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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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July 24, 2012 - 3:01 pm
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The Obama campaign has gone to DEFCON 1 over the national reaction to the president’s “You didn’t build that!” speech in Roanoke. Last week the campaign trotted out a video ad that deceptively edited Obama’s own speech to attempt to refute an effective Romney ad. Today, in a visual cue that its previous attempt failed, the campaign has rolled out a second ad that features the president himself reading to the camera.

He had time to sit for this shoot, but not to meet with his jobs council. Just sayin’. We all know he’s got a lot on his plate.

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OBAMA: Those ads…taking my words about small business out of context. They’re just wrong.

Stop the tape. Here is what President Obama said.

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. 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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

In the first paragraph, Obama sets up an appeal to authority (“There are many rich people who agree with me”) before launching into what might be called the “unexceptional American” section. [L]ook, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

You didn’t get there on your own (said twice for emphasis), you aren’t smarter and you didn’t work harder (so you don’t really deserve the fruits of your success). You had help: government help. And because you had government help, you ought to “give back” like the unnamed rich people in the opening sentence.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. 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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The “You didn’t build that!” line resonated most quickly because it’s the clearest rebuke to business starters and builders in the speech. “Somebody else made that happen” gives the credit to whoever invested in the roads and other infrastructure, which, in America’s progressive tax system, are the very same successful people Obama is rebuking. It’s debatable whether the “that” refers to roads and bridges or to the businesses themselves, but the fact remains that the entire passage of the speech is an unmistakable slap at business creators. Context does not help him one bit. The context fully explains Obama’s innate anti-business mindset.

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