How can you tell when a campaign knows it has stepped into quagmire? It shifts to defense and starts complaining about context. After several days of attempting to defend his “you didn’t build that” remark, Barack Obama shifted last night to a defense that originated with some of his on-line apologists — that Mitt Romney took his remark out of context:
The president, after taking a few-day hiatus from campaigning along with Romney out of respect for the victims of the Colorado mass shooting, set out on a round of fundraisers where he tried again to douse the still-simmering controversy over his ill-phrased remarks on business in America.
Speaking in Oakland Monday night, he said Romney knowingly “twisted my words around” to imply he didn’t care about small business.
The fundraiser remarks marked the latest effort by the Obama campaign to claim Romney pulled his quote out of context. The Obama campaign released a web video titled “Tampered” on Monday that made the same point.
However, the campaign did not initially mount this argument. In the days immediately following the comments, in which the president suggested businesses owe their success in large part to government, the campaign defended the president’s remarks — without claiming they were taken out of context.
Jen Rubin writes this morning that the campaign has run off the rails:
How did Obama get so cross-wise with public opinion and wind up at odds with one of the most popular institutions in America? Well, he became convinced he had to personally destroy Romney. He thereby let the anti-business assaults become the campaign. Meanwhile, his affection for government become a chip on his shoulder, prompting him to dare those private-sector wise guys to deny the centrality of government in their success. Yikes.
The Obama people argue simultaneously that he was taken out of context and that his denigration of individual effort is still valid. (“You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”) A more skilled politician like Bill Clinton could pull that off, but Obama? I doubt it.
He better hope undecided voters aren’t paying so much attention. Otherwise, his anti-business animus could well be his undoing.
As Romney pointed out yesterday in an interview with CNBC, the context Obama claims makes the quote even worse:
“The context, he says, you know, you think you’ve been successful because you’re smart, but he says a lot of people are smart. You think you’ve been successful because you work hard, a lot of people work hard. This is an ideology which says hey, we’re all the same here, we ought to take from all and give to one another and that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past,” Romney said. “It’s a very strange and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy.”
It’s actually even worse than that. The context which Obama claims is that he was talking about small business owners not building the infrastructure, not their businesses. But who pays for infrastructure? Government doesn’t pull the money off the magic trees of the Progressive Sunshine Forest; they take capital from taxpayers, either current or (increasingly) future taxpayers. Small businesses generate a large amount of that tax base, thanks to the point-of-sale transactions conducted and the labor they use, as well as property taxes and the like. If anyone should get credit for the infrastructure for successful markets, it’s the small businessman. Even in context, Obama and Elizabeth Warren treat small businesses like parasites rather than the foundation for the economy which makes all their beloved infrastructure possible at all.
Michael Ramirez turns his expert eye on this particular aspect of the context, and identifies with his Pulitzer Prize-winning skill who the real parasites are:
Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history. Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here. And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.
And a heads-up — Ramirez will have a new book out soon. We’ll have more on that later this summer.