President Barack Obama recently argued that business people rely on the help of government for their success. The Romney campaign called the remarks "insulting." Other conservatives say Obama mischaracterized the Republican position.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. 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 point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together," Obama said at a campaign stop Friday.
He cited the Internet, fire departments, the G. I. Bill, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam as examples of government action that helps business owners.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Monday, in an email to Fox News, that the remarks "reflect just how unqualified he is to lead us to a real economic recovery. They are also insulting to the hardworking entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and job creators who are the backbone of our economy."
Benjy Sarlin, writing for the liberal blog, Talking Points Memo, points out that some conservatives are taking Obama's words out of context. They cite the phrase, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that," and suggest that the "that" refers to the business. In context, Obama clearly means it is roads, bridges and education that a successful business did not build.
Understood in context, though, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer argued on Fox News' "Special Report" Monday that Obama is making a straw-man argument, because no Republican is opposed to the government providing roads, bridges, education, fire departments and police protection.
Krauthammer also suggested that Obama was being hypocritical because the stimulus bill was not, by and large, used to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure.
"This is a man who spent a trillion dollars and left not a residue. He could have, for example, done something about the electric grid. He did nothing on that. Instead, he sprinkled the money on cronies, on pie in the sky ideological fetishes like solar panels and electric cars. ... Money that is wasted, it's water on the sand. He did not leave behind a residue of all that and yet he speaks about infrastructure. All of us want to do infrastructure, but real infrastructure, and then leave the rest of life to the private individual and the entrepreneur," Krauthammer said.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who is sometimes mentioned as a potential running mate for Romney, told the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis that Obama's remarks reveal a view that the government needs a more expansive role in society.
"Every now and then, [Obama] pierces the veil. He's usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he's trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they're going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it's one or the other, which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. ... To me it's the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default."