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The return of a self-defeating attack

Taxpayers built this.
Taxpayers built this.

I wish reasonable people, regardless of their ideology or partisan affiliations, could agree that building a campaign around a misleading, out-of-context quote is just sad.

Republican organizers have announced "We Built It" as the theme for the second day of the party's national convention, hoping to capitalize on a controversial remark by President Obama about the role he feels government has in helping businesses succeed.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement the convention proceedings on Aug. 28 "will honor the fact that it is the drive, determination and sacrifice of America's job creators and millions of hard-working American men and women who made the United States the exceptional nation it is."

Instead of pointing out, once again, that the president didn't say what he's accused of saying, let's consider a slightly different angle.

Republicans will celebrate "We Built It" at next week's convention at a lovely arena called the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Who built that? Well, as it turns out, the facility cost $139 million, 62% of which was financed by taxpayers. A Marquette University study (pdf) found that the facility "was financed by $66.8 million in revenue bonds from the stadium authority [and] $28.8 million in revenue bonds from the state," while private sources funded roughly a third of the costs.

In other words, Republicans hope to embarrass President Obama, who said public institutions and government investments help create a society in which the private sector thrives, and they'll prove their point by exclaiming "We Built It" in an arena largely financed by taxpayers.


Of course, the amusing aspect of this is that it's not the first screw-up along these lines.

When Team Romney first tried to exploit the out-of-context quote, assuming Americans aren't smart enough to know the difference, it rolled out a series of private businesses to prove that public institutions are irrelevant to entrepreneurs' success.

The problem? All of Romney's examples were businesses that thrived thanks to the support of public institutions and tax dollars. This happened over and over and over and over again, ultimately proving that the entire line of attack is self-defeating.