Commentator Michael Kinsley (somewhat left of center – see, I give the devil his due) tells us that a”gaffe”is when a politician accidentally tells the truth.
From various news sources, including the Associated Press and London newspapers:
Mitt Romney outraged Palestinians on Monday, telling Jewish donors that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians.
Romney’s latest “trouble” (?) stemmed from a speech he gave to Jewish donors in which he suggested that their culture was part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.
Romney said some economic histories have theorized that “culture makes all the difference.”
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.” He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
Palestinian reaction was swift and pointed.
“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
A few observations:
Romney is dead right about “culture making all the difference.” Culture is a system of values. It is not art, music, and literature, although those are products of culture, and have a way of accurately reflecting it. Simply put, culture is an attitude about how to live. Romney could not have picked a better example than Jewish culture. For centuries — nay, nearly two millennia — Jews were oppressed in their Diaspora. Yet they maintained their values system and survived, and in some cases even thrived, despite constant oppression and occasional pogroms. When the bonds of oppression were removed by broader cultures that valued individual liberty, the Jewish culture enabled its adherents to explode with creativity, industry, and individual success far out of proportion to their numbers. The help that Jews received from government was mostly to be left alone – so they could realize their potential. The Muslim-Arab culture, on the other hand, may have once had great potential, but became submerged in a miasma of superstition and suspicion. Whatever the Middle East may have once been, by the time the Jews arrived in the late 19th and 20th Centuries — as legal immigrants –that part of the world was a wasteland. The Israelis made it a garden. Much of the work they did was done before they had a government of their own As Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post points out the Palestinians are “a would-be nation with culture of repression, a culture of corruption and a culture of terrorism — a place where a majority say suicide bombing is fine, Osama bin Laden was great, corruption is rampant, free speech is non-existent, and voters cast their ballots for a terrorist government in Gaza.” I might add that another part of their culture is that they regard women as only slightly better than their dogs and camels.
Palestinian leaders — echoed by left wingers here — call Romney’s observation “racism”? Well why not? Today in our society, an accusation of racism is only slightly less worse than one of pedophilia. Utter crap. I don’t usually indulge in scatological language, but it is necessary here. Racism is judging a person solely by his genetic immutable physical characteristics, not his behavior or value systems. One can be born into a culture, but one can also reject it, and should, particularly if it is pathological. Cultures stand on their merits to be judged and accepted or shunned and rejected. A person’s “race” does not dictate what values he accepts or rejects. As Ayn Rand once observed “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” It means, “in practice that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the character and actions of a collective of ancestors.” Racism is nothing more or less than tribalism, befitting only savages.
As far as offending those Palestinian leaders. I don’t think it’s possible for the United States to get on their good side — and why should we?