Welcome to modern politics, where anything you say can and will be posted to YouTube.
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney learned that hard lesson firsthand on Monday when David Corn of Mother Jones magazine posted video footage of the Republican nominee speaking candidly at a fundraising event, unaware that he was being taped. The event took place at the home of Marc J. Leder, co-founder of Sun Capital Partners in Boca Raton, Fla. Attendees at the $50,000-a-plate fundraiser represented Romney's base to say the least, and surely the candidate felt safe enough to speak his mind.
But the fallout from Romney's comments shows precisely why so few politicians do speak their mind -- at least on camera. The most contentious comments in the video come when Romney seems to display utter contempt for almost half of the American population:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.... These are people who pay no income tax."
So far the identity of the person who shot the video remains a mystery, though some clues are beginning to emerge. The dimly lit footage of a relaxed Romney chatting up a roomful of well-dressed diners reveals little, and Mother Jones has not provided many additional specifics.
In an email message to IBTimes, Corn wrote that he could not say who shot the video "yet." His comment suggests that the identity of the covert videographer will eventually be made public, or it may simply mean that Corn himself doesn't know who it is.
According to New York magazine, the leaked video had already been posted before it was brought to the attention of Mother Jones by James Carter IV, the grandson of former President Carter. On his Twitter account, Carter describes himself as a "policy wonk, currently looking for work." Mother Jones credited him as a research assistant on the leaked-video story.
But as the Observer reported late Monday, a user with the YouTube handle "Anne Anonymous" originally posted the video footage. That same user -- or users -- first tweeted to Corn about the leaked footage on Aug. 28, and yet it wasn't until Monday that the video experts were reposted on YouTube under Mother Jones' account.
As news of the leaked video spread like wildfire late Monday, Romney threw together a quick press conference in Costa Mesa, Calif., where he urged voters not to judge the comments out of context. "By the way, whoever has released the snippets would, I would certainly appreciate if they'd release the whole tape so we could see all of it," he told reporters.
And yet, unless the reminder of the video involves Romney promising to buy American voters their own private yachts, the candidate may have a hard time recovering from blithely proclaiming that he'll never convince Obama voters to take "personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Still, Romney's comments should come as no surprise to anyone who has every accused him of being out of touch with middle-class Americans and the economic hardships it faces. As someone whose lived his entire life within the bubble of the now-maligned " one percent," Romney has formulated a predictable view of the world has he knows it. What the video brings to light, however, are the potentially career-damaging consequences of politicians being caught with their rhetoric down.
Such consequences have been an intrinsic fact of American politics since the Nixon administration -- now if only our 21st-century "Deep Throat" would step forward.