultimate destruction of the economy, thereby eventually killing the goose thatpresently lays the golden egg.
Comment: #1
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:48 AM
Joe, I'm going to try to change your mind about one of your points. Not all public sector employees are leeches. These are out teacher, firefighters, and highway repairers. Our society does need them. And some of them are forced into these unions as a condition of employment. Take Wisconson for example. When Governor Walker gave union workers the choice to leave, over half of them walked away from the unions. You need to go after the politically connected union shadowbosses. They are the ones behind all the corruption. There is no reason to demonize an entire group of WORKING people because you have to understand they are being manipulated too.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:27 AM
Re: Chris McCoy
Fair enough Chris. However that while you may wish to change my mind I can say that there is no such need. You will no doubt observe that the word "likely" was used in order not to automatically demonize the entire membership of the groups identified. It is realized that there always a few kernels of wheat to be found amongst the chaff. I shall continue to hold "on balance of probability" at least for public school teachers, that the majority are and will remain a parasitic bunch and will for my part observe that those that are not atually parasitic seem to be very easily manipulated. I shall continue to hold that the public sector unions are indeed parasitic and are indeed one of the greatest "inside" threats to our Republic and to the economies of the individual States.

Back to Estrich. The canard that Romney is out of touch and uncaring as to those who need help was completely dispelled today by the fact that he donated over $4millions of his own money to charity last year on income that is seeing a second bite of taxation.

On the other hand Biden "the beneficial" Biden "the carer" (LOL!) managed a whopping $5,500.

As with all Democrats charity is to be applaued, required and freely given just so long as they do the giving via entitlement programs and what is given comes out of someone else's pocket.
Comment: #3
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:44 PM
Please explain how it isn't Obama who is out of touch with real America based on his upbringing and elitist education.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Oldtimer
Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:08 PM
Years from now historians will see the turning point of the campaign as the moment when the ambassador to Libya was tortured, raped and murdered by attackers with rocket-propelled grenades. He died alongside three others who were at the consul, and the President refused to meet for a security briefing; he went to Las Vegas instead. All across the Muslim world mobs attacked U.S. embassies and Obama said, "We've had a tough day."
Oh, by the way, Governor Romney mentioned in a speech that 47 percent of the population paid no income tax and that these people were unlikely to be influenced by an argument to lower the tax rate.
Osama Bin Laden is dead, and so is the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Cowboy Jay
Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:43 AM
Even though its fun to post in columns like this and read Joe calling the 47% likely parasites, its not a very good thing for a presidential candidate to say. The part about not representing the 47%, If thats the guys mindset thats scary. He can represent them in other ways by building a strong economy and restoring civil liberties. But I don't think he'll get the chance to try. Months ago it was ok to him to trail behind BO a little, but now it seems that its likely to stay that way. I think we're going to have to prepare for another 4 years of BO, and in 2016 the country will be so sick and tired of democrats and keysianism that there is no way they will be able to put Hilary in. Its not that we want an economic disaster, its that one is heading out way like a tornado. After the housing bubble burst, we propped up the economy with another bubble. Its more burnanke than anyone else, but BO is still letting this weasel use the economy as his playground to try to prove his tactics work. They don't.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:21 AM
The biggest thing that gets overlooked by both sides is that the "47%" (actually 46.4%) who do not pay federal income taxes are a target for obamabots because they are ... not ... paying ... their ... fair ... share. I don't have a problem with helping people out on a personal level. It's the government coercion of tax-payer funds to subsidize selected government approved groups of people. In a capitalist society, one can dream of becoming rich, work g hard at it and fail, and be able to try again. In a marxist/socialist/communist/progressive/democrat society large groups of people never get to try. The special interest, government approved groups are handed just enough to keep them from trying but not enough to break free. Their only recourse is to blame "the rich" for their problems. Calling all rich people greedy is calumny and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words.
Comment: #7
Posted by: David Henricks
Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:27 PM
Pay the poor buggers a living wage and they'll pay taxes, with glee. Easy to sit in your comfortable spot talking with such superiority about the working poor who experience hardships you can't fathom from your high perches. Come down now and again and talk to people who are on the bottom rungs of Maslow's hierarchy. So typical to lord it over the least among us while complaining about high prices and a bad economy. All rich people are greedy but no greedier than the poor. The only difference is the poor are needier economically, the rich are needier in spirit and humanity.
Comment: #8
Posted by: morgan
Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:16 PM
The greedy rich are the poor and the parasites among us, not the economically needy or those who won't work unless paid a living wage.
Comment: #9
Posted by: morgan
Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:38 PM
Ms. Estrich, maybe I'm getting old, but didn't I just read this Op-Ed last week? This piece is about the same Romney gaffe you wrote the last article about. Maybe next time you could really stretch your talents and write a difficult Op-Ed?

For example, write an article that explains why we should all vote FOR Obama. Note, this is not the same as a "Romney is a bad man, don't vote for him..." article. You've shown that you have some talents writing simple Romney = Evil articles. Next time write an Obama = Good tome. Don't forget to describe in detail how the last four years clearly backs up everything you set out in your thesis. Good luck with that...

Seriously, I don't expect you could publish that type of Op-Ed in anything other than a Fantasy magazine. But you should at least try to tell us why Obama is the proper candidate to vote FOR and why we should expect things to be better in four years if we bestow our vote upon him. I'd like to hear someone make a stab at a rational argument in this regard.

Until then, I'll vote against the proven failure and for someone who might succeed.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Old Navy
Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:07 AM
Ha! Old Navy I would be floored if the title of one of these liberal losers articles was "why Obama deserves a 2nd term". What really gets me is when Obama was on the campaign trail in 08 he said that it was wrong to burden our children and grandchildren with a mountain of debt they cannot hope to pay off, then goes around and racks up 6 trillion dollars of new debt. If he would have been honest and said "yeah I'm not going to reform spending, but rather spend a boatload of money", then we at least woulden't be able to call him a hypocrite.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:39 PM
Re: morgan
The "economically needy" always exist in any society but Obama keeps growing that number by keeping unemployment rate knowingly high. The solution is more private sector jobs, something Obama refuses to attack because it will cost him votes. It's so obvious it gives a stench.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Oldtimer
Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:53 AM
Re: morgan

"But the stark fact before us is that great numbers still remain unemployed.

A large proportion of these unemployed and their dependents have been forced on the relief rolls. The burden on the Federal Government has grown with great rapidity. We have here a human as well as an economic problem. When humane considerations are concerned, Americans give them precedence. The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre.

To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers.

The Federal Government must and shall quit this business of relief."

Spoken by the liberal fascist/statist FDR Jan 4 1935 Annual Message to Congress. Even he got it.

obama (as correctly stated by Buchanon and referencing FDR) is the drug dealer of welfare. Like any drug dealer he trying to create a permanent dependency.

If elected again he will succeed.

Comment: #13
Posted by: joseph wright
Mon Sep 24, 2012 9:39 AM
I just discover this little tidbit. He is something else Romney said from the same video
"Romney: Yeah, it's interestingŠthe former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we're issuing‹which they've been doing, the Fed's buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that's over, he said we're going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up. We're living in this borrowed fantasy world, where the government keeps on borrowing money. You know, we borrow this extra trillion a year, we wonder who's loaning us the trillion? The Chinese aren't loaning us anymore. The Russians aren't loaning it to us anymore. So who's giving us the trillion? And the answer is we're just making it up. The Federal Reserve is just taking it and saying, "Here, we're giving it.' It's just made up money, and this does not augur well for our economic future."
Holy crap! He has some brains. THIS is what we should be talking about!
Comment: #14
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:56 PM
Re: Old Navy

I hear the title for Estrich's next piece is " Obama's bumps in the road" like the murder of a US Ambassador, three other Americans and the burning of our Embassies and the one after that is "Just noise" you know existential threat posed to Israel and to the whole Middle Eastr by a nuclear Iran.
Comment: #15
Posted by: joseph wright
Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:56 PM
I was around when Dukakis ran for President and loss. It wasn't because of a stupid helmet! He was a flaming liberal!
Comment: #16
Posted by: Oldtimer
Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:16 AM
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