Only in the United States could telling the truth create such controversy. I’m talking about President Obama’s now notorious “build that” remark. You remember, back in July when he said: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped you 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.”
This is true. Nobody does anything by themselves. Even Republicans take government subsidies, tax breaks and other forms of help; rely on roads and bridges and other infrastructure built by our tax dollars by the government. Everybody exists in a context. Every action exists within a context. Republicans want to portray the stalwart conservative as somehow existed in a fact-free vacuum where personal responsibility rides rough-shod over every government obstruction – even if it’s the government – and our tax dollars – funding them.
President Obama prefaced his remarks with a line you will never hear from Republicans: ” “Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,”
What Obama was doing was striking at Republican notions of social Darwinism, that the deserving succeed and that everyone else flounders. It was a rousing speech for anyone who took the time to listen to what the president was actually saying.
But the only thing Republicans want you to notice is the last line. It is obvious what Obama meant by what he said; look at the entire context of the quote. But this is the party of Bartonism, remember, the party that never quite tells you all the facts as they weave the lies that form the foundations of their false reality. Context is everything. But the Republicans have made context nothing.
The fact checkers all properly identify the Republican sin in this case but we all know the Republicans despise fact checkers – and for obvious reasons. Facts aren’t congenial to Republican myth-making. Instead the Republicans let loose on Obama at their Liathon in Tampa, in what HuffPo referred to as a “frenzy.” David Wiegel at The Slate quipped, “You Didn’t Build That,” but You Sure Did Edit It.”
And it wasn’t just the convention. Look at the Republican build-up, as compiled by MediaMatters:
Fox & Friends Deceptively Edited Obama’s Comments On Small Business. Fox News deceptively edited Obama’s remarks to make it seem as though he was claiming that small business owners do not deserve any credit for their own success. Obama’s actual remarks made clear that he attributed the success of businesses to both the individual drive of business owners and to the benefits provided by influences such as great teachers, and government-created infrastructure. [Media Matters, 7/16/12]
Within Two Days, Fox Spent More Than Two Hours Of Airtime On “You Didn’t Build That” Lie. In the two days that followed Fox’s initial misrepresentation of Obama’s remarks, the network devoted 42 segments and more than two hours of airtime to misrepresenting Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remarks. [Media Matters, 7/18/12]
Rupert Murdoch Endorsed The Falsehood On Twitter. In a post to his Twitter account, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch wrote: “Yesterday Obama went off script, showed real self ie government omnipotent, individuals secondary. Must be big damage.” [Media Matters, 7/19/12]
Fox Attacked Nonpartisan Journalists For Ignoring The Made-Up Story. Fox blasted mainstream media outlets for not covering Obama’s remarks for four days, despite the fact that the remarks were ripped out of context. [Media Matters, 7/19/12]
Fox & Friends Tried To Rebut Charge That Video Was Deceptively Edited With New Deceptively Edited Video. Fox & Friends subsequently offered to rebut assertions that they had misrepresented Obama by showing the context of Obama’s remarks. But the new clip that Fox & Friends played still omitted the relevant context. [Media Matters, 7/26/12]
Fox Hosted Karl Rove And His New Anti-Obama Attack Ad Repeating “Didn’t Build That” Falsehood. Karl Rove produced an ad based on the misrepresentation of Obama’s remarks and then touted that ad on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. [Media Matters, 7/25/12]
Now that the Democratic National Convention is coming up in Charlotte, people are wondering how the Obama campaign will respond to all the lies.
The Washington Post reports that “The Obama team thinks that it has effectively dealt with the “build that” attacks and that the issue is overblown — the ‘drill, baby, drill’ of 2012, a rallying cry for the right but ultimately one with limited appeal in the broader electorate.” They may well be right. Not everybody owns a business. And those who do have a better friend in Obama than in Romney, as facts demonstrate.
Even CNN took notice here of Republican dishonesty, their wire staff posting a piece on the Political Ticker calling, “‘You didn’t build that:’ A theme out of context.” CNN right concludes, “So there it is. Everything before and after “You didn’t build that” refers to infrastructure, education and public services…It’s a classic example of a remark being taken out of context.”
Should Democrats try to drive that point home? The Obama camp seems to think it’s much ado about nothing.
David Axelrod had this to say about the controversy:
“It’s striking to me how enamored they are with that theme and how ineffectual it’s been. You look at the polling and they’ve spent millions and millions of dollars on it and it may thrill their base. But it hasn’t expanded their base because people understand that the view they’re imputing to the president isn’t his view. I don’t feel like we have to respond to their dry holes.”
Ouch. We will never want for pithy rejoinders from the Obama campaign.
This is a team that knows it has to get its message out in Charlotte, not by letting the Republicans call the tune or set the tempo, but by pro-actively making a case not only for Obama, but for America free of the constraints of a new Gilded Age. The Obama camp knows as well as we do that the GOP will continue to lie, will continue to take everythuin the president says out of context, and that if says nothing they will put words in his mouth. They’ve done it for four years and they are not about to stop now.
Look for Obama to reclaim the initiative in Charlotte. Look for the GOP’s attacks to be come shriller than ever as they combat dwindling support in the polls. Election Day is coming, there is nothing they won’t do or say to put more tank in the GOP gas-tank. Amy Gardner at the Washington Post says Obama looked tired in Roanoke, but a bigger problem is that the Republicans have run out of arguments; all they have left is lies.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.