On Friday while trying to paint himself as the candidate of “working together,” President Barack Obama said “if you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.” His defenders were quick to point out that “that” referred to roads and bridges, or to the American system in general. He misspoke, they said, like when the president said “the private sector is doing fine” (walking back the comment despite having it defended).
Mitt Romney, of course, is sticking to the literal interpretation, that the president was telling businesses they didn’t build their businesses. Kind of like the Obama campaign is sticking to the literal interpretation of Mitt Romney’s relationship with Bain after 1999. Kind of, but not quite. Mitt Romney’s relationship with Bain after 1999 was legally nuanced but not out the ordinary. Barack Obama’s comments were grammatically “nuanced” but also out of the ordinary. Most people wouldn’t construct their thought the way the president did, and less than four months out the sitting president should know better than to leave low hanging fruit, anyway.
Yesterday, in the course of attacking the president for his poor choice of words, Romney said to business owners :“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. It’s an important thing.” Before that, he referred to “[t]he people that provide roads, the fire, and the police. A lot of people help, but let me ask you this, did you build your business?”
At Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin writes: “Without the misleading idea that Obama was telling business owners they don’t deserve any credit for their success, it’s just two guys touting the benefits of the federal highway system.”
That Mitt Romney believes in the government’s power to create jobs and “fix” the economy too shouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention. This is a Republican candidate who was for the 2009 stimulus before he was against it and hasn’t shown any indication he doesn’t believe in government spending.
Romney’s acknowledgement that he agrees with the basic premise put forth by President Obama is more evidence that the two candidates are a lot less different than they’re trying to appear on the campaign trail. The back and forth between apologists of team blue and team red suggests they’re okay going along with that.