Mitt Romney made his ignominious trip abroad just a little worse the other day, appearing at an Israeli fundraiser where he argued Palestinians have a weaker economy because of its "culture." As part of a walk-back, Romney aides assured us he thinks Mexicans and Ecuadorians are inferior, too.
Yesterday, the Republican candidate was a little more forceful in his backpedaling, insisting that he "did not speak about the Palestinian culture" and doesn't "intend" to include this in his campaign's message. This was apparently intended to put the matter to rest, but there were a couple of problems. For one thing, the transcript of Romney's remarks in Jerusalem proved this new claim isn't true.
For another, the Republican base liked the original line, because they believes Palestinian culture really is disgraceful. By walking back his borderline-racist comments, Romney was cutting off his own defenders at the knees.
So, last night, feeling the need to further clean up his own mess, Romney once again returned to the subject, publishing a piece at National Review that doubled down on the original cultural argument that Romney falsely claimed he never made. The headline read, "Culture does matter."
The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality. [...]The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability. One only has to look at the contrast between East and West Germany, and between North and South Korea for the starkest demonstrations of the meaning of freedom and the absence of freedom.
I suppose this is a nice try, but (a) if "freedom" is responsible for strong economies, I'd love to hear Romney explain the gross domestic products of China and Saudi Arabia; and (b) he's responding to criticism by deliberately avoiding the underlying point. Yes, communism doesn't work, but the controversy erupted because he was talking about Palestinian poverty, driven by the restrictions imposed by Israeli officials -- a point the National Review piece ignores.
Regardless, I don't imagine the Romney campaign is pleased that the candidate's odd thoughts on anthropology have become an important topic of conversation.