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Mitt Romney: The Accidentally Insulting Tourist

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Mitt Romney seems to have told a room full of donors in Jerusalem that they're culturally superior to Palestinians, and the evidence is that Palestinians are poor. This sounds kind of icky, but there are at least four reasons why it isn't as bad as you think:

1) Mitt Romney's not a racist. You're thinking of his religion, and its issues with black people being the children of Cain. This is ancient history, and was resolved in 1978.

2) Stuart Stevens from the Romney campaign has reviewed the remarks and says they're not as bad as they sound:

"This was not in any way an attempt to slight the Palestinians. And everyone knows that."

And we can all agree that once a campaign says the candidate didn't mean what he seems to have said, you let it drop. Like Obama and "you didn't build that."

3) Yes, Mitt Romney says Palestinians have an inferior culture, but that's just one of those things he says. He just means they're poor. He's said the same thing about Mexicans for years. So what's the big deal?

4) OK, the Mexicans thing sounds kind of creepy now, but that's OK too, because Mitt also means homosexuals who want to get married.

Here's what Mitt said in Jerusalem:

"I was thinking this morning as I prepared to come into this room of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about differences between countries."

This is basic Toast Masters. As a rule, when someone starts by saying they were thinking something "that morning" or "on the way here," prepare for a speech they've given 5000 times.

And as you come here and you see the GDP per capita for instance in Israel which is about 21,000 dollars and you compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority which is more like 10,000 dollars per capita you notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality.

Per capita GDP in Israel is $31,000. In areas managed by the Palestinians it's $1,500. No one knows where Mitt got his numbers.

"And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. "

Mitt's defenders point to this line to prove that Mitt didn't mean anything personal about the Palestinians. And they're right. He's also puzzled by Mexicans, and their stubborn insistence on living in poverty, too.

"I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is... blah, blah, blah... "

And, yes, in absolute fairness, we've entered a speech Mitt Romney has been giving everywhere for years. I'm going to skip a chunk, but you can look it up, since 1996 at least, in variations, from the University of Chicago to the backyard of the guy who runs Papa John's Pizza.

... But then there was a book written by a former Harvard professor named The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. And in this book Dr. Landes describes differences that have existed -- particularly among the great civilizations that grew and why they grew and why they became great and those that declined and why they declined. And after about 500 pages of this lifelong analysis -- this had been his study for his entire life -- and he's in his early 70s at this point, he says this, he says, if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it's this: Culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference.

This isn't the kind of thing most Americans brighter than a Palin say in the Holy Land, but that doesn't change the meaning of the words; it just changes the way they were heard. When Mitt Romney talks about culture, he doesn't mean religion. He means the force that explains why some people have money (and deserve it) and other people don't. He's not talking about Arabs and Jews. He couldn't care less. He's on autopilot. But that's not what his audience is hearing.

He's talking in terms of income brackets; they're hearing in terms of tribes.

Some of Mitt's deliberate ignorance about the Middle East is religious, of course. His religion has -- oh, let's call them "nontraditional" -- theories about the Lost Tribe and how it moved to America and fought the Mohicans. But mostly Mitt Romney worships success, so when he's talking about "culture" he means money.

About David Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Mary McCarthy once made a list of the worst bores at bad parties and one of them was the Person who Could Drag Every Conversation Back to the Book They Were Reading. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is Mitt Romney's bore book.

Mitt Romney has been thinking about The Wealth and Poverty of Nations on the way over to speaking engagements for the last 14 years.

Mitt Romney generally uses The Wealth and Poverty of Nations to explain why America is the best darn country on earth: We're rich because we're good. (And it's not just dopes who think so. It was also in a thick book by a real longhair.) Mitt also uses it as a warning about what happens if we stop being good.

He uses it for everything but cleaning windows.

For example, here's Mitt Romney at the Values Voters Summit in 2006:

The culture of America is under attack... There was a book written some years ago by a fellow named David Landis; he's a Harvard professor. The book was given to me. It's called The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. The jacket cover included an endorsement by John Kenneth Galbraith. I said, oh boy, this is going to be some liberal diatribe. I read through it and found it pretty scholarly. And after about 500 pages, he concludes with roughly these words: If anything can be learned from the history of economic development in the world, it is this: Culture makes all the difference.

I'm going to skip another chunk, but apparently The Wealth and Poverty of Nations applies to the Bible, the family, Rick Warren, the Supreme Court, gay children's books and Las Vegas. Then Mitt brings it home:

We desperately need to have a federal marriage amendment... Marriage is the status... Marriage in one state affects all of the states and therefore we have to have a federal standard that says marriage in this country is a relationship between one man and one woman. (applause) Let me just underscore something I said that came from David Landes: Culture makes all the difference.

Civil rights for gay and lesbian people, the Balfour Declaration, it's all the same crap to Mitt Romney. I was thinking on the way over how one size fits all when you barely care.

Paris Hilton once said, sometimes "that's hot" means "that's hot," sometimes "that's hot" means "that's not hot" and sometimes "that's hot" means "I'm not listening to you." When Mitt Romney says "David Landes" and "culture" he doesn't mean anything that should offend anyone.

He means "Give me the check. I'm late for my plane."

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