“Mitt Romney just blew it,” a commentator hooted in a post on The Standard, a left-leaning New Zealand blog. The Republican contender, he explained, had lost the election by telling Americans he didn't care about 47 per cent of them.
Maybe, but Mr Romney reasoned that those 47 per cent weren't going to vote for him anyway. More important, he wasn't intending his remarks to be widely publicised, although this suggests extraordinary naivete in an age when anything anybody says can suddenly go viral on the internet, let alone the crass observations of a US presidential aspirant.
Mr Romney made his remarks to a supposedly private $US 50,000-a-seat fundraising dinner, giving insights into his thinking - for example - on foreign policy. The Palestinian people didn't want a peaceful settlement with Israelis and the pursuit of a peace settlement would ultimately be feckless, he said.
Previously he had declared that "culture" made Israelis more successful that Palestinians.
Dismissive comments about almost half the American people are a different matter. Mr Romney said 47 per cent of Americans didn't pay taxes and believed they were entitled to extensive government support. "My job is not to worry about those people," he said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
A presidential aide has turned the remark to Barack Obama's advantage. When you're president of the United States, he said, “you are president of all the people, not just the people who voted for you".
That's great advice, not only for American presidents but also for New Zealand prime ministers. Mr Romney seems to recognise it was good advice, because he hastened to excuse himself for not presenting what he had said in a more elegant fashion.
His advisers, presumably, persuaded him it was a gaffe to dismiss half the nation as parasites, adding to a list of gaffes that includes insulting the British just before the Olympic Games. But is that bad? A “gaffe” has been described as a "truth told by accident". If it's an honest politician we want, the gaffe-prone ones become attractive, although four years of gaffes - the term of the US presidency - is a daunting prospect.
- © Fairfax NZ News