Perhaps the single most important events of the 2012 election was the public release of a video showing Mitt Romney telling a group of wealthy donors that 47% of the country are lazy and dependent on the government and therefore would never vote for him because he can’t convince them to be responsible for their lives by voting for him. Romney seems to think he never said that:
[Romney] was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,’” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’… It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived—as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat. As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.”
For the record, here’s what he actually said:
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…”[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Was he lying? Maybe, but not necessarily. Many psych studies show that human memories can be highly inaccurate, usually in convenient ways that make our past actions seem better than they really were. Over time, that football game we lost in high school becomes the game we won — and only because we made an incredible play at the end. As Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson say in Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), memory “becomes our personal, live-in, self-justifying historian.” Or as Nietzsche put it:
“‘I have done that,’ says my memory. ‘I cannot have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually–memory yields.”
The bad news for Romney is that while his memory may be changed to protest his ego, the internet remembers all.