President Barack Obama told a local Virginia television station Wednesday that he had "regrets" for an ill-phrased remark attacked by Republicans -- "You didn't build that" -- but he stands by his larger point about infrastructure investment being necessary for businesses to succeed.
"Obviously I have regrets for my syntax," Obama said. "But not for the point, because everyone who was there watching knows exactly what I was saying."
"This is a tendency for the other side to shade the truth a little bit to try to win political points," he added.
Speaking in July in Virginia, the president had said, "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help." He continued, "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
Those last two sentences have been endlessly repeated by Republicans to paint the president as anti-business, even becoming a theme -- "We built this" -- for one day of their convention last week in Tampa, Fla.
When asked if small-business owners were offended by the comment, Obama said Wednesday that they "might have been listening to Republican talking points" and mentioned the tax cuts he signed for small businesses.
He also answered the question that entrapped presidential surrogate Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Sunday -- "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" -- with a definite yes. "We are absolutely better than we were when I was sworn in, when we had 800,000 jobs being lost in a month," said Obama.