Transcript: President Obama’s remarks on tough campaign rhetoric
Edited by Jenny Jiang
*Excerpt from press briefing held on Aug. 20, 2012
Transcript of President Barack Obama’s comments* on tough campaign rhetoric:
“As you know, your opponent recently accused you of waging a campaign filled with ‘anger and hate.’ And you told Entertainment Tonight that anyone who attends your rallies can see that they’re not angry- or hate-filled affairs. But in recent weeks, your campaign has suggested repeatedly, without proof, that Mr. Romney might be hiding something in his tax returns. They have suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon for the way that he handed over power of Bain Capital. And your campaign and the White House have declined to condemn an ad by one of your top supporters that links Mr. Romney to a woman’s death from cancer. Are you comfortable with the tone that’s being set by your campaign? Have you asked them to change their tone when it comes to defining Mr. Romney?”
“Well, first of all, I’m not sure all those characterizations that you laid out there were accurate. For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon.
“And I think that what is absolutely true is, if you watch me on the campaign trail, here’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how we put Americans back to work. And there are sharp differences between myself and Mr. Romney in terms of how we would do that. He thinks that if we roll back Wall Street reform, roll back the Affordable Care Act — otherwise known affectionately as Obamacare — that somehow people are going to be better off.
“I think that if we are putting teachers back to work and rebuilding America and reducing our deficit in a balanced way, that’s how you put people back to work. That is a substantive difference. That’s what I talk about on the campaign.
“When it comes to taxes, Governor Romney thinks that we should be cutting taxes by another $5 trillion, and folks like me would benefit disproportionately from that. I think that it makes a lot more sense and have put out a detailed plan for a balanced approach that combines tough spending cuts with asking people like me — millionaires and billionaires — to do a little bit more. That’s a substantive difference in this campaign.
“Whether it’s on wind energy, or how we would approach funding education, those are the topics that we’re spending a lot of time talking about in the campaign.
“Now, 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. And when it comes to releasing taxes, that’s a precedent that was set decades ago, including by Governor Romney’s father. And for us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns, as I did, as John McCain did, as Bill Clinton did, as the two President Bushes did, I don’t think is in any way out of bounds.
“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 that we need, I think people want to know that everybody has been playing by the same rules, including people who are seeking the highest office in the land. This is not an entitlement, being President of the United States. This is a privilege. And we’ve got to put ourselves before the American people to make our case.”
“Well, why not send a message to the top super PAC that’s supporting you and say, I think an ad like that is out of bounds? We shouldn’t be suggesting that –”
“So let’s take that particular issue, as opposed to — because you lumped in a whole bunch of other stuff that I think was entirely legitimate. I don’t think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad. But keep in mind this is an ad that I didn’t approve, I did not produce, and as far as I can tell, has barely run. I think it ran once.
“Now, in contrast, you’ve got Governor 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. What he’s arguing is somehow we have changed the welfare requirement — the work requirement in our welfare laws. And, in fact, what’s happened was that my administration, responding to the requests of five governors, including two Republican governors, agreed to approve giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work.
“So, in other words, we would potentially give states more flexibility to put more people back to work, not to take them off the work requirement under welfare. Everybody who has looked at this says what Governor Romney is saying is absolutely wrong. Not only are his super PACs running millions of dollars’ worth of ads making this claim; Governor Romney himself is approving this and saying 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 one thing you learn as President of the United States. You get called into account.
“And I feel very comfortable with the fact that when you look at the campaign we’re running, we are focused on the issues and the differences that matter to working families all across America. And that’s exactly the kind of debate the American people deserve.”
- WhiteHouse.gov: Remarks by the President to the White House Press Corps
- YouTube.com/WhiteHouse: President Obama Holds News Conference on Aug. 20, 2012
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