As proof that the “you didn’t build that” attacks are getting under the president’s skin, the Obama campaign is running ads in 6 swing states trying to refute the idea that he doesn’t value individual initiative.
He also told Politico that he is “losing patience” with the ads:
“I have to tell you, I generally have patience with what the other side says about me, that’s a requirement of this job,” Obama said during a $5,000-per-plate fundraiser here, according to the pool report.
“And if you don’t like folks talking about you, you probably shouldn’t run for president. The one thing I do have no patience for is this argument that somehow what I’m criticizing is success… I want to promote success,” Obama said.
Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee are trying to get past the remark that has become a center piece of Mitt Romney’s stump speech that the administration considers government the only way for individual success in the private sector. Earlier Tuesday, Obama launched an ad campaign in six swing states with the president speaking directly into a camera to explain himself and argue that Romney has taken his words out of context. Obama also swung at Romney Monday in Oakland during his first public remarks in a campaign since the Colorado shooting.
In Seattle, Obama cited the fundraiser host – Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal – to emphasize his own business perspective.
“[W]hat I know is that Jim’s story, my story, the story of so many of you, our success was made possible in this country because our parents, our grandparents our great grandparents, stretching all the way back to the founders, they had a vision that says, you know what, insists on hard work and individual initiative,” Obama said.
“We’re going to reward risk and entrepreneurship. People are going to have to sweat and sacrifice for their success. But there are some things that we’re also going to do together to make sure that everyone has success. Not everyone’s going to succeed, but everyone’s going to have a shot at success,” the president said.
Obama pointed to public schools and colleges and “this amazing infrastructure that allows businesses to move goods and services.”
“So we want success,” Obama added. “We just want to make sure that everybody has a shot. That’s what we’re fighting for, that’s what is at stake in this election.”
Note that the president insists he values “hard work and individual initiative,” while also saying that schools are “infrastructure” that “allows businesses to move goods and services.” Of course, businesses pay taxes to help run those schools so it’s not like they’re getting anything gratis.
The question isn’t his hostility to “success” — a strawman argument that no one is making. It is his failure to recognize the true role of the individual in that success. By intimating that it takes a village to build a business, he cheapens the effort of the entrepreneur and disrespects a founding principle of the republic.
The minute the president felt that he had to explain himself, he lost the debate. Now, by trying to hit back by insisting he really didn’t say what he said, and whining about being taken out of context, he realizes what political dynamite is contained in the GOP attack, and he has allowed his emotions to get the better of his judgment.
This isn’t like Romney defending himself against unfair attacks on his tenure at Bain, or even the controversy over his taxes. The issue goes to the heart of the ideology of the president and exposes his latent belief in statism — something he is usually quite good at hiding. The fact that these attacks are getting under the president’s skin is indicative of just how raw a nerve Romney touches when he mentions it.