When England's William and Kate were surreptitiously photographed sunbathing in France, the nude pics of the princess were a tabloid sensation. But after millions of Internet hits, another au naturel celebrity hardly titillates in a world that has seen far more scandalous behavior.
More shocking for many were the naked opinions of Mitt Romney when he was secretly taped addressing a group of well-heeled supporters at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in tony Boca Raton, Fla. Long-touted by his detractors as an elitist, Romney confirmed his status in remarks that he thought were being heard only by folks just like him.
Before the dinner, Romney claimed that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes and that they “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” And he made it perfectly clear that his “job is not to worry about those people.”
So who are those people? One-half of Romney's non-taxpaying Americans simply do not earn enough to owe income taxes but they still pay payroll and state and local taxes. Of the other half, 44 percent are senior citizens and 30 percent are eligible for deductions for children and struggling families. This group includes wounded war veterans, those still in combat and students struggling to pay for an education.
The sheer nakedness of Romney's remarks jarred some conservatives. David Brooks of The New York Times called Romney's words “a country club fantasy.” Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard column was headlined “A Note on Romney's Arrogant and Stupid Remarks.” The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan called for an intervention, saying of the campaign, “It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues.”
Other conservatives doubled down on Romney's remarks and urged the candidate to do the same, following the advice of Redstate.com's Erick Erickson. Michael Walsh of National Review counseled tenacity, claiming, “Romney sounded remarkably like ... a real conservative.” Rush Limbaugh called the crisis a “golden opportunity” to talk about conservatism.
Either way, Romney has finally provided the specifics that so many have been demanding from him. There is now no doubt how he specifically feels about nearly one-half of Americans. And this knowledge is good for our democratic process, giving voters an informed choice between two very different candidates.
Who needs to know the specific tax loopholes and deductions he is going to close if elected? And who needs to see more than one or two years of his tax returns, even though his own father said that what “mattered in personal finance was how a man conducted himself over the long haul”?
Edward R. Murrow said, “Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.” Not so with Romney, who immediately doubled down on his remarks, apparently comfortable now that his true values have been stripped bare.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).