In other words, this is an argument that Democrats have been making for decades, one that Republicans have every right to reject. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, understood fully that Obama was talking about roads and still thought his logic was faulty.
Romney, however, descends into silly season when he extrapolates Obama’s quote and says that means Obama believes Steve Jobs did not build Apple Computers.
Here’s what Obama said when Jobs passed away earlier this year: “By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun.”
That sounds like Obama believes that Jobs really did build his company. He did not mention the roads to Cupertino.
The Pinocchio Test
Obama certainly could take from lessons from Warren or Roosevelt on how to frame this argument in a way that is less susceptible for quote-snipping. And Romney certainly could answer Obama’s argument by engaging in a serious discussion about whether the wealthy should pay much more in taxes as a matter of social good and equity. That would be grounds for an elevated, interesting and important debate.
But instead, by focusing on one ill-phrased sentence, Romney and his campaign have decided to pretend that Obama is talking about something different — and then further extrapolated it so that it becomes ridiculous. That’s not very original at all.