Krauthammer, context, and ‘ill-concealed contempt’

On Fox News last night, Charles Krauthammer could hardly contain his disgust for President Obama.

“When you call your own country ‘lazy’ when you are abroad and you call it unambitious and soft when you’re home, I think what you are showing is not tough love, but ill-concealed contempt.

“Obama is ready to blame everybody except himself for the lousy economy…. And now he blames Americans’ laziness. I think it’s unseemly.”

So, in Krauthammer’s mind, the American president is contemptuous of Americans. This, of course, fits nicely into the years-long right-wing campaign to attack the president’s sense of patriotism. Mitt Romney, true to form, has picked up on the identical line of attack.

But Krauthammer and Romney have proof — Obama told foreigners the United States is “lazy.” That’s outrageous, right? It might be, if it were in any way true.

But it’s not. In context, the president was talking to American business leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, and he was talking about policymakers being lazy about attracting businesses:

“We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted, well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”

Are these the comments of someone with “contempt” for Americans? Of course not; that’s ridiculous.

Krauthammer and Romney are taking one word out of context, hoping to fool the public and the media. With Fox News pushing this, the effort may well work, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s cheap and kind of pathetic.

Postscript: It’d be great if Krauthammer realized that comments made in Hawaii are not comments made “abroad.” It’s a state, after all.

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Steve Benen

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.