The Romney campaign has embraced an edited clip of Barack Obama from 1998 claiming to be in favor redistribution. Here’s why this counterattack is destined to spectacularly fail.
A desperate and drowning Mitt Romney campaign latched on to a YouTube video linked to by Drudge which claims to show that President Obama really is a socialist who favors redistribution.
Here is the video:
Ooooh, that seems scary doesn’t it? Take that, David Corn and Mother Jones. Boy, I guess they really showed the world that Obama has been a secret socialist forever.
Except that isn’t all of what Obama said. The full transcript of the then future president’s remarks reveals that the clip Romney has embraced left a few things out.
What Obama really said while talking about helping the working poor was,
I think what we’re going to have to do is resuscitate the notion that government can be effective at all. There has been a systematic—I don’t think it’s too strong to call it a propaganda campaign—against the possibility of government action and its efficacy. And I think some of it’s been deserved: Chicago housing authority has not been a model of good policy making and neither have been necessarily the Chicago public schools.
What this means, then, is that we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live? And my suggestion, I guess, would be that the trick—and this is one of the few areas I think that there are technical issues that need to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues—I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources, and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody has got a shot.
That whole government’s resources should be used efficiently to give everyone a fair shot is the part that they left out. One look at the support for Obama’s argument that the rich should pay their fair share in taxes makes it easy to see why that sentence was cut out. You see, Americans like fairness. As a country we like to believe in the Horatio Alger story that anyone really can work their way up from rags to riches in the United States.
The problem for Republicans is that their nominee and their policies are all about making sure that those working class men and boys Horatio Alger wrote about never advance and escape poverty. For Romney and the GOP what belongs to the wealthy is theirs, and what little you have belongs to the rich too.
This ideological bedrock of the Republican Party is why Romney’s attack on Obama for supporting redistribution is destined to fail. The majority of Americans do support redistribution. Even though workers pay into it, Social Security is a form of redistribution because the government does not limit benefits to only the people who have paid in, and they don’t limit retiree benefits to just what they paid into the system when they were working. Medicare is a form of redistribution. Workers pay into the Medicare/Medicaid system so that seniors, the poor, and the disabled can have healthcare. The social safety net is wildly popular. This misguided Breitbarting of Obama is not going to resonate outside of the anti-Medicare and Social Security conservative circles.
The truth is that the vast majority of Americans love their socialism.
Romney is trying to compare an edited clip of Obama saying something fourteen years ago that when taken in full most Americans would agree with, to a complete video of him at fundraiser a few months ago secretly telling millionaires that half the country are deadbeats with a victimization complex.
Most of the media headlines are approaching Romney’s attempted push back with a degree of skepticism. Redistribution is usually in quotes, and the media is reporting as part of the horse race.
The fact that Romney said it also damages the attack. Mitt Romney still is carrying a net negative approval rating. Voters don’t like or trust him, so when he comes to them with an attack on a president that the majority of voters do like that is based on an edited clip, it is a backfire waiting to happen.
The biggest reason why this attack is destined to fail is that Republicans have tried this before. Back in 2008, John McCain and Sarah Palin tried to sway voters by telling them that Obama was running to be the running to be redistributionist in chief. Sarah Palin took it a step beyond and called Obama a socialist.
The strategy crashed and burned.
Republicans are desperate. They are doing anything to change the subject. This includes resurrecting old failed attacks on President Obama. They want to talk about anything other that what Mitt Romney said in that video. Most telling is that Romney is losing so badly that he is now pulling pages out of McCain’s playbook of fail.
By failure, I don’t mean that the political chattering class won’t talk about Romney’s embracing of the clip. I mean that this attack isn’t going to change the subject for Republicans. It won’t move voters into the Romney column, and it won’t shift the growing anti-Romney inertia of the campaign.
The fact that Romney is looking to conservative media to rescue him demonstrates that he is a sinking candidate who has no clue how to right the ship on his own.
Mitt Romney just looks desperate, and desperation doesn’t win the White House in November.
Image: The Daily Refried