Romney, Republicans hit back with Obama 'redistribution' tape
September 19th, 2012
10:23 AM ET
11 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

– Hatch might 'die before his term' ends, opponent charges

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

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

    Watching the Romulans self-destructing is highly enjoyable. All we need now is some popcorn.

    September 19, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. jake in Omaha

    Note to Willard

    You are done. Drop your ads and save the money for your run in 2016.

    September 19, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  3. Sniffit

    More false equivalencies promoted by the MSM. Secret, closed-door meeting at which Mittens says horrible things about half the country to a tiny group of plutocrat billionaires IS NOT THE SAME as public speech to a university crowd expressing ideas that the Founding Fathers themselves wrote about. Thsi is patently ridiculous.

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

    The United States of Greece.

    September 19, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    Obama/Biden 2012

    September 19, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. truth hurts

    It was interesting to hear Obama talk about the "tecnical difficulties" of making this redistribution happen. I wonder if one of this was the US Constitution and the laws of this country?!! I wonder what he would do in a second term "with more flexibility" to ignore and circumvent our laws and Constitution? This guy is dangerous.

    September 19, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. bob

    Unfortunately the media is being one sided which will most likely result in another landslide victory for Obama. Either way you look at this, it's a lose lose for the American people.

    Abolish the 2 parties and unite America

    September 19, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. NameLeslie

    Mr. Romney ask for it.when u diging a hole for some one,allways make sure u dig one for yourself too.american people should not lesent to is gargabe.wake up american.He is all for the rich.

    September 19, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  9. Jesus

    I am an independent severly dissapointed by the Republican party. Obama said this **** 14 years *** ago! And his statements are still right when you dont just pick the four words that will get the Republican base fired up. Both Republicans and Democrats have bad apples in them but this is definitely not the way the grand party has operated in the past. True republicans that have not been caught up with this extreme agenda need to recognize when they have a rotten apple – you dont have to denounce your party and vote for your opposition but it is your duty to claim it back when it is being undone in front of your eyes. Again – this false comment Romney presidential campaign is rallying around was mentioned 14 years ago – I cant imagine how many sides of each issue that Romney has been on over the past 14 years! Republicans – do you really think that Mitt Romney is the best representative for your party? Are there other reasonable members of your party that make more sense and what are they saying? I am never happy with either Democratic or Republican candidates but this time the Romney camapaing is really tredding the sewers.

    September 19, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  10. ShawnDH

    I believe the richest Americans should pay more in taxes, so I guess I believe in redistribution to a degree. Yet another reason to vote for Obama.

    Of course, when the Bush tax scam came into effect with unaffordable tax cuts for the rich, we went bankrupt and lost MILLIONS of jobs which proves excessive tax cuts for the rich lead to economic catastrophe. And Mittens want to RAISE taxes for those making less than $250,000/year and CUT taxes for the rich, so he also believes in redistribution...of the poor and middle class to the rich. No thanks. Obama 2012.

    September 19, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  11. Woman In California

    I am waiting for the day Willard's answer is NOT Obama and the day he actually acts like a man and takes responsibility. Why does EVERYTHING out of his mouth have Obama's stamp on it? When he stood on the podium after the video was released, trying to cover up for his ignorance, he still managed to turn this whole thing into Obama's fault. It is disgusting and it makes him look like a spoiled, unprepared, "don't blame me" man-child.
    Good grief, can he even hung Ann without saying "Obama"? He's proven he's not ready for the job in the Oval Office and I think most people know that by now.

    September 19, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. MJ40

    The difference is that what Obama says in this tape just confirm the principles that most Obama voters agree with and does not alienate a high percentage of the Obama supporters. Romney is leading in the poorest states in the US, and yet he is saying that poor people are poor by choice and because they are lazy and they feel like they are entitled to government help. Obama is saying that there are instances where there should be redistribution to guarantee everyone gets a fair chance. Nothing that we have not heard. That was the message of the DNC. If you are an Obama supporter, you probably agree with the notion of working for the community and giving back to society to ensure other people have the same opportunities as you've had.

    September 19, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  13. pkrbkr

    Things are sooooo bad in the Romney campaign that they are digging up stuff from 14 years ago? wow! Incompetency in a campaign....makes me shudder to think what he'd be like as President of only the rich!

    September 19, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. Expat American

    Romney and the GOP's attempts at 'hitting back' are as sharp as a pillowcase full of wet dog hair.
    The Criminals and Liars (GOP) must lose.

    September 19, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. david comer

    I say......., Mitt!!! carry on with your campaign tactics, there is an entire NATION at stake here. The mentality here is, you dont bring a knife to a gun fight, whatever it takes to get this imposter, wanna be communist, redistributing, god hating fraud out of the white house.....

    September 19, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  16. EffortPA

    I 100% believe in increasing the taxes on people making over $250,000.00 a year so that we can keep our seniors with the current Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. I would actually be in favor of increasing the taxes on the rest of us if we could benefit from Medicare and Medicaid regardless of age. If taxing the rich more so that our seniors can keep their benefits is socialism, then our country was socialist in the 1950s and 1960s because the highest tax rate at the time was 90%. Today, the highest tax rate is 35% and rich people like Romney pay much less than that. We have, in fact, been redistributing the wealth from day 1.

    September 19, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. Malory Archer


    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%+


    Considering the top 1% owns 80% of the wealth, they should be paying more than 60% of the taxes.

    September 19, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Actually, Republicans all in when it comes to redistribution. They just call it "supporting the job creators."

    September 19, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Dave

    What part of..." Obama says he wants to "resuscitate this notion that we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind" does the GOP not understand? Robmey is as thick as a Brick.

    September 19, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |

    14 years ago
    Fourteen years ago
    something you said in May
    AND Obama's remarks aren't nearly as controversial as what you said

    September 19, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. linda

    I look at you Romney and your rich friends that you are protecting and defending as the ones that are trying to redistribute the wealth of this more tax breaks and loopholes to your buddies, wanting to govern this country under your ideas will take more away from the middle class, taking away our medicare, education, healthcare, taking away what little tax credits we have in our mortage credits, child care credits, schooling, just so you can give more to yourself and the rich buddies of yours, so you can keep putting your money in banks overseas and not having to pay taxes on it.......that's redistribution........

    September 19, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. first

    The Republicans has been saying for pass 3 1/2 years they want their country back, what ever that mean. We're all AMERICAN, like it or love it. I laugh at all those making that comment. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    September 19, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  23. Phillygirl

    From ten years ago.....really? This is sad and pathetic. Can't Romeny, his camp and his surrogates even address his "truthful comments" intelligently? Damn.....make an argrument that at least makes us want to believe you didn't mean it the way you said it.

    I wasn't voting for him anyway, but I didn't really think he was an idiot. Now I'm wondering.....

    September 19, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. Kef14

    So Republicans really think this stuff helps them? People listen to this and the spin republicans try to put on it, then they look at everything they've seen Obama do and say, and they know the republican spin just doesn't add up. The reason Romney's candid statements hurt him so much is because they DO add up. Romney has ALWAYS said one thing to the voters, and done and said another in private.

    September 19, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. Down the bayou

    Lets see, President Obama wants to "...structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution." in order to remove some inefficiencies within the government. How is that any different that Gov. Romney wanting to close some federal agencies he feels are inefficient, which in effect is redistributing money. Not only does Gov. Romney want close unnamed agencies he wants to redistribute tax dollars from many other agencies to the Dept. of Defense. How is this any different?

    September 19, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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