MIAMI — President Barack Obama said rival Mitt Romney hasn't "gotten around a lot" if he believes that 47 percent of Americans consider themselves victims and entitled to government help. Addressing a large Latino television audience Thursday, the president also said his "biggest failure" was an inability to win an overhaul of the immigration system.
In an interview with Spanish language channel Univision, Obama says the country has gone through a challenging time and that people "want a hand up and not a handout."
In suggesting his GOP rival was out of touch, Obama was reacting to secretly taped remarks by Romney in which the Republican declared that the 47 percent of voters who support Obama represent Americans who don't pay income taxes and "who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them."
Obama said Americans pay payroll taxes, gas taxes and state and sales taxes. He noted that those who don't pay income taxes include workers who don't make enough money to qualify, older Americans and students.
"When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven't gotten around a lot," Obama said.
The forum gave Obama a rebuttal of sorts. Romney spoke Wednesday at the Univision forum, where he said his campaign was about "the 100 percent in America."
The president faced tough questions on why he hadn't accomplished comprehensive immigration reform, an important issue for Hispanic voters. Jorge Ramos, one of the moderators, put it bluntly: "You promised that and a promise is a promise and with all due respect, you didn't keep that promise."
Obama said he accepted responsibility but that he faced an economy "on the verge of collapse" in his first year and blamed Republicans for abandoning support for comprehensive immigration reform. He said there was "the thinking that the president is somebody who is all-powerful and can get everything done."
Obama said he only leads the executive branch. "We have to have cooperation from all these sources to get something done," he said.
"What I confess I did not expect, and so I'm happy to take responsibility for being naive here, is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform, my opponent in 2008 who had been a champion of it and who attended these meetings, suddenly would walk away," he said. "That's what I did not anticipate."
Asked later in the interview to name his biggest failure, Obama cited a lack of comprehensive immigration reform, but added: "It's not for a lack of trying or desire."