President Obama defended himself on Monday from Mitt Romney’s recent charges that his campaign is fueled by “anger and hate.” Obama said during a surprise press conference that he was focused on policy differences between him and Romney.
“If you look at the overall trajectory of the campaign and the ads that I have approved and are produced by my campaign, you’ll see that we point out sharp differences between the candidates, but we don’t go out of bounds,” he said.
Obama cited tax fairness, Wall Street reform and the Affordable Care Act, as areas on which he has fundamental disagreements with Romney. Outside of policy, Obama said Romney’s tax returns were also fair game. Voters, Obama said, “rightly expect” the information in evaluating his rival.
“When it comes to releasing taxes, that’s a precedent that was set decades ago including by Gov. Romney’s father,” Obama told reporters at the White House’s daily press briefing. “For us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns, as I did, and as John McCain did, and as Bill Clinton did, and as the two President Bushes did, I don’t think that it is any way out of bounds.”
Obama denied any connection to an ad by Democratic super PAC Priorities USA in which a man implies that Romney was to blame for his wife’s cancer death after he lost his health care at a Bain-owned factory (although his campaign has cited the same story in its materials). Obama said he disagreed with the charge that Romney had anything to do with the woman’s fate.
“I don’t believe that Gov. Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman who is portrayed in that ad,” he said. “But keep in mind, this is an ad that I didn’t approve, and I did not produce and as far as I can tell, has barely run.”
Obama accused Romney of hypocrisy in his complaints about negative attacks, noting that his recent ads and own stump speeches falsely claim the White House removed work requirements from welfare, a charge strongly disputed by both independent fact checkers and the Republican architect of the law.
“The contrast, I think it is pretty stark,” Obama said. “They can run the campaign they want, but the truth of the matter is that you can’t make stuff up. That’s one thing that you learn as president of the United States: You will be called into account.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.