The world has had a glimpse into the inner workings of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s mind—thanks to his off-the-cuff, off-message views and a video secretly recorded during a $50,000 (Dh183,900) per head fund-raiser. By most people’s standards, the man who would be America’s commander-in-chief is far from being fit for the purpose. Yet, astonishingly, according to a new Associated Press-GFK poll, Obama and Romney are running almost neck-and-neck with just one percent of voters giving the incumbent the edge.
While pontificating to a group of his wealthy supporters, the real Romney was exposed lumping together almost half the US public—to be precise, the 47 per cent who currently back Barack Obama—as eternal victims, a bunch of losers going through life expecting state handouts in terms of welfare and free health care. Evidently, the word “compassion” does not feature in this multi-millionaire’s private lexicon. He cares not a jot for the 46 million Americans relying on food stamps for sustenance (one in every seven) or the 3.5 million annually forced to sleep in emergency shelters, cars or tent cities, many having lost jobs and homes as a result of a global economic downturn triggered by greedy, corrupt US bankers. His callous attitude towards an average of 2,175 of his compatriots (data from the advocacy group ‘Dying for Coverage’) who die each month due to their inability to pay health insurance is nothing short of despicable.
Romney’s disdain for the less fortunate became crystal clear during his recent visit to Israel to fatten his campaign coffers from the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu’s buddy Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino boss, and curry favour with the influential pro-Israel lobby. Holding court at a $25,000-a-head fund-raiser, he lauded Jewish culture as one of the main factors in Israel’s wealth, saying: “As you come here and you see the [GDP] per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.” This so-called financial whiz kid naturally did not bother to visit the West Bank or Gaza where his begging bowl would have remained empty and avoided offending potential Jewish benefactors with such dirty words as “occupation” or “blockade.”
His critics called him uninformed or stupid, but that is not necessarily the case. He is no intellectually-challenged George W. Bush or Sarah Palin. He received a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard and, later, as chief executive officer at Bain & Company, he saved the company from financial ruin before co-founding Bain Capital that became one of the largest investment firms in the country.
Born with an American version of a silver spoon—his father was the CEO of American Motors—he never cried himself to sleep from hunger or had to be taken into care like so many American children whose parents cannot afford to feed, house and clothe them. Privately educated from the seventh grade, where he brushed shoulders with privileged youth, he never had to mix with the struggling echelons of society and unlike self-made wealthy entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson who easily relate to people whose pockets are empty and do their bit to fill them, in Romney’s warped view, the poor are nothing more than leeches on a survival-of-the-fittest system, commonly known as the American Dream, that nurtures a dog-eat-dog mentality among those with high ambition.
Part of Bain Capital’s success rested in Romney’s acquisitions of profitable companies like Dade Behring and pushing them into bankruptcy while making massive profits for Bain. Some 1,000 employee layoffs later, Mitt and his fellows were laughing all the way to the bank.
Whenever I see Obama’s rival munching on a hamburger with rolled-up shirt sleeves, he reminds me of feudal English lords who stepped out of their palatial manors on high days and holidays to pat the peasants on the shoulder and often times nibbled at their simple fare before digging-in to a sumptuous banquet.
Certainly, this message engraved on America’s best known lady ‘Liberty,’ a message that rang out worldwide to the poor and oppressed, would become entirely obsolete in Romney’s corridors of power: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send those, the tempest-tost [sic] to me . . .” There are many among the right-wing, including Romney I suspect, who yearn either to enslave those “huddled masses” or throw them to the sea.
As US presidents go, Obama is no great shakes. He has not lived up to many of his pre-election pledges, but at least he has good intentions. Romney, on the other hand, may be poised and slick. Lightly tanned with a toothpaste ad smile, he looks presidential, but if he had a Dorian Grey-type portrait hidden away somewhere he could be exposed for the unfeeling individual he is.
He is ready to send the sons and daughters of the Great Unwashed to fight Israel’s wars with Iran, his prime target, and is inclined to leave the Israel-Palestine conflict, the root cause of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, simmering in perpetuity because “Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace” and “are committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.” That snippet which flies in the face of decades-long official US policy is what he told potential donors when he thought no one else was listening. It’s true that the majority of Americans do not lose much sleep over that issue but, nevertheless, it should set red lights flashing when his private sentiments directly contravene his statements crafted for public consumption.
Romney comes across as a double-faced, heartless, spoilt rich guy with possible messianic leanings who can’t be trusted. Each time he opens his mouth, his credibility shrinks. Hopefully, American voters are astute enough to take note and make the right choice on November 6. Our planet is already volatile. If Romney is permitted to play with matches it could go up in flames.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.