President Obama talked to NBC’s Ann Curry this week, who asked about his efforts to convince the private sector to invest more in hiring. His answer wouldn’t have been especially noteworthy, were it not for the right’s strange criticism of it. Here’s the clip of the relevant portion:

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For those of you who can’t watch clips from your work computers, the Today host noted that businesses are buying equipment, but not hiring workers, and asked why the president has been “unable to convince businesses to hire more people.” Obama responded, “Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of me being unable to convince them to hire more people. They’re making decisions based on what they think will be good for their companies. A couple of things have happened. Look, we went through the worst crisis since the Great Depression. We are now in a process where the economy is growing again, and we’ve created 2 million jobs over the last 15 months. But it’s not as fast as it needs to be to make up for all the jobs that were lost.

“The other thing that happened, though, and this goes to the point you were just making, is there are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM; you don’t go to a bank teller. Or you go to the airport, and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate. So all these things have created changes in the economy, and what we have to do now — and that’s what this job council is all about — is identifying where the jobs for the future are going to be; how do we make sure that there’s a match between what people are getting trained for and the jobs that exist; how do we make sure that capital is flowing into those places with the greatest opportunity. We are on the right track. The key is figuring out how do we accelerate it.”

Fairly straightforward stuff, right? Wrong. Fox News, Erick Erickson, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin all argued yesterday that the president “blamed ATMs for high unemployment.”

Must these folks always make such odd complaints? Is the notion that technological advancements have displaced part of the workforce — a concept taken as a given among economists — really that hard to understand?

It’s frustrating enough when the right lies, smears, and takes cheap shots. But some days, I just wish they’d grow up.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.