WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Mitt Romney tells donors in a newly released video clip that Palestinians “have no interest” in peace with Israel.
The remarks are contained in a video clip posted Tuesday on the website of the magazine Mother Jones. The editors say the video is from a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 17.
In the latest clip, Romney is asked about the “Palestinian problem.” He gives a rambling response, then says “the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace,” and “the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
In another portion of the video released Monday, Romney is shown telling wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans are dependent on government and that his role “is not to worry about those people.”
Not long after the video surfaced Monday, a tired-looking Romney held a hastily called late-night news conference and conceded his “off the cuff” remarks were not “elegantly stated.” He had fundraising events planned Tuesday but no public appearances.
President Barack Obama’s campaign quickly seized on the video, obtained by Mother Jones magazine and made public on a day that Romney’s campaign said it needed a change in campaign strategy to gain momentum in the still-close race.
The former Massachusetts governor is now seeing Obama opening a lead in the polls. He’s now fighting off criticism from powerful Republican voices blaming Romney for missing opportunities at the party’s recent national convention, on Middle East unrest and, most crucially, on the US economy, which is seen as the president’s weakest point.
Obama’s campaign called the video, taken in May at a gathering of wealthy donors in Florida, “shocking.”
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
In the video, Romney says, “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.”
Romney added that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax and said his role “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
About 46 percent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2011, although many of them paid other forms of taxes. Many were too poor or in the military. More than 16 million elderly Americans avoid federal income taxes solely because of tax breaks that apply only to the elderly, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
In the seven-minute news conference late Monday, Romney did not dispute the authenticity of the video, but he called for its full release, not just the clips posted online. He sought to clarify his remarks but did not apologize.
“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I’m sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” Romney said. “Of course I want to help all Americans. All Americans have a bright and prosperous future.”
He continued: “It’s a message which I am going to carry and continue to carry, which is that the president’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes, because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them. Therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those in the middle.”
The private remarks are the latest comments from the multimillionaire businessman whom Democrats have criticized as out of touch. During the primary campaign for the Republican nomination, Romney insisted that he was “not concerned” about the very poor and said that his wife drove a “couple of Cadillacs.”
Looking to change the subject, Romney’s campaign rolled out a television ad Tuesday featuring a mother and infant, aimed at cutting into Obama’s advantage with female voters.
Voters say they believe Obama has a better understanding of their problems and concerns than Romney does. A CBS/New York Times poll showed 60 percent of likely voters said Obama understands the needs and problems of people like them, while 37 percent said he did not. For Romney, the same question found that 46 percent felt he did understand people’s needs, while 48 percent said he didn’t.