Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker, and can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com. His column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.
First, President Obama accused Americans of being "soft." Then, he said we're "lazy." How dare he!
If you're a undisciplined campaigner, who's willing to take unrelated quotes out of context and combine them in one thoroughly bastardized attack, you come up with: President Obama thinks we're all soft and lazy!
On the GOP campaign circuit, "lazy" and "soft" have quickly become the go-to words for 2012.
It's the latest example of how unprincipled political behavior in an age of instant communications is wrecking government, as well as the process of electing people to run it.
Here's exactly what President Obama said in Honolulu the other day during a conference on international business:
"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."
It's a statement with which no reasonable person, Democrat or Republican, would disagree.
Yet, within hours Rick Perry issued a TV commercial in which he rants, "Can you believe that? That's what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy?" Then, smirking to camera, Perry adds: "That's pathetic."
Mitt Romney was also quick to distort, telling a campaign audience, "Sometimes, I just don't think that President Obama understands America."
Several other GOP hopefuls, including Heather Wilson of New Mexico and George Allen of Virginia, are already using the "lazy" line in their Senate campaigns.
Allen wrote on Facebook: "President Obama said that Americans have been 'lazy' over the last couple decades. Mr. President, it is not the quality of the American people that is holding back our economic growth — it's Washington and its failed policies."
Actually, the president's pronouncement is as spot-on as the statement he made earlier when he observed that Americans had gotten "a little soft." Speaking to an audience in San Francisco, he noted, "We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam."
He was chiding Republicans in Congress for continually blocking the most basic measures that would create jobs and fix infrastructure.
The president returned to the theme in a TV interview in Florida. Speaking specifically about the younger generation, he said:
"The way I think about it is, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."
The president added that he wouldn't trade the position of the U.S. with any country on earth, since "we still have the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world; we still have the most dynamic economic system in the world. So we just need to bring all those things together."
It takes quite a bit of partisan gymnastics to turn these honest observations into charges that Mr. Obama thinks we're all soft and lazy. Yet, that's what the president's rivals are attempting.
In truth, some of us are soft and lazy, and a few are also desperate.
Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He is also the host of “Candid Camera.” He can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.