Full Text Campaign Buzz September 19, 2012: Mitt Romney’s 47 Percent Victim Voters Speech at May Private Fundraiser — Mother Jones Video Transcript





Romney’s Speech From Mother Jones Video

Source: NYT, 9-19-12

Following is the transcript of a video recorded during a private fund-raiser for Mitt Romney last May, published by Mother Jones magazine and transcribed by The New York Times.

MITT ROMNEY: The president’s foreign policy, in my opinion, is formed in part by a perception he has that his magnetism and his charm and his persuasiveness is so compelling, that he can sit down with people like Putin and Chavez and Ahmadinejad and they’ll find that we’re such wonderful people that they’ll go on with us. And they’ll stop doing bad things. It’s an extraordinarily naïve perception and it led to huge errors in North Korea, in Iraq, obviously in Iran, in Egypt, around the world.

My own view is that the centerpiece of American foreign policy has to be strength. Everything I do will be calculated to increasing America’s strength. When you stand by your allies, you increase your strength. When you attack your allies, you become weaker. When you stand by your principles, you get stronger. When you have a big military that’s bigger than anyone else’s, you’re stronger. When you have a strong economy, you build American strength. For me, everything is about strength and communicating to people what is and is not acceptable. It’s speaking softly but carrying a very, very, very big stick. And this president, instead, speaks loudly and carries a tiny stick. And that’s not the right course for foreign policy.

I saw Dr. Kissinger in New York …[Aside] You’re not eating!

CROWD MEMBER: I’m mesmerized.

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah … don’t spoil [unintelligible].

I saw Dr. Kissinger. I said to him, “How are we perceived around the world?” And he said, one word: “Weak.” We are weak. And that’s how this president is perceived, by our friends and unfortunately by our foes. And it’s no wonder that people like Kim Jong-un, the new leader of North Korea, announces a long-range missile test only a week after he said he wouldn’t. Because it’s like, what’s this president going to do about it? You know, if you can’t act, don’t threaten. Please?

CROWD MEMBER: Just to follow up on Iraq …

MR. ROMNEY: I just want to show you how it’s done, you take this in your fork [unintelligible].

CROWD MEMBER: [unintelligible] … the hostages, on his inauguration. … My question is really, how can you sort of duplicate that scenario?

MR. ROMNEY: I should ask you, how do I duplicate that scenario?

CROWD MEMBER: I think it had to do with the fact that the Iranians perceive that Reagan would do something to really get them out. In other words, he would have the strength, and that’s why I’m following on your thing about strength. That’s why I’m suggesting that something that you say over the next few months gets the Iranians to understand that their pursuit of a bomb is something that you would [unintelligible]. And I think that’s something that could possibly resonate very well with the American public.

MR. ROMNEY: I appreciate the idea.

One of the things that’s frustrating to me is that, on a typical day like this, where I do three or four events like this, the number of foreign policy questions I get are between zero and one. And the American people are not concentrated at all upon China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This president’s failure to put in place a status of forces agreement allowing ten to twenty thousand troops to stay in Iraq: unthinkable! And yet, in that election, in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we had hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean, that was the focus and so him solving that made all the difference in the world. I’m afraid today if you simply got Iran to agree to stand down, they’d go, “Hold on.” If something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.

CROWD MEMBER: Tonight’s your lucky night; more foreign policy. With the first time you were in Jerusalem, we appreciate you being there. How do you think that the Palestinian problem can be solved, and what are you going to do about it?

MR. ROMNEY: I’m torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I’ve had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now why do I say that?

Some might say, well, just let the Palestinians have the West Bank and have security, and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. I don’t have a map here to look up geography, but the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel, the center of Israel. It’s, what, the border would be seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank. Nine miles. The challenge is, the other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point or Jordan. And of course, the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, and what they did into Gaza. Which is the Iranians would want to bring missiles, that armament, into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel, of course, would have to say, “That can’t happen. We’ve got to keep Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank.” Well, that means that, who, the Israelis are going to patrol the border between Jordan, Syria and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, “No way. We’re an independent country. You can’t guard our border with other Arab nations.”

And then how about the airport. How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we going to allow military aircraft to come in? And weaponry to come in? And if not, who’s going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are going to say, “We’re not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what to land at our airport.”

These problems — they’re very hard to solve. And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes. Committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel. And these thorny issues. And I say, there’s just no way. So what you do is you move things along the best way you can, you hope for some degree of stability. But you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. We have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen and resolve it. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it imminently.

On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state — and I won’t mention which one it was — but this individual said to me, “You know, I think there’s a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections.” I said, “Really?” And, you know, his answer was yes. I think there’s some prospect. And I didn’t delve into it, but you know, I always keep open the idea. But I have to tell you, the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work. So the only answer is show strength, again. American strength, American resolve, and if the Palestinians someday reach a point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them, then it’s worth having the discussion. But until then it’s just wishful thinking.

CROWD MEMBER: Individuals in this room obviously are your supporters. I am very concerned about the average American who doesn’t know you. There is a terrible misconception and I spend numerous hours trying [unintelligible] to be your defender when you are such a deserving individual. You were saying years ago that “I called George Bush Sr., and he had helped me in my campaign in Massachusetts when I ran for Senate. I told him that there was a guy named Clinton who was [unintelligible] for the following reasons, and he laughed.” Right now, I’m very concerned. Women do not want to vote for you. Hispanics, the majority of them do not want to vote for you. College students don’t. After talking to them and explaining and rationalizing on a one-on-one basis, we are able to change their opinions, but at a mass level, what do you want us to do, this group here, as your emissaries, going out to convert these individuals to someone who’s obviously going to be such an incredible asset to this country. We want you. What do we do? Just tell us how we can help.

MR. ROMNEY: I have some good news for you. It’s not impossible. And the reason I say that is because, for instance, The New York Times had a poll last week, The New York Times and NBC, and I was leading by two points among women. Now the president came out and said: “This is an outrageous poll. They don’t know what they’re doing.” But, by the way, the polls at this stage make no difference at all. The point is, women are open to supporting me; they like the president personally, but they’re disappointed. They’re disappointed with the jobs that they’re seeing for their kids. They’re disappointed with their own economic standing right now. So we can capture women’s votes.

We’re having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, well, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.


[Crowd rumblings, unintelligible, and laughter]

MR. ROMNEY: We have some great Hispanic leaders in our party that will help communicate what our party stands for, and frankly, what I need you to do is raise millions of dollars because the president is going to have eight hundred, nine hundred million dollars. That’s by far the most important thing you can do, because you don’t have the capacity to speak to hundreds of thousands of people. I will be in those debates. There will be, I don’t know, a hundred and fifty million Americans watching. If I do well, it’ll help. If I don’t, it won’t help.

CROWD MEMBER: You will do so well. Your debates are incredible.


MR. ROMNEY: Thank you. But advertising makes a difference. The president will engage in a personal, character assassination campaign, and so we’ll have to fire back, one in defense and, number two, in offense. And that’ll take money. By the way, you’ll see the ads here. Florida will be one of those states that is the key state, and so all of the money will get spent in 10 states and this is one of them. So the best thing I can ask you to do is, yeah, sure, talk to people and tell them that you know me and word of mouth makes a big difference, but you know, I’m not terribly well known by the American public because …

CROWD MEMBER: You’re known as a rich boy. They say he’s a rich man.

MR. ROMNEY: Don’t worry. Given all those negative things, the fact that I’m either tied or close to the president, and the fact that he’s out there talking about the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden being captured, unemployment coming down, unleashing his campaign, we’re still sort of tied? That’s very interesting. Please.

CROWD MEMBER: I would disagree with that. I think a lot of young children coming out of college feel they were let down by the president. They feel that there’s not a job out there for them, and they thought they were going to make sixty thousand and now they’re making thirty thousand. Very similar to the U6. My question to you is, why don’t you stick up for yourself? To me, you should be so proud that you’re wealthy. That’s what we all aspire to, we kill ourselves. We don’t work 9-to-5. We’re way … [unintelligible] five days a week. I raise four girls five days a week. Why not stick up for yourself and say why is it bad to aspire to be wealthy and successful? Why is it bad to kill yourself and why is it bad to cut thirty jobs at the death of three hundred? When there’s people cutting jobs … you saved companies that were failing. So my question is, when does that [unintelligible] … worked his way up to nothing to his present success.

MR. ROMNEY: You heard in my speech tonight … oh, you weren’t here. In every stump speech I give, I speak about the fact that people who bring and achieve enormous success do not make us poorer, they make us better off. And the Republican audience that I typically speak to applauds. I said that tonight, and the media is there and they write about it, they say that Mr. Romney defends success and America and dreamers and so forth. So they write about it. But in terms of what gets through to the American consciousness, I have heard a [unintelligible] lid full of that, as to what they write about. We will have three debates, we’ll have a chance to talk about that at the debates, there will be ads which attack me, I will fire back, in a way that describes the best way we can … I mean the theme of my speech is … I wind up talking about how the thing which I find most disappointing in this president is his attack of one America against another America, the division of America based on going after those who have been successful. And then I quote Marco Rubio in my speeches, I say Marco Rubio … I don’t think I said that at the fund-raising event earlier today, but I did when I was … I just said, Senator Rubio says that when he grew up here, poor, that they looked at people who had a lot of wealth and his parents never once said, we need some of what they have, they should give us something. Instead they said, if we work hard and go to school, someday we might be able to have the same thing.


I will continue to do that. How much of that gets picked up … there’s so many things that don’t get picked up in a campaign because people aren’t watching and, by the way, most people don’t watch during the summer. I say we’re going to go into a season here, starting in mid-June, where almost no one pays attention. Then, after Labor Day, in September and October, that’s when it’ll get [unintelligible]

CROWD MEMBER: Over the past three years, all everybody’s been told is, don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. How are you going to do it, with two months before the election, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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. That that’s an entitlement and government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49 … I mean, he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax; 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. He’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center, that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like.

When you ask those people … I find it amazing. We do all these polls and poll all these people to see where we stand in the polls. But 45 percent of the people will vote for the Republican, and 48 or 49 …

[There is missing video footage between the two clips.]

… about twice as much as China. Not 10 times as much, like this reporter said. And we have responsibility for the whole world. They’re only focused on one little area of the world — the South China Sea, the East China Sea. That’s it. And they’re building the military at a rapid rate. This idea that we’ve always spent so much money on the military. … It’s like, “Guys, don’t overthink how strong we are.” We have said, you probably know, this was a couple of years ago, but we had one of our aircraft carriers standing by Japan, and the Chinese pulled up behind us in a diesel sub, a super quiet diesel sub, pulled up behind us. We could have been torpedoed. We’re not that kind of … our Navy is smaller in number of ships in any time since 1917. And this president wants to shrink it. The list goes on. Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since ’47, when the Air Force was formed. And he wants to shrink it. If we go the way of Europe, which is spending 1 to 2 percent of its economy on the military, we will not be able to have freedom in the world.

CROWD MEMBER: When the electorate tunes in in September, the markets are going to be looking at marginal tax rates going up and another debt ceiling fight …


CROWD MEMBER: … but sequestration under the debt ceiling deal …

MR. ROMNEY: What do they call it, tax again? Isn’t that what they call it?

[Laughter] CROWD MEMBER: Now, the Obamacare praxis on dividends and capital gains, I mean … in the markets, you are going to be speaking very lively in October on all of those issues.

MR. ROMNEY: They’ll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I am going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president is going to win, the markets will not be terribly happy. It depends on, of course, which markets you are talking about and which types of commodities and so forth. But my own view is that if we win on Nov. 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see, without actually doing anything, we’ll actually get a boost to the economy. Um, if the president gets re-elected, I don’t know what’ll happen. I can never predict what the markets will do. Sometimes it does the exact opposite of what I would have expected. But my own view is that if we get the “tax again,” as they call it, Jan. 1st with this president and with a Congress that can’t work together … it really is frightening. It’s really frightening in my view.

CROWD MEMBER: Fifty-four percent of American voters think China’s economy is bigger than the U.S. When I first met you four or five years ago, you did a data call where you went very granular and you said, “Look guys,” this is a small group, he says, “This is it. This is what it is.” Tell us like it is. How are you going to win if 54 percent of the voters think China’s economy is bigger than ours? Or if it costs 4 cents to make a penny and we keep making pennies? Canada got it right a month ago. Why isn’t someone saying, “Stop making pennies, round it to the nearest nickel?” That’s an easy thing, you know, compared to Iran. I want to see you take the gloves off and talk to the people that read the paper and read the book and care about knowing the facts and knowledge is power, as opposed to people that are swayed by what sounds good at the moment. You know, if you turned it into, like, “Eat what you kill,” it’d be a landslide, in my humble opinion.

MR. ROMNEY: [Laughs] Well, I wrote a book that lays out my view for what has to happen in the country. And people who are fascinated by policy will read the book. We have a Web site that lays out white papers and a whole series of issues that I care about. I have to tell you, I don’t think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact. I think the debates will have a big impact. Um …

CROWD MEMBER: [Most of comment unintelligible] … Peterson … in trouble 20 years ago.

MR. ROMNEY: But that’s my point. Which is, being right, my dad used to say, “Being right early is not good in politics.” And, in a setting like this, a highly intellectual subject or a discussion of a whole series of important topics typically doesn’t win elections. And there are, there are … I mean, for instance, this president won because of hope and change. All right? He won because of hope and change.

CROWD MEMBER: Keep the change!

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, well …


MR. ROMNEY: So, I can tell you that I have a very good team of extraordinarily experienced, highly successful consultants, a couple of people in particular who’ve done races around the world. I didn’t realize these guys in the U.S., the Karl Rove equivalents, they do races all over the world — in Armenia and Africa and Israel. I mean, they work for Bibi Netanyahu in his race. So they do these races and they see which ads work and which processes work best. And we have ideas about what we do over the course of the campaign. I’d tell ’em to you, but I’d have to, you know, shoot you. Hopefully, we’ll be successful.


CROWD MEMBER: I think one of the aspects about the changes that worked well for Obama four years ago was he promised to bring us more honest, transparent government to Washington. I’ve been around politics for this campaign. I worked even with Barry Goldwater in 1964, so I’ve got the oldest Republican [unintelligible] … but from what I see, particularly in the last seven months in my own personal involvement in the issue, is the government in Washington right now is permeated by cronyism, outright corruption. … Our regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect the public are protecting the people that they’re supposed to be regulating. And I think people are fed up with that. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street. People see that the government is working for the powerful interests and the people who are well connected politically and not for the common person, which threatens that whole idea that we have this great opportunity, which we should have and have had historically in the West for anybody from whatever background to become successful. One way in which that becomes compromised is when the government is no longer seen as an honest agent and when our tax dollars are not really being put to work for us but for the people who are plugged in politically. You know, you have cases like [unclear], which I talk about and am involved in. You have Eric Holder, who is probably the most corrupt attorney general we’ve had ever in American history. And I think it’s something, that if spun the right way and in simple terms, can actually resonate with the American people. Obama did not keep his promises. Nancy Pelosi, who was supposed to give us an honest Congress, has given us just the opposite as speaker. And I think that’s a campaign issue that can work well. I’m optimistic that you’ll be elected president, and my recommendation would be to clean house immediately …



CROWD MEMBER: The S.E.C. and the C.F.T.C. are disaster areas..

MR. ROMNEY: I wish we weren’t unionized so we could go a lot deeper than you are actually allowed to go. [To waiter] Am I in the way here? I can say this, and I’m sure you’ll agree with this as well. We speak with voters across the country about their perceptions.  Those people I told you, the 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring to our side, they all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. And by the way, when you say to them, do you think Barack Obama is a failure, if they were women, they say no. They like him. But when you say, are you disappointed that his policies haven’t worked, they say yes. And because they voted for him, they don’t want to be told that they were wrong, that he’s a bad guy, that he does bad things, that he’s corrupt. Those people that we have to get, they want to believe that they did the right thing but he just wasn’t up to the task. They love the phrase that he’s over his head.  But you see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans.  We spend our days with people who agree with us.  And these people are people who voted for him and don’t agree with us.  And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them.  And the best success I have in speaking with those people is saying the president’s been a disappointment.  He told you he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent. It hasn’t been below 8 percent since. Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can’t get a job. Fifty percent.  Fifty percent of the kids in high school in our 15 largest cities won’t graduate from high school. What are they going to do?  These are the kinds of things that I can say to that audience that they nod their head and say, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” What he’s going to do, by the way, is try to vilify me as someone who’s been successful, or who’s closed businesses or laid people off, and isn’t he an evil, bad guy? And that may work. I actually think that right now people are saying, “I want someone who can make things better, that’s going to motivate me. Who can get jobs for my kids and get rising incomes?” And I hope to be able to be the one to poise that battle. Yeah, please.

CROWD MEMBER: I’ve seen Obama a lot of times he’s done talk shows, interviews.  I’ve never seen you on any of them, and I think a lot of women [unintelligible] … I think they would see you in a different light. I think a lot of women especially do not watch debates, do not come to these functions.  I think you have to show your face more on TV and talk like a regular … like a Smith.  I think you could maybe reach a lot of people.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, thank you.  I have been on “The View” twice now.


It went very well. I’ve done the evening shows. I’ve been on Letterman a couple of times, I’ve been on Leno more than a couple of times, and now Letterman hates me because I’ve been on Leno more than him. They’re very jealous of each other, as you know. And I was asked to go on “Saturday Night Live.” I did not do that, in part because you want to show that you’re fun and you’re a good person, but you also want to be presidential. And “Saturday Night Live” has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential. But “The View” is fine, although “The View” is high risk because of the five women on it, only one is conservative and four are sharp-tongued and not conservative, Whoopi Goldberg in particular.  Although the last time I was on the show, she said to me, “You know what? I think I could vote for you.”  And I said, “I must have done something really wrong.”


I’ve got to sit down and … Darlene, you get the last word.

DARLENE: I was just going to say, I think our media strategy would be sending Anne on “The View.” She is your best advocate, she connects so well, I mean, people talk so much about disconnect and someone said over there that people use the term “rich guy,” and we know that you …

MR. ROMNEY: You know I’m poor as a church mouse!

DARLENE: We know that you value [unintelligible] and hard work, but Anne really connects with women  and she can tell a story and she’s the perfect person who can go on Matt Lauer and go on Victoria … and go on “The View” and go on all of these people and really get the women connecting to you … and I think she’s a great …

MR. ROMNEY:  I think you’re right, I think you’re absolutely right.  We use Anne sparingly right now so that people don’t get tired of her or start attacking.

DARLENE: Who gets tired of Anne?


MR. ROMNEY: But you will see more of her in the September-October time frame and you know, we had, what is her name, Hilary Rosen, who attacked her and that made Anne much more visible to the American people which I think is very helpful. Gave her a platform she wouldn’t have had otherwise.  And I agree with you, I think she will be extraordinarily helpful.

DARLENE: Just the people who friended her on Facebook or whatever happened after the Hilary Rosen came out … that showed you the value of social networking and how important new media can be in this election cycle.  And I just think she can be … and I know she wants you to win.

MR. ROMNEY: She’s out there. She’s in Texas tonight, she was in Louisiana last night, she’s raising money in those places. She was at Ben Crenshaw’s house for dinner tonight, isn’t that something? So there are some benefits. One of the benefits I get is eating the world’s greatest dessert, which I will. Thank you.


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