In the art of political warfare, if you’re on defense, you are losing. After being pilloried by the press and even among their own party’s establishment for a series of stoopid gaffes, outright lies and displays of monumental ignorance over the past month or so, Republican presidential candidates and the party’s propagandists are now desperately trying to get off defense by breitbarting Pres. Obama over a comment he made at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting over the weekend.
– Pres. Obama
In a Q&A with Boeing CEO James McNerney at the APEC CEO Business Summit, Pres. Obama said that corporate leaders have “been a little bit lazy” in their efforts to recruit new foreign investments in manufacturing in the United States. He went on to cite his administration’s efforts to address the corporate sector’s laziness in attracting new business through its SelectUSA program which “organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work.” (Emphasis added.)
Deploying a deceptive tactic out of the playbook of racist provocateur Andrew Breitbart, Republicans, including candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney and propagandists like the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer, have taken the president’s comment out of context, implying that he was criticizing the American people as being lazy.
Here’s the transcript of the president’s comment, in context:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’ve brought more enforcement actions against China over the last couple of years than had taken place in many of the preceding years, not because we’re looking for conflict, but simply because we want to make sure that the interests of American workers and American businesses are protected.
MR. McNERNEY: I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I’m sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is an issue, generally. 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. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.
And we think that we can do much better than we’re doing right now. Because of our federalist system, sometimes a foreign investor comes in and they’ve got to navigate not only federal rules, but they’ve also got to navigate state and local governments that may have their own sets of interests. Being able to create if not a one-stop shop, then at least no more than a couple of stops for people to be able to come into the United States and make investments, that’s something that we want to encourage.
Read in context, it’s clear that the president was actually criticizing efforts of corporatists and their main lobbying group, the deceptively named U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (The U.S. Chamber has no relationship with chambers of commerce in cities and towns, which provide a vital service to local communities.) One of the U.S. Chamber’s core missions is to promote American business interests in foreign markets. What it does in practice, however, is facilitate shipping American jobs overseas.
Lies like this one work in two ways. First, they put Democrats on defense as they assert the truth — and, as noted, when you’re on defense, you are losing. This takes the Democrats off message and fills the news hole with partisan back-and-forth, which regular non-political voters view as political bickering.
The second way lies like these are effective for Republicans is that they go unrebutted in the GOP media so that right wingers who only get their “news” from Fox and Limbaugh will accept as gospel that the president of the United States said Americans are lazy — just as they believe he went on an apology tour around the world, which, of course, also never happened.
On the other hand, the experience of Andrew Breitbart offers a cautionary tale for lying liars like Perry, Romney and Krauthammer. Breitbart and his protege, the felon James O’Keefe, have been caught selectively editing video and smearing people by taking comments out of context so often that they are viewed as buffoons by many in the establishment media.
It is unlikely that the corporate media would ever dismiss figures as august as Perry, Romney and Krauthammer as buffoons, but with lies as lazily constructed and easily disproved as this one, the risk is certainly there.