First some straight-news understatement. Then some contrasting opinion.
From the Washington Post's Philip Rucker:
[Romney's] remarks could undermine recent attempts by his campaign to present him as a caring and charitable leader in his church and community.
Yes, there is that possibility, whose approximate odds already reach the infinitely definite. Rucker then reports:
An Obama campaign official ... said later that it is possible that excerpts from the video will show up in a forthcoming campaign ad.
Is it possible for odds to exceed the infinitely definite? If so, therein lie the above's.
On to opinion. David Brooks:
Personally, I think [Romney's] a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.
[T]he video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined....
[T]his video come[s] to me as a genuine shock. I have never hated Romney. I presumed his ideological makeover since he set out to run for president was largely phony, even if he was now committed to carry through with it.... It seems unavoidable now to conclude that Romney’s embrace of Paul Ryanism is born of actual contempt for the looters and moochers, a class war on behalf of his own class.
I have quoted all this to demonstrate the range we'll most commonly encounter for the next few days: the major press's bland ho-humism; the Republican establishment's indefatigable embrace of this "decent man" who's essentially a moderate (except in his radically poor management of a radically dysfunctional campaign); and the left's shocked assessment of Mitt Romney as "far more sinister" than it ever imagined. (For now I'll leave the right-wing blogs, read only by right-wing troglodytes and vastly amused lefties, to the funny papers.)
What I wanted to further remark on, though, is the seeming contradiction of my having developed an even deeper "hatred" of Romney than Chait's, but only through acceding to Brooks's more generous assessment. Which is to say ...
By all accounts Romney--privately, within his own, narrow community--is a kind and decent enough man. But years ago he walled off his decency so that it couldn't roam into and thereby interfere with his limitless political ambitions. I can't know this, none of us can, but I strongly suspect that Romney's decision to shut down his own humanity was an entirely self-aware and oddly human one--which means, further, that his shocking inhumanity cannot be understood (or, certainly, excused) on the grounds that he's a born sociopath.
Romney's highly "developed" personality is instead reminiscent--to me--of that most ruthless, most savagely calculating creature known to modern man: the 20th-century fascist. Now don't mistake; I am not calling Romney a Nazi. I am merely calling to mind the many citizen-barbarian personalities who calmly, coldly recognized in National Socialism or Italian fascism or Japanese militarism the almost unlimited personal opportunities for a man willing to relentlessly repress his decency while hopscotching over any previously held principles. They still loved their wives and their children and their dogs and they cared deeply about their own communities, but, when needed, they could be stone-cold killers.
To me, watching that video of Mitt Romney deliver his icy spiel to potential benefactors brings into focus the exact opposite of a man who possesses "actual contempt for the looters and moochers." The only thing in this world for which Romney has actual contempt is personal failure. At the fundraiser he's merely delivering another power-point presentation of Bain ruthlessness--a presentation designed solely to succeed, to win, no matter how many human beings his personal success might destroy in the long run.
In the postwar trials of last century's fascists, international judges held them more accountable for their inhumanity precisely because of their underlying humanity and stowed-away decency. These men knew better--they were not psychopaths--and for that reason, they were guiltier than sin itself.