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posted: 11/26/2012 5:00 AM

Whiner in chief

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Mitt doesn't get it.

Just a couple of weeks after his shellacking by Latino voters in the presidential election, and the 2012 Republican standard-bearer continued insulting this important demographic.

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Mitt Romney also has a fair amount of disdain for African-Americans, young women, students, and the working class -- essentially anyone who, in his preferred narrative, was bought off by "gifts" and other "free stuff" from President Obama.

That's the message Romney shared after the election during what was meant to be a private call with donors. Among those listening in was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

First, we mustn't confuse those "gifts" with the giveaways that Republicans hand out after they win elections -- from farm subsidies to tax cuts to increases in defense spending. This is totally different.

Many Republicans criticized Romney for his remarks, including New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Good for them.

Romney is an equal-opportunity whiner. But for some reason, he tends to zero in on Latinos during his tantrums. This was true in May when, during a get-together with donors in Boca Raton, Fla., he suggested that he'd have "a better shot at winning" the presidency if he were Latino.

Maybe it's a family issue. Romney's father, George, was born in Mexico in 1907 to American parents. Perhaps Mitt is trying to channel his inner Mexican. He'd have better luck waltzing to Mariachi music. The father was born in Mexico, but the son approaches Mexican-Americans, and other Latinos, like they're from Mars.

The same pattern continued on the postelection call with donors, where Mitt attributed his loss not to any shortcoming on his part but to the fact that, with Latinos, for instance, Obama played Santa Claus.

"The amnesty for the children of illegals -- the so-called DREAM Act kids -- was a huge plus for that voting group," Romney said. "On the negative side, of course, they always characterized us as being anti-immigrant, being tough on illegal immigration, and so forth, so that was very effective with that group. What the president did was he gave them two things. One, he gave them a big gift on immigration with the DREAM Act amnesty program. ... Number two, put in place Obamacare, which basically is $10,000 a family. I mean it's a proven political strategy, which is give a bunch of money from the government to a group and guess what? They'll vote for you."

It all feeds the narrative that Americans feel entitled to freebies. And this from the man who felt entitled to the presidency.

It's difficult to know what Romney lacks more -- empathy, understanding or self-awareness. He also appears to be missing the gene that allows you to take responsibility for your failures. Meanwhile, what he has in abundance is contempt for much of the country -- oh, say, about 47 percent -- he wanted to lead.

Mitt, you got pummeled by Latinos -- winning just 27 percent of the vote to Obama's 71 percent. But not because of free stuff.

You never took this constituency seriously or gave it the respect it deserved. You got pummeled because you prided yourself on having a general campaign strategy that didn't pander to Latinos as a specific group but wound up pandering anyway when you started to panic. You lurched so far to the right during the primaries that you couldn't find your way back to the center with a map and compass. You got pummeled because you said dumb things like your remarks in Boca Raton, which only showed how out-of-touch you were with Latino voters. And when talking about immigrants, you kept going back to rhetoric that, ironically, portrayed these hardworking people as wanting something for nothing -- the same rhetoric you now direct at Latino voters who happen to be U.S. citizens.

You know, Mitt, when you compete in the arena and you come up short, it's not the end of the world. You might still be viewed as a good and decent person who was just outmatched by an opponent. People might say it just wasn't your time. It isn't until you blame your defeat on others -- and insult them in the process -- that you earn the title of loser.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

2012, The Washington Post Writers Group

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