- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The White House criticized Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday for saying in a secretly recorded video that 47 percent of Americans are “victims” who don’t pay taxes and depend on government.

“Setting aside what Gov. Romney thinks, I can tell you that the president certainly doesn’t think that men and women on Social Security are irresponsible or victims,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “He certainly doesn’t think that middle-class families are paying too little in taxes.”

In the video, recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, the GOP challenger said he wasn’t worried about persuading the 47 percent of Americans who automatically support the president, because many of them don’t pay income taxes and therefore wouldn’t be attracted to his agenda of tax cuts. Slightly more than 46 percent of the country doesn’t pay income taxes.

The White House characterized Mr. Romney’s comments as divisive, while defending similar unguarded remarks that Mr. Obama made on the campaign trail at a closed-door fundraiser in 2008.

“When you’re president of the United States, you’re president of all the people, not just the people who voted for you,” Mr. Carney said.

The Romney campaign said Mr. Obama is trying to distract voters from the weak economy.

“In the Obama economy, American families have suffered from chronic unemployment, increased poverty and falling incomes,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. “At every turn, as the economic pain Americans feel increases, the president has proposed failed policies that have led to more and more government, and greater and greater debt. Mitt Romney’s plan for a stronger middle class will create 12 million new jobs and move Americans off of government dependency and into greater prosperity.”

The president’s spokesman brushed aside reporters’ comparisons of Mr. Romney’s remarks to a secret recording of Mr. Obama in 2008 calling Pennsylvania voters “bitter” people who “cling to guns or religion” out of frustration with government policies.

“That happened four years ago and was discussed in abundance at the time,” Mr. Carney said. “He’s fighting for every American. That’s a fundamental fact about Barack Obama.”

Mr. Romney has defended the gist of his remarks and his tax-cutting agenda, while saying his comments in the video were not “elegantly stated.”

In 2008, while a reporter for Time magazine, Mr. Carney wrote that Mr. Obama’s words were “poorly chosen.” He said Tuesday he didn’t remember writing the column.

The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter told the Associated Press that he persuaded the source who secretly taped Mr. Romney at the fundraiser to release the full video to the media. James Carter IV said he tracked down the source in August via Twitter and persuaded the person to release the video to Mother Jones, a liberal online publication.