Romney, Republicans hit back with Obama 'redistribution' tape
September 19th, 2012
10:23 AM ET
2 years ago

Romney, Republicans hit back with Obama 'redistribution' tape

(CNN) – After withstanding searing criticism from both rivals and fellow Republicans on his secretly recorded remarks at a fund-raiser in May, Mitt Romney and his campaign are mounting a counter-offensive with a recording they hope will go viral as well: then-Illinois state Senator Barack Obama speaking favorably of "redistribution."

The audio clip first surfaced Tuesday, as Democrats were seizing upon their own video of Romney speaking at a private fund-raiser in Florida. That event was held in May.

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The clip of Obama was recorded in 1998 at Loyola University, according to Romney's campaign and fellow Republicans who are aggressively promoting it. It features the future president discussing what he calls a "propaganda campaign" against government funded entities, and suggesting better ways to make government more effective.

"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 is heard saying in the audio clip. "And I think some of it has been deserved."

Later in the recording, Obama says he wants to "resuscitate this notion that we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking how – what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live."

He continues: "I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution – because I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."

It's those final words – "I actually believe in some redistribution" – that Republicans have latched onto, characterizing them as an endorsement of redistributing wealth, rather than making sure government agencies were well supported. Many conservatives argue redistributing wealth is akin to socialism.

The clip, which appeared Tuesday afternoon on the conservative Drudge Report website, was subsequently tweeted by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

When Romney appeared on Fox News later in the day, he made the "redistribution" video a central part of his first answer.

"The president's view is one of larger government," Romney said. "There's a tape that came out today where the president's saying he likes redistribution. I disagree. I think a society based upon a government centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America, that will not build a stronger America, or help people out of poverty."

On Wednesday, Republicans continued the onslaught, releasing a web video tying the 1998 comments with more recent remarks, including the "you didn't build that" line which has been played on repeat by Republicans since Obama made the comment in July.

It also includes video of "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft grilling Obama on so-called "redistribution of wealth," but doesn't include any of Obama's answers.

In the "60 Minutes" interview from December, Obama doesn't say that he's for redistributing wealth, but rather that he wants people to feel like they're being given a fair shot.

"Look, everybody's concerned about inequality," Obama said in response to Kroft's question. "Those folks in there, who were listening to the speech, those are teachers and small-business people, and probably some small-town bankers, who are in there thinking to themselves, 'how is it that I– we're - working so hard, we now have Mom and Dad working hard,' maybe if they're lucky, they might have two jobs to try to pay off their house note, and it just seems like they're treading water?"

In the 2008 presidential campaign, the "redistribution" argument arose when Obama told Samuel Wurzelbacher (known to most as "Joe the Plumber") that "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, claimed Obama was running "running to be redistributionist in chief." His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, went further, saying "now is not the time to experiment with socialism."

Matt Rhoades, Romney's campaign manager, wrote in a memo Wednesday that Obama's "vision for America is a government-centered society, where government grows bigger and more active, occupying more of our everyday lives."

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, responded to the "redistribution" clip in a statement Tuesday.

"The Romney campaign is so desperate to change the subject that they've gone back to the failed playbook co-authored by Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber," LaBolt wrote.

"Fourteen years ago, then-Senator Obama was making an argument for a more efficient, more effective government – specifically citing city government agencies that he didn't think were working effectively," LaBolt continued. "He believed then, and believes now, that there are steps we can take to promote opportunity and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot if they work hard. Unlike Governor Romney, he doesn't believe that if you're a student who applies for a loan you're looking for a handout."

Also see:

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- Obama camp wastes no time highlighting Romney tapes

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- Biden on Romney tape: 'words speak for themselves'


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • RNC
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. 2020

    Redistribution? if this helps the country, it is long overdue.

    Americans always self reliant, proud provider to their family. 47% Romney called it free loaders include all his 4000+ rich friends paid no federal income tax.

    For Romney himself, paid 13% tax? it is insane. He has the nerve to point finger on the 47%, half of the population. He sounds like a highway robber.

    September 19, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  2. Victoria

    WHY ISN'T THIS AUDIO BEING DISCUSSED MORE IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA?!!!!
    Oh, I forgot.....this is Obama Not Romney.
    For your information...Redistribution is well underway and getting worse:
    47% don't pay federal income tax
    top 1% already are paying 60%+

    September 19, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  3. Greg

    We do not need to hear President Obama talking about redistribution to know he is for redistribution. Any educated American with any common sense already knows that. Just look at Obama's policies the last four years. Also, for anyone who is actually moved by Obama's "fairness" message, grow up. Life is not fair. Have you travelled outside the United States? We live in the wealthiest country on the face of the earth; even our poor are rich compared to the rest of the world. And yet we have a large portion of the population who complain about "how rich they are" because they do not have what Joe Schmo has down the street. We live in a country where every person has great opportunity to get an education and become successful, but we would rather sit back and complain that someone else who has more than us owes us something. I have a message for you, Obama is just using your jealousy of others to promote his own agenda of a larger more invasive government. If you think Capitalism is bad, then just wait until we become the next Greece because our government and entitlements are too big to sustain. You won't be hating the rich anymore. You will be hating the government who was supposed to take care of you.

    September 19, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. ST

    Totally childish. Is this your agenda Romney????

    September 19, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. Thomas

    Bain is the way to true "redistribution.". Deregulate , get government out of the way .

    Romney / Ryan , you can't blame GW Bush anymore !

    September 19, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. Chris

    Ugh, can we just live our lives without the government at every corner? Looking at these comments you'd think everyone would actually vote for a system where you need to get Obama's signed approval to get an oil change! Romney at least will scale back federal gov and give more power to the states. Lets stay focused on real issues for once America.

    September 19, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. 2020

    For the good of the country, re-elect President Obama.

    sensible, reasonable, and heart felt thanks

    September 19, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. Donyelle

    I am actually starting to feel sorry for Mittens....this is just sad! 2008 attack lines?
    I am starting to believe that Mitt is an undercover Democrat who is secretly trying to re-elect the President.
    How else do you explain why Mitt is sabotaging his own campaign!

    September 19, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. pbk

    So the Romney camp is trying to deflect his big boo boo with a comment from President Obama from 14 years ago! THis is the best they can do???

    September 19, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. Wes

    What happened to holding both candidate accountable for their records and stance on the issues? The media seems to ignore everything that is going wrong right now.
    - The current foreign policy is in shambles.
    - The economy is in the tank.
    - The welfare nation model is not sustainable.
    - The massive amount of regulation is preventing any small business from hiring, much less growing.
    - Our country's credit rating was downgraded yet again, but no one in the press seems to even speak of it.
    - We continue to provide large amounts of funding to countries that despise us. What are we buying???
    As an American who has served my country my entire adult life, it is infuriating to stand by watch my country betray the very principles it was founded upon. The presidential election is a job interview. We better get to conducting a throrough interview on these candidates and stop following the ridiculous drama the press delivers like some reality show. This is our country. It is up to us to demand the facts and decide for ourselves who is best to lead...and I'm honestly tired of the "leading from behind" mentality.

    September 19, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. truth hurts

    >Bill - And Obama said this 10 years ago, not three months ago

    But everything he has done while in office has been based on this approach. It is as valid today as the day he said it. He basically said the very same thing to Joe the Plumber but of course the LSM down played it for fear he would be labelled the socialist he is.

    Obama has NO CLUE about WEALTH CREATION which drives this economy. All he wants to do is take from those that DO create wealth and give to those that do or contribute nothing, but will vote politicians that will keep "redistrubuting" freebies to them.

    September 19, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. YoYo Mama

    This campaign is hilarious. All Romney ever does is repeat the same attacks back at Obama that are launched on him. Its obvious. Its transparent. It will. Not. Work.

    Obama 2012!

    September 19, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  13. spillz

    This is a lame attack since Romney also believes in redistribution. Except in his case the money goes up rather than down. Look at his tax policy the rich get tax cuts which lead to higher taxes on lower income and middle class people. The same is being done by state governments (run by Republicans) all across the country. At least redistribution down makes sense/ is inline with christian values...

    September 19, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. Gator

    This is alot like calling 911 for a burning bush when the forest is burning all around you. Its an old argument, nothing new and its actually one we have been having since the early 1900's when the income tax amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution.

    September 19, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. smc

    This may sound similar to Romney's 47% comment, but I really believe that the people who are going to vote for Obama (and that is clearly give or take 47%) don't seem to be shocked or upset by the word "redistribution". Some of us hear it and think Eastern-Europe (and even Western Europe) and it's a horror to us, but that 47% is more like "so what's so bad about sharing - isn't that what we teach kids to do?". So this Obama tape is really not going to bother many people. In fact I believe there is a poll that asks exactly this and 39% strongly believe in redistribution and another 10% are fine with it too.

    American ideals have already faded by so much - I'm sure that's what Romney is frustrated by - I still hope he wins - I miss America.

    September 19, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. fekt

    sadly this would have been there november suprise they had been saving for right before the voting started. a 14 year old interview that says restructuring government in a limited capacity to help make sure everyone gets a shot at the american dream is somehow viewed as a bad thing. release the whole video instead of snippets indead mr romney. you're quote doesn't even include a full sentence. as opposed to you whining about context when your own leaked video allows you to ramble on for minutes at a time.

    September 19, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  17. Vijay

    And why has CNN provided a link to this recording?

    September 19, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. Sniffit

    "The GOP believe in redistribution too...UP."

    Indeed. We can even take their belief in redistribution in other contexts too...like trying to use states rights arguments and social policies to redistrbute minorities to blue states in order to protect the red states from turning purple LIKE TEXAS IS.

    September 19, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. Jack from Illinois

    Running the Obama clip from FOURTEEN YEARS AGO and even at that, having to *selectively* edit it to make his point, shows simultaneously that

    A) Romney is a liar – run the WHOLE quote, not just the out-of-context quotelet.
    B) He's desperate. This smacks of the little kid's whine "But everyone's doing it!" – when it's obvious that the "it" he's been caught doing is far more egregious than what he's trying to palm off as common practice.
    C) Romney/Ryan is done. Their arrogance did them in.

    September 19, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  20. Return With Us Now To The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

    Oh, yes, 1998. A year that burns in my memory still.

    Romney was working at Bain Capital, having not yet retroactively retired.

    Romney was pro-choice regarding abortion.
    Romney was a supporter of the federal assault weapons ban.
    Romney had expressed broad support for embryonic stem cell research.
    Romney supported regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Oh, wait......... that was actually as Governor of Massachusetts FIVE YEARS LATER. Oooops, my bad.

    If the Mitt Romney of 1998 would like to have a debate with the Barack Obama of 1998, I wonder which one would seem like the one with the more socialist views? After all, 1998 was only 4 years after Romney's failed bid to unseat Ted Kennedy as Senator of the great state of Massachusetts. I've seen videos of those debates. Romney tries desperately to make Ted Kennedy out to be the more conservative candidate and even goes so far as to make disparaging remarks about Reagan/Bush (poppy Bush).

    If I were the Mitt Romney of 2012, I for one would not be pulling out 15-year-old speeches of my Democratic opposition when there are about a million videos out there of me trying to out-liberal one of the most liberal senators that this country has ever known.

    Just sayin'..................

    September 19, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. Deckard

    The current structure for social programs in this country is unsustainable. Why aren't we talking about that? The media has turned this election into a popularity contest. And the president goes on Letterman, Leno, he talks about being friends with Jay Z. WTF? How is that helping our country?

    Right now there are 3 people contributing to social security for every one 1 that benefits (that's not just retirees but also disability, etc.). In 30 years that ratio will be 2:1. We know the president favors redistribution of wealth, what he calls a "level playing field". Why not just tax everyone 100% and have the governement feed, cloth, and house us?

    September 19, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. bethjoyce

    Wow!! all out warfare!! A video clip from 1998 just isn't going to do it Mitt!! And the term redisribution isn't going to scare anyone either. He's been in office for 4 years and has explained very clearly how he would "redistribute" mimimally to give everyone a fair shot!! And this redistribution is not that different from what was done before the Bush Tax cuts took place. It doesn't look too different from our tax structure under previous presidents. So good try but I don't think this will go viral and if it does, it will have not effect. Obama's peopleare great at initiating counter offensives especially with Stephanie Cutter on board, so watch out for that!!

    September 19, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Earlier a right wingnut was wondering about Michigan having a 9% unemployment and leaning Obama. That right wingnut should have seen it when, under Bush, it was over 14% in MI.

    September 19, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. Deckard

    This country is screwed either way. Sure, we have a president everyone likes.

    September 19, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Barack Obama was speaking about correcting the *growth imbalance* of wealth, not the assets that people have amassed. But, hey. This is typical right wing tactics, misrepresenting the facts. It is perhaps the one thing that they are actually good at nowadays.

    September 19, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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