Privacy for the President?

Brooks Cain

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you have undoubtedly heard about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent remark.” The content of the quote was covered in stellar fashion by our own Allison Shanahan, but as an informed voting populace, we must examine the context of Governor Romney’s remarks. Should we even factor this into our decision in November? Does the phrase “off the record” hold any weight in this kind of setting?
Governor Romney made these remarks at a closed-door, $50,000 plate fundraiser at a donor’s home in Boca Raton, FL. No press was allowed, and it was thought to be a private event. Mother Jones received this hidden camera video from an unnamed source. The exchange was facilitated (in a case of poetic justice) by Jimmy Carter’s grandson, as reported by USA Today.  Since the video’s release, it has generated a media firestorm. Romney has stood by the sentiment of his remarks, but not his actual wording at the dinner. The question that should be examined is whether Romney should even have to stand by anything. Is it fair to Governor Romney or ethical of the unnamed source to release this video?

The idea of having a hidden camera in your home, unbeknownst to you, should be a scary thought. Our society places a high value on privacy, as evidenced by several Supreme Court decisions. Clearly, the homeowner in Florida had a reasonable expectation to privacy, and he has every right to be outraged. Governor Romney was making his remarks off the cuff, in a private setting, with no expectation of anything he said leaving that room. He was an unknowing participant in a video that has since become a viral plague on his campaign. Governor Romney, speaking to a private group, certainly has a right to be outraged by the appearance of this video.
With all that being said, Governor Romney is running for the position of President of the United States. The campaign for the highest office in the land doesn’t always lend itself to fairness or privacy. Dirty campaign tactics, out of context quotes, and flat out lies have shown themselves before in previous campaigns and even in the Republican Primary. Governor Romney should be accustomed to the intense microscope that a campaign places you under. He has been under it in the 2008 primary and since he began his current campaign for President. Mitt Romney knows how campaigns work, and he should know that every word that comes from his mouth or his adviser’s mouths is instantly analyzed in our media culture. Anything that Governor Romney says reflects his own personal beliefs, policy ideas, or personality. And all Americans are entitled (not just 47 percent) to know those things about their potential leader.

Were Mitt’s remarks caught on tape in an ethical fashion? No, but they were caught on tape nonetheless.

Is it fair that Governor Romney has to defend his remarks? Yes. Mitt knows how a campaign works, and he knows that everyone is critically listening to his every word.

Is it right for the American people to use Romney’s private remarks to make their decision? Yes. Mitt Romney has opened his entire life up to be examined under the microscope, and every voter has the right to examine what exactly is on that slide.

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