So here’s where this is going. The Romney campaign is out with a new Web video hitting Obama over the “don’t build that” quote. It features a business owner who is angry at Obama for supposedly insulting his hard work. “My hands didn’t build this company?” the man asks. “Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you demonizing us for it?”
But the video deceptively edits Obama’s remarks to seamlessly link up two different parts of the speech, removing a chunk in order to make Obama’s remarks seem far worse than they are. Here is how Obama’s speech — which you hear in the background while pictures of the man driving flash on the screen — is represented in the video:
If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be ‘cause 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. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
In the video, the speech is made to sound as if Obama continued straight from “let me tell you something” to “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” But here are the words that Obama said between those two sentences that were cut out (the missing sentences are in bold):
Let me tell you something. There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.
Romney supporters will respond that the parts of the speech that were included in the Web video are objectionable on their own. I don’t agree with that, but it’s a debatable point. However, there is no question that this edit is highly misleading. It deliberately removes multiple sentences about the broader theme of Obama’s speech that preceded the “you didn’t build that” quote in order to deprive it of its actual meaning as Obama plainly intended it. And it creates the false impression of a seamless transition from the first sentences about successful business people into the key line about them — a recontextualization that turns it into a direct insult.
This line is going to be a major target for the Romney campaign — similar to Obama’s 2008 remark about spreading the wealth — but in order to have maximum political value, it needs to be removed from context in a highly misleading way, which the Romney camp is happy to do. Don’t be surprised if this line is up in ads in the swing states within days, edited in just this fashion. If the larger context is supposedly no help to Obama, as Romney backers insist, then why the need to edit the quote this way?
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: Josh Kraushaar digs into the New York Times/CBS poll, which shows a dead heat, and concludes:
Voters appear to be processing the worsening economic news belatedly, and their pessimism shows in spades. In the CBS/NYT poll, Obama’s job approval dropped to 44 percent, with only 39 percent approving of his economic performance — down five points from April. For the first time since January, more voters now think the economy is getting worse. Nearly two-thirds of voters now place some blame on the president for the weak economic conditions, with 34 percent giving him “significant” responsibility. An outright 52 percent majority of independents believe Obama will “never improve” the economy. These aren’t numbers that victories are made of.
These findings are likely to drive the conversation today. But this is only one poll, and the latest batch of polls only confirms that this race is where it has been for months — it’s a dead heat. And it will likely remain that way. However, if economic pessimism is indeed increasing, that is a serious cause for concern for Chicago.
* More bad economic news: From the AP: “BREAKING: US jobless claims rose by 34,000 to 386,000, reversing big drop caused by seasonal factors.”
* Cause for caution about the new polls: Relatedly, the new Fox News and NPR polls both have somewhat better approval numbers for Obama, and Steven Shepard explains why.
* Deadlocked in Virginia: The new Quinnipiac poll finds the race tied in Virginia, at 44-44, wiping out Obama’s previous lead, though in this poll, white voters make up a greater share of the sample than in previous ones.
Key findings: “By a narrow 47-44 percent, voters say Romney would do a better job on the economy. But voters support 59 - 36 percent Obama’s call to raise income taxes on households making more than $250,000 per year.” Even 48 percent of voters over $250,000 support it!
* Republicans nervous about Romney campaign: A must read from Dan Balz on the relentlessness of the Obama assault on Romney, how its controlling the debate, how there's more coming, and why Republicans are worried about the Romney camp’s theory of the election — it all turns on Obama’s economic performance and nothing else.
* Romney letting Obama define him: A great point from Aaron Blake:
The Romney campaign’s thinking basically goes like this: It’s July, the president’s numbers aren’t good, and we will have a good chance to beat him after the Republican National Convention in late August. Before then, these shiny objects that aren’t worth all that much trouble. The pitfall of this strategy, of course, is if Romney’s team is reading the new media zeitgeist wrong and he’s letting Democrats define him before he can do it himself. The fact is that more Americans are consuming political news and they’re doing it earlier in the election cycle than ever before (see: the unprecedented viewership of the GOP presidential debates). What’s clear is that Romney is being defined right now, at least to some extent.
* Here comes more pushback: This is going to be a big deal: The Rove-founded Crossroads is going up with a new $8 million ad campaign in swing states that’s explicitly about pushing back on the Obama camp’s charges that Romney companies shipped jobs overseas. This is a clear indication that even Romney allies believe the attacks may be working, or that it’s likely enough that they will work, and require a serious response.
* Romney can’t escape his Bain past: David Firestone gets the larger point: He built Bain and helped create a business model that prioritized profit no matter how it impacted workers, and as much as conservatives want him to defend Bain’s business practices, they remain politically toxic.
* Republicans were for state flexibility before they were against it: Senate candidate and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, like other Republicans, is against the new Obama waiver policy designed to give states more flexibility. But he previously supported such waivers as a way to give states more leeway during the 1996 welfare reform debate. More on this later.
* And Elizabeth Warren backs up Obama: Good for her:
“I think the basic notion is right. Nobody got rich on their own. Nobody. People worked hard, they build a business, God bless, but they moved their goods on roads the rest of us helped build, they hired employees the rest of us helped educate, they plugged into a power grid the rest of us helped build.”
Of course, we’re now at the point where it’s supposedly controversial to say “nobody got rich on their own.”