Did Mitt Romney Insult Olympians?

Nope. President Obama Didn’t Insult Small Business Owners Either

Mitt Romney and others went into overdrive last week to create a new distraction from questions surrounding Romney’s years at Bain Capital, secret tax returns, and network of overseas accounts. By selectively quoting the president, Romney alleged that the president was insulting small business owners by claiming the government was responsible for their success. Here’s what the president actually said:

OBAMA: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

The Romney campaign, aided by its own selective editing, claimed that the “that” in “you didn’t build that” meant a business, when it quite clearly was referring to roads and bridges. What’s even more bizarre and misleading about this line of attack is that Romney himself essentially agreed with the president, even as he attacked him. Here’s what Romney said last week:

ROMNEY: “I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business.Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help. But let me ask you this. Did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand. Take that Mr. President! This is what’s happening in this country. These people are entrepreneurs.”

And now again today, we learned that Mitt Romney said something almost identical in sentiment to Obama’s statement back when he was running the Olympics. Here’s what he told Olympians:

ROMNEY: “[You] know you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them.”

Is that insulting to Olympians? No. Just like President Obama did not insult small business owners or “free enterprise” with his comments.

Romney is quite correct in observing that it took a village to get Olympians where they were. It also look a lot of money from American taxpayers just to put on the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 — about $1.5 BILLION in taxpayer funds. While some of the money was devoted to security costs, a good portion of it was devoted to just the sort of “roads and bridges” the president spoke of and Romney attacked him for mentioning.

And, as if to further underscore the ridiculousness of his latest false attack, Romney held a round table with small business owners today — several of whom happen to be federal contractors. Another business owner supporting Romney — one who was even featured in a Romney attack ad out last week — has also received more than $1 MILLION in government assistance over the years. A closer look at a Massachusetts small business that served as a venue for Romney to launch his attacks last week reveals that it too received low-interest government-backed loans and a federal contract worth more than half a million dollars.

IN ONE SENTENCE: We’re all in this together, which is why we need an economy that works for everyone and a government that makes sure everyone is playing by the same set of rules and has the same opportunities to work hard and get ahead.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed

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ThinkProgress was featured on HBO’s The Newsroom again last night.


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