Obama cribs Tancredo ‘careless smoker’ lines on bailout

Retiring Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-English) could have a future writing speeches for Sen. Barack Obama after his term winds down in January. In a speech urging bipartisan support for the financial rescue plan on Wednesday, Obama echoed lines about the crisis from a statement Tancredo issued Monday.

Obama departed a bit from his prepared remarks in La Crosse, Wis. Here’s a transcript prepared by the Colorado Independent from an audio recording of Obama’s speech, with his off-the-cuff additions bolded:

But while there is plenty of blame to go around and many in Washington and on Wall Street who deserve it, all of us now have a responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every single American. There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out. If your neighbor’s house is burning, you might grumble that they were always smoking in bed or leaving the stove on, but the first thing you want to do is make sure the fire is out so it doesn’t spread to your house. You don’t want to go around finding out what happened before you put the fire out. And that’s where we are today.

Compare that with Tancredo’s remarks about the defeat of the financial stabilization bill Monday:

A careless smoker who starts a fire in his house may deserve to suffer the consequences. We could refuse to call the fire department and take solace in the fact that the careless smoker will lose everything – but if we do not act, the embers from the fire caused by his irresponsibility may land on homes throughout the neighborhood. In order to save our homes, we must put water on the fire started by the careless smoker.

Sure, it’s a bit florid and scolding, but it’s got the right zing and sense of urgency.

While acknowledging that it’s a common enough metaphor, Tancredo spokesman T. Q. Houlton was amused at the coincidence. “Who would have thought Obama and Tancredo would have used the same talking points? It’s kind of interesting two polar opposites using the same rhetoric,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s important for this to pass,” Houlton said, turning serious. “The bipartisan relationship is going to be extremely important passing this bill. As Congressman Tancredo has said, if the economy flatlines, we’re in deep trouble.”

Obama’s national campaign headquarters didn’t reply to an e-mail inquiry Wednesday afternoon.

Here’s Minnesota Public Radio’s audio recording of Obama’s speech. The Tancredo lines fall at about 6 minutes, 30 seconds: