This has caused the left to wring their hands and worry that these "offhand" remarks are overshadowing, that it is tearing at his campaign, was a gaffe and is a problem for Romney. Why? Because the left does not see values or culture as the basis for societal success. They are inclined to blame economics when the poor commit crimes. Blaming the culture, values or the individual is viewed as unsophisticated and lacking nuance whereas blaming poverty is considered enlightened and progressive.
However, when the rich commit crimes, the left cannot use poverty as the scapegoat for crime. They are then forced to conclude what everyone else concludes, that values and culture may have more to say about why a person committed a crime and hold the individual accountable. This must create some level of cognitive dissonance for the left.
Another bout of dissonance must certainly erupt when those on the left contemplate why crime isn't rampant in some of the places around the globe where there is grinding poverty. To be sure, some impoverished places are smothered with crime, but if poverty is the major reason for crime, those poverty stricken places that have low crime rates must cause mental indigestion. The 'but Palestine is occupied' argument creates similar hiccups.
How are areas of low crime and high poverty explained by those on the left? How are financially and morally backward places that are not occupied explained by the left? They aren't. But here's a hint: values may be the answer you are looking for.
So the left is unhappy with Romney's assertion that culture might be the cause of financial disparities. And how does the left counter an argument that makes them unhappy? You guessed it - cry racism.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat informs:
Oh, my God, this man needs a lot of education. What he said about the culture is racism.If culture is a set of ideas, beliefs, and ways of behaving of a particular group of people and race is essentially genetics, what about what Romney said was racist?
As Prager has noted, "Just about every value the left claims to uphold Israel upholds and its enemies do not." Israel shares the western world's views on issues ranging from corrupt dictator-types, to feminism, to homosexual rights, to independent judiciaries. But the left loves leftism more than it loves the causes for which it professes love.
Culture, not race, has determined the successes and failures. Romney solidified this argument in both the Israel/Palestine comparison and the Chile/Ecuador comparison. Both comparisons juxtapose similar races with different cultures.
The left's reflexive dismissal of Romney as racist is embarrassing and depressing in that it suggests that the left is incapable of distinguishing between race and culture. They are happy to explain the differences between weather and climate, but for some reason their nuance filters get clogged on the race/culture issue.
As John Podhoretz notes:
Of course, for saying this, Romney was called a “racist” by Saeb Erakat, the longtime slavering lackey of every Palestinian murderer and thief. Erakat blames “occupation” for Palestinian poverty. But the PA has dominion over almost all of the West Bank and Hamas has control over all of Gaza, so the word “occupation” is all but meaningless — except as shorthand for “Israel still holds Jerusalem.”Poverty. Occupation. Racism - anything but culture and values.
Romney eloquently makes the case that culture determines economics:
But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.The right believes that it is values that are responsible for the relative success of the US and other democracies around the world. This is the root of the American exceptionalism that runs deep for those on the right. The right doesn't attribute America's exceptionalism to race, but rather to culture. Because the left sees economics, egalitarianism and equalism as the foundations of great cultures, and not values, they are not able to see America as exceptional.
UPDATE: (8/2) Victor Davis Hanson
Few believe that a unique micro-geography in North Korea explains why its way of life differs from the South, or that climate ensures that Tijuana is a very different place from San Diego, or that the differences between East and West Germany were due to genetic or racial variables, or that China between 1964 and 2012 underwent climate change. “Western” does not denote a race, but rather a set of values and protocols that originated in Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem and were adopted, modified, and expanded through the next two millennia of European history -- and are undergoing radical changes as we speak.
...the hysteria is over candor, not truth
UPDATE: (8/8) Goldberg:
Though conservatives are more likely to tout this fact than are liberals, the truth is virtually every serious liberal believes it to be true to one extent or another. When you hear liberal politicians celebrate diversity as essential to a 21st century economy, they are making a point about culture. When they lament the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow as a partial cause for the various challenges facing the black community, they are making an argument about culture. When they talk about the “culture of corruption” on Wall Street, they’re not talking about advances in computerized trading.