Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign continued its attack against President Barack Obama’s “the private sector is doing fine” gaffe today, blasting out a new video that accuses Obama of being a hypocrite about government hiring.
The video juxtaposes Obama’s remarks at last Friday’s press conference — in which he urged more public-sector hiring — with his May 8 speech in Albany, in which Obama claimed that “the only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me.”
Watch the video below:
A campaign press release that accompanied the video explains the message:
“President Obama may think the private sector is ‘doing fine,’ but he can’t seem to get his story straight on the public sector,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in the release. “Last Friday, he said the real weakness in the economy was state and local government employment – yet a month earlier, he touted the fact that government employment had fallen on his watch. Americans deserve a president who understands how to grow the economy and has a real plan to get our country back to work.”
The problem with this argument is that Obama was never bragging about cutting government jobs, as the Romney campaign claims. The full text of Obama’s Albany speech shows that the President was calling on Congress to do more to help public-sector hiring — which is the same thing he was saying during Friday’s press conference.
Here’s the quote in context, per a White House transcript:
Just about every time we put these policies up for a vote, the Republicans in Congress got together and they said no. They said no to putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job repairing our roads and our bridges and our schools and our transit systems. No to a new tax cut for businesses that hire new workers. No to putting more teachers back in our classrooms, more cops back on the beat, more firefighters back to work. And this is at a time when we know one of the biggest drags on our economy has been layoffs by state and local governments — that’s true all across the country.
And it’s worth noting, by the way — this is just a little aside — after there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up. It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush. So each time there was a recession with a Republican President, compensated — we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment.
The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me. (Applause.) So I make that point just so you don’t buy into this whole bloated government argument that you hear.”
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter called the attack “laughable,” and accused the Romney campaign of taking Obama’s remarks out-of-context.
The real issue, however, is that the Romney campaign doesn’t seem to know how it wants to capitalise on Obama’s gaffe about the private sector. While Republican leaders and conservative intellectuals see the remarks as another sign that Obama doesn’t understand the economy, the Romney campaign is using the gaffe to cast Obama as out-of-touch with the middle class — an attack that the Obama campaign has frequently used against Romney. And the latest video seems designed to counter attacks against Romney’s remark Friday that he doesn’t want to hire any more firefighters, cops, and policemen — by claiming that Obama used to hold the same position himself.
The uncertainty suggests that the Romney campaign may have realised the fundamental problem with attacks on Obama’s private sector “gaffe”: It wasn’t really a gaffe at all. The private sector is actually doing pretty well.
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