All out of context, all the time


The Republican National Committee is excitedly sending around this clip today, showing 17 seconds of a speech President Obama delivered to supporters in Oakland on Tuesday. Some of the RNC’s media allies are already on board with the attack.

For those who can’t watch clips online, the clip shows Obama saying, “Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan – and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.”

The idea, apparently, is for voters to recoil at the notion that the president believes his economic plan has “worked.” I appear to be in the minority, but I happen to think this is true – the economy that was hemorrhaging jobs is now adding jobs; the economy that was shrinking is now growing; the stock market that was headed into a death spiral is now headed up; an auto industry that was on the verge of collapse is now thriving, etc.

That said, it’s obviously a contentious point, and the economy is not yet close to where it needs to be. But as Dave Weigel noted, the significance of the RNC’s gambit isn’t a debate over the efficacy of Obama’s policies, but rather, the Republicans’ bad habit of wrenching quotes from context.

In this case, here’s what the president actually said: “I’ll cut out government spending that’s not working, that we can’t afford, but I’m also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well. Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan – and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.”

He was comparing tax policies – Clinton-era tax rates vs. Bush-era tax rates. The RNC simply omitted the part of the quote that makes clear what the president was talking about. Weigel accurately calls this “insanely misleading.”

That’s true, but let’s also not lose sight of the larger pattern.

As we discussed last week, at this point in the race, Republicans aren’t just occasionally taking Obama quotes out of context; they’re actually building their entire 2012 campaign strategy around sentiments the president didn’t actually say. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.

Let’s start a running count:

1. The Romney campaign took Obama out of context in its very first television ad of the race.

2. When the president told business leaders that U.S. policymakers have been “a little bit lazy” when it comes to attracting businesses to American soil, Republicans took that out of context and launched a series of attacks.

3. When Obama said private-sector job growth is “fine” relative to the public sector, Republicans took that out of context, too.

4. Obama said public institutions help businesses succeed, and Republicans continue to take that out of context.

And 5. Obama said Clinton’s tax policies were better than Bush’s, which the RNC is taking out of context.

Remember, in theory, none of this should be necessary. If the president were the radical leftist his attackers make him out to be, Republicans wouldn’t have to resort to cheap garbage like this. They’d be able to use real Obama quotes and real Obama policies.

Instead, we’re left with ridiculous tactics that treat voters like idiots.

Barack Obama

All out of context, all the time