The Mother Jones piece about Mitt Romney speaking to a fundraiser of rich guys has rightly gotten a lot of play. I want to focus on one little segment. Romney says:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, 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 that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.
Now I'm sure that Romney would say that he's talking about the evils of the imagined socialism which Republicans somehow have convinced themselves that Obama stands for. They suppose that Democrats plot to have the Federal government try to provide for the needs of everyone, even freeloaders who are just too lazy to work, leading to our bankruptcy and ruin. To believe such an absurd fantasy is bad enough.
But look at what Romney said. Romney's argument is grounded in the idea that it is wrong for people to think they are entitled to these things. Romney implies that there are people who are not entitled to health care, to food, to housing. There are people who deserve to suffer from treatable diseases. There are people who deserve to go hungry. There are people who deserve to sleep in the rain tonight.
This suggestion is none other than disgusting.
No doubt Romney's supporters will surface and accuse people like me of twisting Romney's words, of engaging in the corrosive American political practice of gotcha-ism.
I will grant that the American left is prone to reading people's words too closely and raising the stakes of the implications of offhand comments too high. I have made the same complaint myself.
But that close parsing of language that lefties engage in does have an important virtue. Looking for signs of disrespect, of dismissal of civil liberties, of racism, and so forth teaches a certain rigor in thought. What have I implied in what I have said? Where do my ideas really lead? A person who cultivates the habits of mind that prevent them from accidentally saying that some of us deserve to go hungry has also learned to see what choices might send people to bed hungry. Conservatives tend to be very bad at that kind of examination of their ideas in general.
So here we see Romney insufficiently thoughtful to notice the repugnant implications of what he says. A man who would say this lacks the qualifications to command the attention of civilized people at all, much less to serve as President of the United States.