Politics can be a notoriously dirty game, but a new ad Republican Mitt Romney's campaign is running on television may be going too far. It is based on an online video titled "These Hands" the campaign released this week that very selectively uses part of a speech President Obama delivered last Friday at an event in Roanoke, Virginia.
In his remarks, the president talked about how individual success is based on initiative and a little help from others along the way. He pointed to examples like "a great teacher," investments in the nation's infrastructure or a government innovation like the Internet, without which there would not have been the technology boom that turned geeks into gazillionaires.
Using an opponent's words to attack him or her is one of the rules of the game. The problem with "These Hands" is that it edits the president's remarks to give what he said an entirely different meaning.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher 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," he said in the speech. "If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, that when we succeed, we succeed because of our own individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
Romney and other Republicans almost immediately pounced on the words "you didn't build that" to reinforce their message that Obama doesn't have a clue about free enterprise or the economy.
"It's like saying Steve Jobs didn't build Apple. Or Bill Gates didn't build Microsoft. Or that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor Company or that Ray Croc didn't build McDonalds or that Papa John didn't build Papa John's Pizza," said Romney.
"These Hands" opens with the president saying, "If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." It features New Hampshire business owner Jack Gilchrist criticizing the president for daring to suggest that someone or something else is responsible for the metal fabricating company his family has built.
"My father's hands didn't build this company? My hands didn't build this company? Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you demonizing us for it?" he says. "It's time we had somebody who believes in us, someone who believes that achievement should be rewarded, not punished. We need somebody who believes in America."
This is not the first time Team Romney has employed such a strategy. In one of its first ads, the campaign featured a clip of Obama quoting his 2008 opponent Sen. John McCain but made it look as though they were the president's own words.
Obama's campaign released its own video Thursday that says Romney, who has in the past made the same point the president made in Virginia, "will say anything" to get elected. Obama also had planned a "counterpunch" in speeches delivered in Florida Friday, CBS reports. Both candidates postponed the day's campaign events out of respect for the victims of the shooting rampage in Colorado.
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