Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Romney better off as a Latino?

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
September 19, 2012 -- Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT)
Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's national convention on September 17 in Los Angeles
Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's national convention on September 17 in Los Angeles
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In remarks secretly taped, Mitt Romney said "jokingly" he'd have better chance if he were Latino
  • Ruben Navarrette says Romney's taped remarks reveal a blindness to his advantages
  • He says Romney hasn't had to struggle to overcome the odds that minorities face
  • Navarette: He criticizes people for feeling entitled but neglects his own sense of entitlement

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

(CNN) -- Sometimes a story comes along that is so utterly ridiculous that, as a commentator, your first instinct is to deal with it tongue-in-cheek.

And so it is with Mitt Romney's videotaped remarks to a roomful of donors at a fundraiser in May in Boca Raton, Florida. The GOP presidential candidate appears to say that he wishes he were Latino because he thinks it would be "helpful" to his quest and give him a "better shot" at the presidency.

Referring to his father, George, Romney told the audience:

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

"My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

I'm tempted to respond with this: "Mitt Romney thinks it would be helpful if he were Latino. Well, Mitt, I'm Latino. And I think it would be helpful to me if I were worth $250 million. Wanna switch?"

Opinion: Can Romney connect with Latino voters?

Or, given President Barack Obama's heavy-handed immigration policies, with this: "What Mitt Romney doesn't realize is that if he were Mexican, there's a 94.6% chance that he would've already been deported by his opponent."

Romney's comments are clearly absurd, and so it's hard to take them seriously. Did the rich white guy really claim to want to be Latino because he thought it would help him win the presidency?

Romney camp. defends Latino comment
Romney rep: "This is a bump in the road"

That's strange. Being Latino didn't seem to help Bill Richardson.

The former New Mexico governor ran for president in 2008, and he didn't get beyond the New Hampshire primary. Also, by Romney's logic, you would think that we've had a whole slew of Latinos elected president; there hasn't been a single one -- if you don't count Jimmy Smits playing President-elect Matt Santos on the final season of "The West Wing."

Romney should quit while he's ahead. Statistically, he has the golden ticket. He's a rich white male, and they're overrepresented in the exclusive club of the 44 individuals to ever serve as president. Barack Obama is an exception, and even he satisfies two of three characteristics: rich and male.

But, if Mitt really wants to get in touch with his inner Mexican, I think he'll find that it's not all churros and chocolate or pinatas and pan dulce. You see -- and you might find this hard to believe, Mitt -- but there is still a lot of discrimination in this country against Latinos as whites hunker down and try to hold on to what they have in the face of changing demographics.

For instance, Romney has two Harvard degrees, and so do I. But I'll go out on a limb here and guess that he never had anyone suggest that he was only admitted to that prestigious university because of affirmative action. Or that he is frequently told, as I am, to "go back to Mexico" -- which is ironic, given that, since I'm the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and Romney is the son of a Mexican immigrant, the GOP presidential candidate is one generation closer to the motherland than I am.

Yet, as difficult as it is, we must take Romney's comments seriously. There are three reasons that they're troubling.

First, judging from the videotape, when Romney suggested that his path to the White House would have been covered in rose petals if only he had been born Mexican, the crowd loved it. What are they thinking?

Are these the kind of people who tell themselves that their sons and daughters would have gotten into Yale or Princeton if some black kid hadn't taken their spot? Do they really believe that racial and ethnic minorities have it easy in this country? And if so, what country are they living in?

Politics: Romney makes case to Latinos, vows 'reasonable solution' on immigration

Second, if you look at the rest of Romney's remarks -- about the 47% of Americans who pay no taxes and "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" -- he makes a good point. Many Americans do have an entitlement mentality, and it's a real problem.

Where Romney went wrong is that the sense of entitlement isn't limited to those on government aid. It includes the kind of fat cat donors who were in the audience. They get tax breaks and corporate subsidies. They raise their kids to think they're entitled to not do the jobs that immigrants wind up doing. Romney scolded those who think they're entitled, and then he seemed to wink at the audience and tell them: "present company excluded."

Lastly, it's hard to come up with a better example of an American who sees himself as a victim with a sense of entitlement than Mitt Romney. Think about what he said. This was no joke.

Romney sounds frustrated. By suggesting that he'd have a better chance at winning this election if he were Latino, Romney is playing the victim. Poor me, I had the misfortune to be born a white male. It's clear that he thinks he was entitled to a much smoother path to the White House.

Is Romney able to fix what's broken with America? Or are people like Mitt Romney what's broken with America?

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT