Mitt Romney — July 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Romney talks down to African Americans in address to NAACP, gets booed (UPDATED)


Dude, what the HELL were you thinking???

Mitt Romney stepped into the lion’s den today to address the annual NAACP conference in Houston, Texas this morning. Not surprisingly, he talked down to them, basically telling them they don’t understand him.

I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president.

What is that but Mitt telling them, “You dumb black people just don’t understand things”?

He then went on to talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act and got himself loudly booed.

Watch it:

ABC News reported it this way:

Romney told the country’s most visible black group that he would cut spending by cutting “nonessential programs,” and he said “that includes Obamacare.”

The boos rang out for several seconds and echoed in the expansive hall in Houston. Romney paused and tried to recover by citing a Chamber of Commerce study that said most people surveyed said the health law makes them less likely to hire people. He awkwardly continued to talk about Medicare and Social Security, and eventually earned minimal applause by talking about benefits for poor people.

But he was booed again as he derided Obama on energy, trade, the size of government, education and the economy. “The president will say he will do those things, but he will not, he cannot, and his record of the last four years proves it,” Romney said as the crowd jeered.

It was also awkward as Romney told the NAACP, “If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him.” Some people clapped and some seemed to object verbally. “You take a look,” he added.

Let’s have a look at what Romney’s policies and positions actually mean for the African American community.

The Recovery Act
Romney continues to malign the Recovery Act that, according to the Obama administration, kept millions of African Americans out of poverty.

Independent estimates by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities say that the President’s plan – along with extensions and expansions – kept 1.3 million African Americans above the poverty line in 2010.

Rescue of the domestic auto industry
You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to know that Romney’s approach to saving the US auto industry was to let them “go bankrupt”. That, according to the Economic Policy Institute, would have been catastrophic to African Americans. In a piece titled “African Americans are especially at risk in the auto crisis”, authors Robert E. Scott and Christian Dorsey said this:

The motor vehicle and parts industry, a sector of the economy that has been particularly welcoming to African Americans, is becoming a shrinking island of prosperity. The share of black workers (14.2%) in automotive industries is much higher than their overall share of the labor force (11.2%)…

The consequences of an auto industry collapse—which could eliminate up to 3.3 million U.S. jobs, as shown in the Briefing Paper When Giants Fall—would be nothing less than catastrophic for African Americans.

Elimination of the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits
Mitt Romney favors the elimination of the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits. According the Obama administration, this would have a major impact on African Americans.

[Mitt Romney would r]aise taxes on at least 2.2 million African American families, including half of all African American children, by rolling back expansions of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, while giving millionaires like himself a 25 percent tax cut.

Reduce African Americans’ access to affordable college educations
Romney supports the Paul Ryan budget plan that would back funding for Pell grants which make college affordable for poor Americans. This plan would reduce Pell grants by nearly $170 billion over the next ten years:

The plan proposed by Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Budget Committee, would chop away at Pell grant eligibility, thereby reducing total Pell grants by about $170 billion over the next decade; allow the interest rate for federally subsidized Stafford loans to double; end student loan interest subsidies for those still in school; and make Pell spending discretionary — instead of mandatory — allowing further cuts down the line. Pell grants, the largest source of federal financial aid, currently help more than 9 million students to afford college. Following last year’s budget standoffs, next year’s maximum Pell grant of $5,645 will cover just one-third of the average cost of college — the smallest share ever.

Nearly half of the African American college students in this country receive Pell grants.

Romney also promises to roll back the Obama administration’s reform of the federal student loan program, putting it back into the hands of private banks to skim off profit for themselves.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act
By promising to repeal “Obamacare”, which elicited the boos at the NAACP meeting, Romney would be disproportionately impact African Americans of whom roughly 7 million currently live without any health insurance.

It was a gutsy move on Romney’s part to go to this conference and talk down to the African American community in this way.

LOLGOP put it best:

Something tells me that Vice President Joe Biden will get a much warmer reception when he speaks there tomorrow.

Adding… Steven Benen at The Maddow Blog has an interesting take on Romney’s appearance before the NAACP today:

The wonk in me feels compelled to mention that Romney’s argument wasn’t even coherent on its face — he said he wants to kill the Affordable Care Act to reduce the deficit, which is absurd since killing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit.

But I think it’s probably safe to say that’s not why Romney was booed. In fact, this was entirely predictable — the far-right Republican presidential candidate spoke to the NAACP and effectively proclaimed, “Vote for me and I’ll make sure 7 million African Americans lose their health insurance.”

What kind of campaign pitch is that? For crying out loud, of course Romney got booed. At the risk of being overly cynical, I can’t help but wonder if Romney did this on purpose precisely so he would be booed.

If that’s true, it’s an unbelievably cynical dog whistle to Romney’s racist followers.

UPDATE: It is, apparently, as Benen suspected. This was just a photo-op for Mitt (H/T Jed Lewison at Daily Kos):

Another campaign adviser told BuzzFeed that Romney’s attendance at the convention wasn’t primarily intended to break off a portion of the black vote, but to make clear to moderates that he intends to be an inclusive president.

“I think it’s important to send a message that he’s going to be president of the entire United States,” said the adviser. “Everything can’t be boiled down to politics, even though we’re in the middle of a campaign.”

In other words, he just wanted to be able to say he tried to talk to “those people” but, gosh darn it all, they just wouldn’t listen. And look how disrespectful they were!

[Romney image credit: Anne C. Savage]