President Obama made an unannounced visit to the White House briefing room Monday afternoon, during which he defended the tone of his campaign and called for rival Mitt Romney to produce more tax returns. He distanced himself from an ad produced by the liberal Priorities USA super PAC that suggests Romney was responsible for the cancer death of the wife of a steelworker who was laid off by Bain Capital after the company took over his plant. Obama also argued that it's Romney's camp that has crossed the line.
The president said that his campaign has focused more on the "sharp differences" between himself and his opponent on such issues as health care and taxes.
"Now, you know, if you look at the overall trajectory of our campaign and the ads that I've approved and are produced by my campaign, you'll see that we point out sharp differences between the candidates, but we don't go out of bounds," Obama said.
The president said that he does not believe that Romney is responsible for the death of the woman cited in the Priorities USA ad, and reminded reporters that he not only didn't approve or produce the ad, but also that it has run just once.
"Now, in contrast, you've got Gov. Romney creating, as a centerpiece of his campaign, this notion that we're taking the work requirement out of welfare, which every single person here who's looked at it says is patently false, right?" Obama said, adding that Romney has approved ads that include the falsehood and repeats it on the stump. "So, the contrast, I think, is pretty stark. They can run the campaign that they want, but the truth of the matter is you can't just make stuff up. That's the one thing you learn as president of the United States. You get called into account."
Romney's campaign accused the president of ducking an opportunity to condemn the Priorities USA ad and a comment made by a campaign representative that it says accuses Romney of having committed a felony by filing false Securities Exchange Commission reports about when his tenure at Bain ended.
“After spending weeks refusing to denounce his super PAC’s scurrilous ad against Mitt Romney, President Obama once again failed to lead. Worse yet, the president falsely alleged no one in his campaign had accused Mitt Romney of committing a crime," said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. "President Obama’s failure to stand up to dishonest rhetoric and attacks demonstrates yet again he’s diminished the office that he holds and his record is nothing more than business as usual in Washington."
Williams was referring to a comment by Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, who in July said, "Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony. Or, he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments."
Obama also defended the chorus of Democrats who are calling for Romney to produce additional tax records, noting that it was the governor's father who set the precedent. The president said that it was a legitimate request given the decisions looming over government spending and tax cuts and that the request was not "overly personal" or "being mean," but "pretty standard stuff."
"I think that is what the American people would rightly expect is a sense that – particularly when we're going to be having a huge debate about how we reform our tax code and how we pay for the government we need, I think people want to know that … everybody's been playing by the same rules, including people who are seeking the highest office in the land."
Obama noted that being president is "not an entitlement" but a privilege and when you run for that office your life becomes an open book.
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)