President Barack Obama told USA Today in an interview published Monday that Republicans led by Mitt Romney have so twisted his record and his words that they may as well be taking on "a fictional Barack Obama."
That message, delivered on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, follows days and weeks of increasingly strident complaints from the Obama campaign that Team Romney is lying about his record.
Republicans "have spent a lot of time creating a fictional Barack Obama who is supposedly taking the work out of welfare reform, or doesn't think small businesses built their own businesses," the president told the newspaper.
The welfare reform charge stems from the Obama administration's decision — at the request of governors, including Republicans -- to give states more flexibility with the work requirement. But that waiver requires that states move 20% more people to work than they do currently. The small business comment refers to the way Republicans have pulled out of context the president's remarks at a campaign really in Virginia. Obama said small businesses could not succeed without government investments in education, infrastructure, or the Internet. "If you've got a business—you didn't build that," he said. Republicans eager to portray Obama as hostile to entrepreneurs jumped on the comment.
(Democrats haven't been particularly shy about using this tactic themselves, ripping Romney's "I like being able to fire people" out of its context — he was talking about giving Americans more choices in health insurance — to make it seem he just enjoys handing out pink slips. And Obama himself said Sunday that Romney "doesn't have a timetable" for getting American forces out of Afghanistan — which is a bit awkward, given that Romney has endorsed Obama's own timetable.)
Obama mocked last week's Republican convention, saying Romney talked about himself and the president but did not offer much by way of policy details.
"I guess their premise is that the American people will be convinced, if we just get rid of Obama, then somehow that will be enough," he told USA Today.
That won't happen in Charlotte, Obama said, which will be "less an introduction to the American people than a conversation with them."
"The American people know me," he said. "They know my strengths. I'm sure they know my weaknesses — and if they aren't familiar with them, the other side will be happy to point them out."