By Justin Sink - 09/20/12 03:02 AM EDT
Newly posted audio from the 1998 academic conference where President Barack Obama said he "believe[s] in redistribution" reveals the then-Illinois state Senator arguing, in the next sentence, for the importance of competition and the marketplace. The revelation potentially undermines some recent Republican attacks.
The "redistribution" clip surfaced Tuesday afternoon as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was working to explain his controversial "47 percent" comments surreptitiously recorded at a Florida closed-door fundraiser earlier this year. The poster of the audio onto video sharing site YouTube is unknown, but the clip was quickly linked to by the influential Drudge Report website.
"We do have to be innovative in thinking how - what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live?" Obama says. "And my suggestion I guess would be that the trick - and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues. 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 redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot."
Republicans immediately seized on Obama's comments that he "believe[s] in redistribution" to argue that the president did not believe in free market principles. On Tuesday, Romney told Fox news he believes "in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution."
But an extended version of the audio obtained Wednesday night by NBC News shows that Obama goes on in the next sentence to discuss how to inform government agencies with free-market principles.
"How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities," Obama continues.
The exclusion of that second sentence threatens to partially undermine Republican attacks on the president — especially after the Romney campaign issued a press release Wednesday criticizing the Obama campaign for "level[ing] false attacks against Mitt Romney based on a debunked and selectively edited video."
The Romney campaign was referring to initial clips provided by Mother Jones magazine that suggested Romney would walk away from the Middle East peace process; in the extended clip, Romney said he believed peace to be theoretically possible.
Neither campaign responded immediately to a request for comment regarding the extended audio on Wednesday night.