Oct 032012

The leek: a satirical take

By Horace Heller Hedley, IV

In a stunning counterpoint to the recent video where Mitt Romney describes 47 percent of Americans as irresponsible and feeling entitled to government handouts, a second video has emerged showing the candidate expressing very different views. The second video, recorded secretly at a gathering of low-income women at a community center in an undisclosed city, shows Romney expressing empathy for his low-income guests, even raising questions of economic justice.

This gathering, until now completely unknown to the media, contrasted sharply with the $50,000-a-plate fundraiser at the home of hedge fund manager Marc Leder, where the first video was taken. The setting for the newly-released video appears to be a church basement or similar venue, and guests can be seen serving themselves what appears to be casserole and sitting at folding tables covered with butcher paper.

Throughout much of the event,Romney offers friendly advice to the guests, many of whom seem eager to receive counsel from such a prominent business figure. When one young woman explains her difficulty paying rent on her waitress pay, Romney suggests that she start her own business. When the woman asks where she might get the start-up money, he suggests that she ask her parents for a loan. When she responds that her father died in a car accident and her mother is disabled and dependent upon her, Romney replies, “The opportunity is out there, if you want it enough. Just keeping knocking on doors, it will happen for you!” The woman then playfully asks Romney for a loan, and he chuckles, “That’s the spirit!” then takes the next question.

The most controversial moment in the video was an exchange between Mr. Romney and Ms. Gloria Smedley, who identifies herself as a single mother of two children. Mr. Romney listens patiently and with apparent empathy as she describes her situation:

“Governor Romney, every morning I’m up at 5:30, catch the bus, go into my job at the school cafeteria. Then at 3:00 in the afternoon I catch the bus home, make dinner for my girls and my mom, head out to my other job at the hospital, then come home, help with homework, and put the girls to bed. Now I’m not complaining, but I’ve got a bad back, and I’ve been getting a little short of breath, and I don’t have health insurance, so I’m afraid to get it checked out in case they find something. I’m not saying it’s easy. But here is what really bothers me. Working two jobs like I do, I still don’t make enough money to pay any Federal income tax! I feel like I’m just not taking personal responsibility for my life, not pitching in one nickel.  If I weren’t so exhausted and on pain medication, I couldn’t sleep at night!”

Romney seems touched, his voice soothing in reply.

“Now, Gloria, you need to understand…you do pay Federal tax. Not income tax, but the payroll tax that is deducted from your paychecks. So you might be paying about 11 percent of your income to the Federal government, and that is nearly the same percentage that I pay! So you do contribute, and every little bit helps!”

He continued, “Sometimes things are tough—they just don’t seem fair. Now get that shortness of breath checked out, Gloria.  If you lived in Massachusetts, you’d be covered, and no worries about pre-existing conditions. We took care of that.”

Reaction to Romney’s “Gloria moment” from conservative commentators was swift and merciless.

“Fellow Republicans, we have been duped,” fumed Rush Limbaugh.

“Hoodwinked. Conned. Played for chumps. He talks a good game in front of hedge fund managers. But just put him in a church basement, get a little tuna surprise and Jello in him, and suddenly he is running for pastor-in-chief. We see it all now. Mr. Taxachusetts health care mandate wants to create the ‘fair’ nanny state that rescues poor Gloria from her bad back.”

Since the release of the video, the Romney campaign has been on the defensive. After initially claiming the film was a hoax created by the Obama campaign, more recently the Romney team has been walking back their candidate’s statements. “The charge that Mr. Romney believes in economic justice is absurd,” said Stuart Stevens, top strategist for the Romney campaign. “He is deeply ashamed of the universal health care system that he created in Massachusetts. After all, have you ever heard him mention it on the campaign trail?”

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