Mitt Romney, Take Notes

John and others have skewered President Obama for his knockoff of Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it forward” speech (which Obama managed to make even more insulting by explicitly bashing small business owners). Romney pushed back on the speech yesterday, but the best rebuttal from a politician so far has come from Rep. Paul Ryan. The congressman spoke to Jim Pethokoukis yesterday, and here are some of the key excerpts:

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. …

Obama’s “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” comment was a serious, unforced blunder. Unlike Romney’s “I’m not worried about the very poor” gaffe, the context doesn’t change the meaning. Obama’s argument was identical to Warren’s (though to her credit she worded it a bit more delicately): the government, not the individual, deserves the bulk of the credit for successful private enterprise. Moreover, it implies that successful individuals aren’t already paying the lion’s share of the taxes.

As Ryan so eloquently points out, this is a fundamental distortion of the conservative argument. Which Republicans are advocating we get the government out of the road-building or firefighting business? Why does Obama equate opposition to massive federal intrusion in health care with opposition to government in general?

It’s because he doesn’t want to argue against his actual critics. He wants to argue against the unreasonable, easily-defeated critics he invents in his own speeches.