Last week, President Obama delivered a routine speech in Virginia, stressing, among other things, the greatness of the American system, shaped by public and private institutions.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” he said. “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; somebody else made that happen.”
The fact that businesses didn’t build American roads and bridges was so unremarkable that the comment was entirely ignored – that is, until Fox and far-right blogs eliminated the context. Five days after the speech – so much for “rapid” response – the Romney campaign seized on this as evidence of the president’s hatred of free enterprise. Or something.
But six days after the speech, wouldn’t you know it, Romney decided Obama was right after all.
Jed Lewison flagged this clip from a Romney event in Ohio yesterday, where the Republican candidate continued to take Obama’s words out of context, but proceeded to share an interesting perspective. For those who can’t watch clips online, Romney said:
“There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepreneurs and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs. We all recognize that. That’s an important thing…. I know that you recognize that a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors. There’s no question your mom and dad. Your school teachers. The people that provide roads, the fire, and the police. A lot of people help.”
Romney went so far as to say yesterday Americans “couldn’t have” businesses were it not for public institutions.
What’s the difference between this sentiment and the Obama quote that’s proof he’s a radical, Kenyan, communistic Martian? That’s the point: there is no difference. After Romney condemned the president’s point, he proceeded to endorse it.
For what it’s worth, the Obama campaign has shown no interest in reminding the political world that Romney has spent a few days hyperventilating about an out-of-context quote, only to turn around and agree with the concept he’s been crying about. I suspect Obama HQ would much prefer to talk about Romney’s secret tax returns, offshore finances, and Bain Capital controversy.
But whether Democrats are eager to pounce on this or not, this was a remarkable development. Consider this brief timeline of events:
* Friday: Team Romney hears Obama’s comment, deems it meaningless.
* Tuesday: Team Romney reconsiders, takes Obama’s comment out of context, says it proves he’s un-American.
* Wednesday: Romney endorses the underlying point of Obama’s comment, while still taking it out of context
You can condemn an idea or you can embrace an idea, but only Mitt Romney can do both at the same time.