Mitt Romney’s ongoing distortion of Obama’s “didn’t build that” quote has been debunked by FactCheck.org, Politifact, the Associated Press, and many others. Romney’s other leading distortion of the moment — his use of Obama’s claim that “our” plan “worked,” in which Obama was talking about the Clinton/Obama approach to taxes, not Obama’s economic policies — was dismantled convincingly today by Post fact checker Glenn Kessler.
So how is the Romney campaign responding? Easy. It will make both quotes central to the campaign for the coming week, and likely beyond.
The two major press releases out this morning from the Romney campaign are centered on the debunked claims about those two quotes. Romney also released a new Web video that distorts the “it worked” quote yet again. In other words, some of Romney’s most important campaign arguments continue to be premised on complete fictions.
Romney’s supporters keep insisting that the larger context of Obama’s “didn’t build that” quote is just as bad as the line itself. That might sound more convincing, and be worth debating, if the Romney campaign didn’t coninue basing entire campaign events and statements on that decontextualized line. Blared this morning’s release: “SMALL-BUSINESS OWNERS EVERYWHERE: WE BUILT THIS.”
The Romney camp’s latest defense of the “it worked" distortion is similarly absurd. The Romney campaign justified it by telling Kessler this: “Obama can’t have it both ways on this. He’s either running on the Clinton record, which is completely superior to his own. Or Obama’s running on his record, which is a failure.” That’s nice, except this has nothing to do with what makes the Romney claim such a distortion, which is that Obama was not talking about his or Clinton’s overall “record”; he was talking about their very similar philosophies on taxes.
Why does Romney continue to base much of his campaign on attacks on things Obama never said? The simplest answer is that Romney needs to obscure the true nature of the differences between the two men.
I’ve already taken a stab at arguing here and here how Romney tries to achieve this on the “didn’t build that” quote. This goal is equally clear on the more recent distortion of the “our plan” remarks. Obama wants to raise taxes on income over $250,000 earned by the top two percent of taxpayers. Romney wants to cut taxes across the board in ways that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest taxpayers. On this question, the public sides with Obama. So Romney needs to obscure Obama’s true proposal by continually sidestepping who would see their taxes go up under it. He also needs to wrap Obama's tax proposal into a larger argument about how Obama’s supposedly government-centric policies are, and would continue, smothering the private sector, while Romney’s plan, including a dramatic cut in high end taxes, would allegedly unshackle it.
What Obama pointed out in the disputed “our plan” quote is that the Clinton years disprove Romney’s notion that raising high end taxes will cripple growth. And so the Romney campaign needs to mislead people about the true nature of the common ground between Clinton and Obama on taxes, by arguing alternately that Obama was talking about his own policies, or that Obama has no business associating his record with Clinton’s.
The narratives about both quotes are two sides of the same coin — both are about obscuring the true nature of the differences between Obama’s and Romney’s overall philosophies. Result: another week, another series of Romney campaign events premised on things Obama never actually said.