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Republicans point to Obama 'redistribution' video

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Seizing on an old clip of Barack Obama saying he believes in wealth “redistribution,” Republicans are trying to shift into offense after spending a day struggling to mitigate the political fallout of the release of a secretly recorded video of Mitt Romney disparaging 47 percent of the American public as “victims” who don’t pay taxes and depend on government.

In the video clip, Mr. Obama, ostensibly speaking to Loyola University in October, 1998, when he was a Illinois state senator, Mr. Obama endorses “redistribution” as a way to help the working poor.

“I think the trick is figuring out how to structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution — because I actually believe in redistribution at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot,” he said in a YouTube video posted on the Drudge Report.

The YouTube video is labeled “Barack Obama, Loyola University, 10/19/98” and carries no further explanation about who Mr. Obama was speaking to or who shot the video.

The Republican National Committee sent out an email of the Drudge Report’s video link and headline: “Revealed: Obama in 1998: ‘I Actually Believe in Redistribution.’”

The clip provides some context, including comments from Mr. Obama arguing for more policy research to help the working poor and expressing a desire to “resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all.”

“There has been a systematic, I don’t think it’s too strong to call it a propaganda campaign, against the possibility of government action and its efficacy,” he said. “And I think some of it has been deserved — the Chicago Housing Authority has not been a good model of good policy making and neither necessarily have been the Chicago public schools — what that means then as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this together — leave nobody behind — we do have to be thinking what are the delivery systems that are effective in meeting people where they live.”

” … I think the trick is figuring out how to structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution — because I actually believe in redistribution at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot,” he continued.

Democrats, the Obama campaign and the White House have spent the last 24 hours condemning Mr. Romney’s comments about 47 percent of the public who automatically support the president, calling the remarks divisive, elitist and unpresidential. Pundits on both sides of the aisle have said the video spells serious trouble for Mr. Romney’s election chances even though the video’s impact will not be known for several days until new polling data is released.

“When you’re president of the United States, you’re president of all the people, not just the people who voted for you,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

The Romney campaign has said Mr. Obama is trying to distract from a weak economy, and Mr. Romney has generally defended the gist of his remarks and his tax-cutting agenda, while admitting that his comments in the video were not “elegantly stated.”

In the video, recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, the GOP challenger says he’s not worried about convincing the 47 percent of Americans who automatically support the president, because many of them don’t pay income taxes and wouldn’t be attracted to his agenda of tax cuts.

“My job is not to worry about those people,” Mr. Romney says in the video.

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at scrabtree@washingtontimes.com.

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