On Wednesday's edition of "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart directed a pointed question at presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "You really want to hang your entire campaign on a willful, out-of-context misunderstanding?"
Stewart was referring to the outrage expressed by Romney and other conservatives over a remark made by President Obama during a speech in Roanoke, Va.: "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." It's a sound bite that conveniently reinforces the perception that Obama is hostile to entrepreneurs and free-market enterprise.
But, Stewart argued, it's also a misrepresentation of what Obama was actually saying. As evidence, he quoted the unedited version of the now-controversial speech, in which the president made the case that government-funded resources, such as schools, roads and bridges, contribute to individual success. "The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together," Obama said.
Stewart lashed out at his favorite target, Fox News, for pouncing on the supposed gaffe. He slammed host and "disingenuous, Muppet-shaped propaganda tool" Steve Doocy for playing what he claimed was an "in context" recording of the president's speech, but which was really just a different version of the same edited sound bite.
Stewart also said he was shocked by the network's decision to interview two very cute, enterprising young girls who'd started their own lemonade stand, asking them about the president’s stance on small business. "Can you get more manipulative?" he wondered.
Although Stewart conceded that both sides are guilty of focusing on gaffes -- "I like to fire people,” anyone? -- he claimed that Romney was taking the usual political spin one giant step further.
"This deliberate misstating and misrepresentation of Obama's position is now the centerpiece of Romney's entire campaign," he said. "Hanging your attack on a person's slight grammatical misstep is what people do in an argument when they’re completely [in trouble] and they know they have no argument."
Stewart bemoaned the fact that, instead of having "a substantive discussion about our economy that might even be productive for our future well-being," Romney was encouraging the idea that he and Obama share "diametrically opposed worldviews.”
In fact, Stewart claimed, the policy differences between the candidates are merely "a matter of degrees." To wit, he played a montage of Romney and Obama essentially saying the exact same thing about the positive role government can play in individual success.
Over on "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert also addressed the "you didn't build that" controversy, but did so in the more participatory style that is his trademark. To prove that his show's success is solely the result of his genius and hard work, Colbert attempted to broadcast a segment without the assistance of his crew, using only an iPhone, a desk lamp and a whiteboard. Let’s just say it didn't go so well.
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