Veteran Democratic strategist Donna Brazile weighed in Tuesday on the video of Mitt Romney that’s gone viral this week.
During a guest lecture at Kentucky State University, Brazile said the video captured the Republican presidential contender “saying things that I don’t think people should say in private or in public.”
Recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, it shows Romney saying 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes, believe they are entitled to extensive government support, and are bound to vote for President Barack Obama.
“My job is not to worry about those people,” he said in the video, posted late Monday afternoon on Mother Jones magazine’s website.
Romney has since told reporters that while his comments were “not elegantly stated,” he stood by his remarks.
“What he said, ladies and gentlemen, was wrong, it was cruel and it was mean-spirited,” Brazile said, before reading quotes from the video.
“The last time I checked, the president of the United States of America represented all of the people, not just the people who vote for him, but the people who don’t vote for him as well.”
Brazile, a fixture on CNN and network political talk shows, said she believes the government is meant to advance the common good of the country and look out for its citizens.
She noted that as a business owner, she pays quarterly taxes.
“I do believe that I am my brother’s, as well as my sister’s keeper, and I also believe the Bible is right ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’” she said.
“When I pay my taxes, I know I am paying for the safety, security and welfare of all the American people.”
That includes financial support for veterans coming home from overseas, she said, better roads and bridges, quality education for American children, clean air and drinking water – and even the salaries of congressmen and women.
“Whether you’re in the 47 percent or not, we’re all Americans, and we’re all in this together,” she said.
“This election is not just about the moochers or the takers – all the things I read on the Internet this morning were so cruel – this election is about the future of all of us.”
Brazile, vice chair of voter registration and participation with the Democratic National Committee and former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, urged students to vote in the November election.
Before and after the lecture, students registered to vote at a table outside the auditorium. She encouraged them to use social media to remind their friends to vote too.
She also touched on voter ID laws, which she likened to the “poll taxes” her grandparents paid to vote during the Jim Crow era because of the cost to obtain a photo ID.
“This is one of the most consequential elections in our lifetime, and the stakes could not be higher,” she said. “Your vote is your voice, it’s your power.”
Brazile said America needs leaders willing to work for the common good and reach across the aisle to compromise.
That hasn’t happened since Obama was elected in 2008, she said. Republican leaders have opposed the president, used filibusters and technical procedures to hinder his progress and focused on “making him a one-term president.”
Instead, they should be asking how they could help the president lift America out of the recession, she said.
“For the last three and a half years, I’ve watched my colleagues on the other side do nothing but sit back and throw sticks and stones at the president, as he’s tried to get us out of the worst recession since the Great Depression,” she said.
“Yes, I’m speaking to Sen. (Mitch) McConnell – I’ve said it to his face, and I’ll say it to you,” she said, referencing Kentucky’s longtime senator and the Senate’s current minority leader.
America is “in the thick of a major fight” over the role of government, Brazile said. She acknowledged that both Obama and Romney have made mistakes in their careers.
“At the end of the day, you have to take a close look at both candidates, and you have to determine where they want to take us,” she said.
“And ladies and gentlemen, I’ll only use one word to describe where I want to go: I want to go forward.”
Brazile, a New Orleans native, worked on every Democratic presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, when she served as campaign manager for Al Gore, becoming the first African-American woman to manage a presidential campaign.
Brazile is founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy and training firm in Washington, D.C. She is the author of the memoir “Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.”
She has appeared as an on-air contributor for CNN and ABC. She also is a syndicated columnist for United Media and has written for “Ms. Magazine” and “O,” the Oprah Magazine.
Brazile told the crowd that she’s worked on seven presidential campaigns, 58 congressional campaigns and 19 state and local campaigns in 48 states during her career. She joked that with two more states she’d “become Miss USA without the bikini.”
She also cracked a few jokes about her former boss, Al Gore, inventing the Internet and his controversial loss of the 2000 presidential election.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose – but rarely on the same night,” she said to laughter from the crowd.
Since that loss, she’s returned to the classroom as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She’s also been active in the cleanup and rebuilding of her native New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.