In a preview of things to come, there's quite a brouhaha swirling around President Obama's comment that America has gotten "a little bit lazy" in trying to lure foreign investment into the United States.
The fight so far involves Obama's re-election campaign, two Republican challengers, and the major party organizations. It illustrates how fiercely the 2012 battle for the White House will be waged, and how all sides are eager to gain every possible advantage.
What Obama said Saturday at a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Hawaii was this: "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."
This sparked a firestorm. GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry ran a campaign video in which he said, "Can you believe that? That's what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That's pathetic." Candidate Mitt Romney, campaigning in South Carolina, said, "Sometimes I just don't thnk that President Obama understands America....He said that Americans are lazy. I don't think that describes America."
It's important to note that Obama wasn't trying to say that American workers are lazy. He was talking about political and corporate leaders failing to court foreign investors.
For their part, the Democrats, not wanting to let this potentially damaging charge go unchallenged, quickly fired back. "Rick Perry and Mitt Romney apparently don't think the president should encourage CEO's to promote the United States abroad in order to create American jobs and attract investment at home," a spokeman for Obama's re-election campaign said.
The Democratic National Committee intensified the donnybrook this morning. DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse issued a statement to reporters that Romney and Perry "manipulate and distort the president's words for their own political gain." The DNC also released a web video condemning what Woodhouse called Romney's and Perry's "dishonest efforts to claim the president called Americans lazy--a claim that has been roundly criticized and debunked by the media as fanciful, inaccurate and out of context."
Forty-three minutes after Woodhouse's statement hit the web this morning, Republican National Committee Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski sent her own message to reporters in reply. "The DNC appears to be a little defensive about Republicans using President Obama's 'lazy' comments," she said. "....Thing is, if the shoe didn't fit, no one would care."
The RNC went on to list some other Obama criticisms of the United States, including his comment in September that the country has "gotten a little soft," and his remark in October at a San Francisco fund-raiser that, "We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge."
The episode shows where our politics are heading. Every remark, every phrase will be considered fair game, and no quarter will be asked or given.