"What people believe, value, strive for, and sacrifice for profoundly shape the nature of their society and affect its prosperity and security. So while America's abundant natural resources certainly facilitated its ascent, it is America's culture that enabled the nation to become and remain the most powerful and beneficent country in the history of humankind."
Then, Romney cited some cultural aspects possessed by such countries that prosper -- contrasted with those that don't -- including a strong work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, cooperation, commitment to education, faith in God, devotion to family, patriotism, honor, trust in the law, and respect for life.
"There are cultures where life is cheap, but thankfully, ours is not one of them," Romney wrote.
Romney reprised some of these thoughts during his gaffe-filled foreign trip in late July. He offended Palestinians -- and even some Israelis -- with a similar condescension toward Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank. Pandering to an audience of Jewish-Americans in Jerusalem, Romney contrasted Israel's prosperity against the poverty in the Palestinian territories.
Again citing Landes's book, Romney asserted that "culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," an apparent reference to divine intervention on Israel's behalf.
"As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000 and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."
Romney misstated how big a discrepancy there was between what the average Israeli makes versus the average Palestinian. He put the difference at about 2 to 1, when it is more like 20 to 1. According to the World Bank, Israel's per capita G.D.P. actually is $31,282, compared to a Palestinian per capita G.D.P. of around $1,600.
But Romney's larger point was that Israel's relative economic success, versus the Palestinians' economic struggles, could be traced to Israel's cultural superiority, not to the long-term Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories that has denied those inhabitants a reasonable chance to build a modern economy.
Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Associated Press that Romney's comment was "a racist statement" and ignorant of the facts.
"This man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," Erekat said. "It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people."
Romney's campaign denied that his remark was intended to slight the Palestinians. But there's no doubt that when you say that one nation thrives because of its superior culture that means that another one fails because of its deficient culture. For the Palestinians, that assessment is particularly offensive since much of their poverty relates directly to the harsh conditions from decades of Israeli occupation, including barriers to outside trade.
But the new disclosures from the video, which was initially leaked to Mother Jones magazine, reveal Romney as not just a person who looks down at Mexicans for their cultural deficiencies but who also thinks that their ethnicity gives them some unfair advantage over him.
In Romney's delusional world, Mexicans are simultaneously inferior and privileged, while being born a white male into a rich and prominent American family makes you the victim.
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