Out of context, the comment is pretty damning for the President, and as many political strategists (particularly Republican ones) understand, the context won’t matter if the sound bite is sold hard enough. Here’s what the President actually said:
“I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity: our stability, our openness, our innovative free-market culture. But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here, and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.”
Many in the GOP, glad to finally have something tangible to throw back at the President rather than pointing out one another’s missteps, are jumping on board. Many republicans have come forward, even taking the full text of the speech to issue. Heather Wilson, Senate hopeful in New Mexico, accused the President of attempting to shift blame for failing economic policies onto private sector executives. It’s also apparent that, although it’s possible to make the case that American businessmen are letting foreign investment come to them, it’s still a sizable portion of the national GDP. As reported in POLITICO, total foreign investment in the U.S. was $194 billion in 2010, and $1.7 trillion over the past decade.
The larger issue, however, is one in which the GOP have, by and large, completely misrepresented a comment by the President in order to paint him as “out of touch”; an ad hominem attack that has very little do with either policy or the truth. There’s plenty to criticize and dispute in the full text of the statement. However, twisting a sound bite to fuel a personal attack seems much more in keeping with the underhanded tenor of the Republican campaigns thus far. Of course, if Obama was playing with the GOP playbook, he’d either say he was “just kidding”, or he’d try a simple “shrug n’ a Texas grin”.