After withstanding searing criticism from both rivals and fellow Republicans on his secretly recorded remarks at a fund-raiser in May, Mitt Romney and his campaign are mounting a counter-offensive with a recording they hope will go viral as well: then-Illinois state Senator Barack Obama speaking favorably of “redistribution.”
The audio clip first surfaced Tuesday, as Democrats were seizing upon their own video of Romney speaking at a private fund-raiser in Florida. That event was held in May.
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The clip of Obama was recorded in 1998 at Loyola University, according to Romney’s campaign and fellow Republicans who are aggressively promoting it. It features the future president discussing what he calls a “propaganda campaign” against government funded entities, and suggesting better ways to make government more effective.
“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,” he is heard saying in the audio clip. “And I think some of it has been deserved.”
Later in the recording, Obama says he wants to “resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking how – what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live.”
He continues: “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 some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”
It’s those final words – “I actually believe in some redistribution” – that Republicans have latched onto, characterizing them as an endorsement of redistributing wealth, rather than making sure government agencies were well supported. Many conservatives argue redistributing wealth is akin to socialism.
The clip, which appeared Tuesday afternoon on the conservative Drudge Report website, was subsequently tweeted by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
When Romney appeared on Fox News later in the day, he made the “redistribution” video a central part of his first answer.
“The president’s view is one of larger government,” Romney said. “There’s a tape that came out today where the president’s saying he likes redistribution. I disagree. I think a society based upon a government centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America, that will not build a stronger America, or help people out of poverty.”
On Wednesday, Republicans continued the onslaught, releasing a web video tying the 1998 comments with more recent remarks, including the “you didn’t build that” line which has been played on repeat by Republicans since Obama made the comment in July.
It also includes video of “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft grilling Obama on so-called “redistribution of wealth,” but doesn’t include any of Obama’s answers.
In the “60 Minutes” interview from December, Obama doesn’t say that he’s for redistributing wealth, but rather that he wants people to feel like they’re being given a fair shot.
“Look, everybody’s concerned about inequality,” Obama said in response to Kroft’s question. “Those folks in there, who were listening to the speech, those are teachers and small-business people, and probably some small-town bankers, who are in there thinking to themselves, ‘how is it that I- we’re – working so hard, we now have Mom and Dad working hard,’ maybe if they’re lucky, they might have two jobs to try to pay off their house note, and it just seems like they’re treading water?”
In the 2008 presidential campaign, the “redistribution” argument arose when Obama told Samuel Wurzelbacher (known to most as “Joe the Plumber”) that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, claimed Obama was running “running to be redistributionist in chief.” His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, went further, saying “now is not the time to experiment with socialism.”
Matt Rhoades, Romney’s campaign manager, wrote in a memo Wednesday that Obama’s “vision for America is a government-centered society, where government grows bigger and more active, occupying more of our everyday lives.”
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