Great catch by Jed Lewison here. Look at what Mitt Romney said on the campaign trail today:
“There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepenuers and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs. We all recognize that. That’s an important thing.”
Do tell! And he also said this, in the course of repeating the bogus claim that Obama dissed business builders:
“Speaking about small businesses, and businesses of all kinds, he said this: `If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.’...
“I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help. But let me ask you this. Did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand. Take that, Mr. President! This is what’s happening in this country.”
This is hard to distinguish from what Obama himself said in his “controversial” remarks: individual success doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is also enabled by a smoothly functioning society that is kept running by government. What this confirms is that the radicalism discerned in Obama’s speech by Republicans is a pure invention. Remember, in attacking Obama’s remarks yesterday, Romney went so far as to say that Obama had insulted all Americans everwhere who have ever worked hard to better themselves in life. Romney cast Obama’s remarks as an attack on individual initiative itself. Yet today, Romney only underscored how non-controversial Obama’s remarks really were.
Sure, Romney kept his attack up on the “didn’t build that” comment. But as you can see, he needed to dishonestly cite the one Obama line out of context in order to do it. That's because this is the only way Romney can paint Obama’s point as controversial — or, indeed, as being significantly different from his own admission that businesses do rely to some degree on government.
I continue to believe that this attack line, while thrilling to Romney spinners who think this proves he’s finally fighting back, will be met with a shrug by swing voters. My colleague Aaron Blake disagrees, citing a poll showing independents see Obama’s view of government as a problem. But this attack has been thrown at Obama for literally years now, going all the way back to the halcyon days of Joe the Plumber. People know who Obama is now — they don’t buy into the right’s cartoon radical version of him — and my bet is that this line will not resonate significantly with voter perceptions of the president. Obama’s views on the proper relationship between government and the private sector just aren’t radical, as Romney unwittingly confirmed today. Is the Obama team worried about this? Perhaps, but if they didn’t worry about everything it would be malpractice.
If swing voters ultimately do conclude that Obama’s performance on the economy has been too ineffective to justify a second term — which is certainly a real possibility — it won’t have anything to do with the idea that Obama harbors some kind of hostility towards individual initiative or American free enterprise. But the dream that one day, any day now, Americans will finally awaken to Obama’s disdain for their hard work and his lack of respect for their hard-won private wealth will never die.