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Ex-Bush aide David Frum: Romney must drop focus on 'the 47%'

September 19, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Mitt Romney speaks to reporters in Costa Mesa this week in response to his controversial remarks about the 47% of Americans who paid no federal income tax in 2011.
Mitt Romney speaks to reporters in Costa Mesa this week in response to his… (Charles Dharapak / AP Photo )

The furor over “the 47%” may go down as one of the defining moments of campaign 2012, with many conservatives — such as Rush Limbaugh, Erick Erickson and Mary Matalin — urging Mitt Romney to fully embrace his notion that the “taker” class is ruining America for the “maker” class.

Among more moderate Republicans, David Frum, a onetime speechwriter for President George W. Bush,is leading the campaign to have Romney reject the maker/taker construction and focus on less divisive themes.

Frum, who is now a Daily Beast essayist and CNN contributor, decried the GOP tactic of aiming “insults” at roughly half the population, with Matalin even depicting those who don’t pay federal income taxes as “parasites.”

“If you don’t run to be president of all the country you won't be president of any of it,” Frum said in an appearance with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday afternoon.

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Frum has been railing against the Romney remarks since they were revealed Monday afternoon in an online video released by the liberal magazine Mother Jones. Romney told high-rollers in Florida in May that the 47% of Americans who don't pay federal income tax consider themselves "victims," depend on the government and are “unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.”

“In the middle of the worst recession, jobs and economy, since the 1930s,” Frum said, “to offer people who are out of work insults … that is a destructive way to think.”

“Let’s remember if the 47% are the people who don’t pay income tax, a lot of those people are Republicans,” Frum continued. “A fifth of them are retirees, one of the strongest Republican constituencies in the country, and they don’t pay income tax because Social Security is not taxed. They paid income tax through their lives.”

Frum said Romney would be hurt by forcing Americans into two camps, based on whether they paid federal income taxes. “There are a lot of people on Wall Street who paid a lot of income tax who yet managed to do more damage to the finances of the United States, by bad financial decisions, than they will be able to repay, even if they make a billion dollars a year.”

Frum also vented his dismay on Twitter, saying he depended on government “to protect my property and uphold my contracts.” He asked: “I’m a maker and a taker too. You?”

That prompted a flurry of tweets from others, suggesting their use of government benefits shouldn’t relegate them to Romney’s category of willing victims who declined to take responsibility for themselves.

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“My dad worked hard for 52 years , 6:00am to 6:00pm+, 5-6 days a week,” read one, “he took [Social Security] for 2yrs. Was he a Parasite? #47percent.”

Another: “Husband deployed in war zone (5x's n 10 yrs). No taxes. Guess we're in the Taker category. Who knew.”

Another: “My father went on unemployment after losing his job of 19 years. It helped him pay the bills while he looked for work.”

Frum argued that Romney is a strong candidate who has been dragged away from his strengths to satisfy doctrinaire conservatives.

“What has been happening over the last 48 hours,” Frum said on CNN, “is conservatives all over the country who launched this 53%-vs.-47% meme, who have taken such a radical point of view, reshaped Romney away from his own instincts into someone who can be their robot.”

He called the continued attacks on Americans who don’t pay income taxes “a terrible mistake."

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