Audio has surfaced of a much younger President Obama discussing economics at Loyola University in 1998. Drudge has it in a red banner headline, so you know it’s supposed to be scandalous:
First of all, this is fair game. President Obama has attempted to construct a narrative about Mitt Romney based almost completely upon what he said and did at Bain Capital in the 1990s. Therefore, he has signaled that anything said or done in the 90s is still of great relevance to today’s arguments. Hence, the fairness of dredging up this old audio clip.
The problem here is that I don’t think that there’s anything particularly scandalous about it. Most Americans claim allegiance to the abstract ideals of liberty and free enterprise, but most Americans also have no problem qualifying that allegiance with support for some redistribution of wealth. Social Security, Medicare, government schools, unemployment benefits, and food stamps are all examples of wealth redistribution. For better or worse, these are very popular programs.
This is what Obama said: “My suggestion, I guess, would be, that the trick — and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with, and not just political issues — the trick is figuring out — how do we structure government systems to pull 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.”
In context, it shows not only consistency with his 2012 campaign message, but places him thoroughly within the mainstream of the American public. The fact that he chose to frame it as what it is — “redistribution” — rather than in a cowardly, euphemistic way (“investing in our future through a public-private partnership” or some nonsense like that) actually demonstrates intellectual honesty on his part, not evasiveness. He also uses the opportunity to criticize the efficacy of the Chicago city government, including its school system, so the clip hardly makes him out to be some leftist ideologue.
The president does believe in a greater amount of wealth redistribution than the average citizen. I think that he is significantly more ideological than the past few presidents that we’ve had, as well. But this audio clip does not demonstrate either of those points. “Spread the wealth” was a far more damning moment, yet it did nothing to blunt Obama’s margin of victory in 2008. If Republicans are tempted to stage a revival of the Obama’s-a-Socialist production, I’d advise them: Don’t do it. But they probably will, and it won’t work. Anyone who thinks that Obama is a socialist or a leftist isn’t voting for him, anyway — and anyone who doesn’t think that isn’t going to be convinced of it by this clip. The difficult reality of the situation is that there is only one way to win in November, and it’s for Mitt Romney to persuade the public that he is worth electing. Anything else — this included — is noise.