In which Mitt Romney complains about all those people who don't pay income taxes and who "believe the 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's an entitlement." Via Mother Jones, a secretly recorded tape of the Republican presidential nominee talking to big dollar donors at a fundraiser in May:
Does Mitt Romney actually believe all this? I have no idea, but you can be sure he thinks the gathered GOP rainmakers do. When he told Mormon bishops that he was going to run for Senate in Massachusetts as a pro-choice candidate, he did so in a presentation based on polling data. At the fundraiser in question, Romney explained that he had crafted his anti-Obama message after copious focus group research. This is a guy who has basically made a living out of figuring out what people want to hear and telling them exactly that. Which means that this probably tells us at least as much about the donors as it does about Romney.
And what does it tell us about Romney? That he thinks he can talk differently to different groups of people without consequence, and that he's happy to play to the GOP's sense of self-entitlement. At the fundraiser, he goes after those who believe that "government has a responsibility to take care of them," the folks who think they're "entitled" to health care. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." But Romney doesn't plan to convince his own supporters of the same thing either. Romney's attacks on President Obama's Medicare cuts have practically run on repeat throughout the summer, and he's promised to defend and preserve the program. He's also promised to preserve and defend our hilariously bloated defense budget from scheduled cuts for which he blames Obama, despite his running mate's vote for the same cuts. In fact, Romney has promised to ramp up defense spending, just for the the hell of it. Romney isn't against government handouts at all. It's just that he's only in favor of the ones that Republicans like.
Update: It's worth noting in this space that according to Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, entitlements have grown faster under Republicans than under Democrats. "From a purely statistical standpoint," Eberstadt wrote in a book excerpt published by The Wall Street Journal, "the growth of entitlement spending over the past half-century has been distinctly greater under Republican administrations than Democratic ones. Between 1960 and 2010, the growth of entitlement spending was exponential, but in any given year, it was on the whole roughly 8% higher if the president happened to be a Republican rather than a Democrat."