Last weekend, in a meeting with CEOs in Honolulu, President Obama offered some mild criticism of himself and the business community when it came to attracting foreign investment:
“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. [Emphasis mine]
It’s hard to imagine something more straightforward than this; Obama doesn’t think that American business is “lazy” as much as he believes that the country could do more to make the United States more attractive to new businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s the usual boilerplate that you hear from politicians across the political spectrum.
Naturally, Republicans have latched onto it as another example of Obama’s apparent disdain for America. In a repeat performance earlier this year, when they accused Obama of attacking American “exceptionalism” even as he affirmed it, Republicans have taken the “lazy” comment out of context in order to paint the president as hostile to the public. Texas Governor Rick Perry led the charge with a campaign ad:
“Can you believe that? That’s what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy?” Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said in a campaign ad released Wednesday. “That’s pathetic.”
Not to be outdone, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney offered a similar criticism:
“Sometimes, I just don’t think that President Obama understands America,” he said at a campaign event.
More than anything, Republican voters want red meat –- so far, the most successful candidates are the ones who have offered the most vociferous denunciations of Obama while the least successful candidates are the ones who have been more measured and less personal in their attacks on the president (see: Jon Huntsman). In other words, as we enter the actual primary elections, you should expect to hear a lot more of this new sound bite.