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Mitt Romney Playing on ‘Birther’ Fears

Republican Mitt Romney is using coded language that observers believe is trying to make a subtle insinuation in the minds of voters that President Obama is “foreign” and not really American.

In a Romney speech in Pittsburgh and through the use of a surrogate, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, the Romney campaign is attempting to make a link to all those old conspiracy theories about the president not being born in the United States. The new attack is an attempt by the Romney campaign to pull the media and public focus away from the growing chorus calling for him to release more of his tax returns. Romney thus far has just released returns for 2010 and estimated for 2011.

At a natural oil and gas services company outside Pittsburgh, Romney compared the Obama administration to foreign countries where the wealthy get money funneled to them while everyone else suffers.

“That’s happening in this country today. I’m ashamed to say we’re seeing the president hand out money to the businesses of his campaign contributors,” Romney said as he stood in front of a large sign that read, “Obama’s Upside-Down Economy.”

Romney is referring to the case of Solyndra, a solar panel company that got a $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration but subsequently went bankrupt. Republicans have accused the administration of sending money to a dying company because it gave money to Obama’s campaign. The Romney campaign also mentioned Fisker, an electric car manufacturer that has received millions of dollars in government support and who is affiliated with Obama fundraiser Steve Westly.

“Crony capitalism does not create jobs,” Romney said. “I believe in free markets and free people.”

An Obama spokeswoman said the investments were made to support businesses whose success could benefit the nation.

“Mitt Romney’s campaign has already gone off the deep end today in an attempt to once again change the story line away from his Bain tenure and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said.

Sununu’s comments were even more directly connected to the birther controversy. In a conference call with reporters arranged by the Romney campaign, Sununu referred to the “political-slash-felon environment” of Chicago and attacked the president’s recent statement that business leaders who had succeeded had help from government, in the form of teachers or road construction workers, among others.

Those business leaders, Sununu said, “are the people who are the backbone of our economy, and the president clearly demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions. The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses — their businesses, from the ground up — is how our economy became the envy of the world.”

He added: “It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Asked later whether he could clarify that remark, Sununu said Obama “has to learn the American formula for creating business.”

Romney offered a similar critique, accusing the president of advocating a political philosophy that the Republican said wants Americans to be ashamed of their achievements.

“The course we’re on right now is foreign to us. It changes America,” Romney said.

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