Discuss as:

A 'lazy' attack


It has become the new Republican attack on President Obama: He thinks Americans are lazy.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney leveled that charge yesterday while campaigning in South Carolina. "Sometimes, I just don't think that President Obama understands America," he said. "I say that because this week -- or was it last week? -- he said that Americans are lazy. I don't think that describes America."

Today, Rick Perry uses the line of attack in a new TV ad. "Can you believe that?" Perry says to the camera. "That's what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy?"

And even in the contest for New Mexico's open Senate seat, Republican candidate Heather Wilson called on the Democrats running for the race to repudiate Obama's remarks.

“President Obama ... said the reason we’re not creating more jobs in this country is because Americans have been ‘lazy’,” she said. “He's wrong about the American people and he's wrong to have criticized America in front of the world."

But when you examine what Obama said on Saturday -- to business leaders at the APEC summit in Hawaii -- it's pretty clear that his critics are taking him out of context. He wasn't calling Americans lazy; rather, he was calling U.S. business practices to attract foreign investors lazy. In fact, you could interpret his full remarks as a call to arms to improve on that front.

MR. McNERNEY: I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I’m sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is an issue, generally. I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity -- our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.

But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.

And we think that we can do much better than we’re doing right now. Because of our federalist system, sometimes a foreign investor comes in and they’ve got to navigate not only federal rules, but they’ve also got to navigate state and local governments that may have their own sets of interests. Being able to create if not a one-stop shop, then at least no more than a couple of stops for people to be able to come into the United States and make investments, that’s something that we want to encourage.

This GOP attack -- that Obama thinks Americans are lazy -- is the latest Republican suggestion that the president is somehow un-American or espouses anti-American views.

Previously, Republicans have (falsely) accused him of apologizing for America or not believing in American exceptionalism (when, in fact, he said he believes in it).

*** UPDATE *** Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt emails First Read: “Rick Perry and Mitt Romney apparently don’t think the president should encourage CEOs to promote the United States abroad in order to create American jobs and attract investment at home.  They have opposed the president’s efforts to create 2 million jobs now and instead of laying out their own plan to do so, they have endorsed a radical budget plan that would wipe out investments necessary to create jobs in programs like education, research and development and clean energy and shift a greater tax burden away from millionaires and billionaires onto the backs of the middle class and seniors.”