“…a President who is either deaf to reason or simply divorced from practical reality.”
The furor over the President’s “you didn’t build that” flub promises to seethe beneath the electoral race for some time, to the understandable dismay of his supporters, with a wonderful proliferation of attempts by the Obama faithful to defend what appears indefensible. Thus far these attempts are falling into two entertaining categories:
1. Infallibility. If the President said it, it must be true, in some way. This requires the intercession of Presidential nuncios to parse the President’s remarks and explain what he meant. It now obtains that his remarks were taken “out of context,” which surprises us, as the context seems even more damaging than the remark:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. 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.
Apologists now assert that the President was referring to “roads and bridges” with the “you didn’t build that” comment. That wasn’t what he said, true, but that’s what he meant. Okay. And — because “this unbelievable American system that we have ‘allowed’ you to thrive, well…fork it over. How much? We’ll let you know.” (I’ve decided I can translate the President’s words just as ably as anyone else, and since we no longer can go on what he actually says, I would venture that my guess as to what he means is as good as anyone else’s.)
But this defense may not resonate with people who have watched the vigorous growth of government’s appetite for their income and property. And it strikes at the heart of an idea so deeply ingrained in “this unbelievable American system” that we wonder how the President cannot see just how revealing — and how deeply damaging — his statement is.
That idea is the fundamental American belief in and support for individual effort and achievement. To dismiss this idea as a somehow outmoded notion in favor of a submission to the will and demands of the collective is so very un-American in every way that it astonishes, dumbfounds and bewilders. To what should we then aspire? A bovine contentment, where the state determines what it will “allow” us?
Yet the fact is, the “you didn’t build that” is not the most revealing or damaging comment the President made in that speech, and it surprises me that more people haven’t picked up on this:
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.
In this remarkable outburst, Obama suddenly peels back the veneer and reveals a profound and bitter resentment for anyone who has succeeded in the real world. “You think you’re so smart.” This is almost at the level of schoolboy taunting. What have these people done to deserve such scorn from such a high place? Is this the kind of respect that endeavor and ingenuity get from the White House?
I can’t help wonder what certain “smart, hard-working” people who wrote large checks to the Obama campaign are thinking right now. ”Is that me he’s talking about?” Why yes, it appears so. Sucker.
All these attempts at distracting us from the President’s remarks have not thus far made much of a dent in what promises to be a fairly longlived wave of revulsion, particularly when other comments reinforce the idea of a President who is either deaf to reason or simply divorced from practical reality:
Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
This seems to say that some government folks sat down one day and said “Let’s build something called the internet so that all the companies can make money off of it.” Obama knows this isn’t true, and it’s not what he meant. What he meant, we assume, is that the government played a role in funding research that ultimately led to the internet. The government’s intent was certainly not to create a huge profit opportunity, nor does that matter. The fact is, because the government had the resources to fund in some part the development of the internet’s predecessor, lots of people now make lots of money.
Yet even with this charitable interpretation of a remarkably stupid thing to say, we are left with: ”And? Your point bring?” Far be it from us to deny the essential nature and value of pure research, but that having been conceded — so what? What is it the President is trying to say? Beacuse we can’t tell any more, particularly when what he says is not what he says, or means, until someone else interprets it for us.
But we mentioned at the beginning that there were two responses to criticism of Obama’s comment. The second? You should have guessed:
2. It’s racist. Don’t look at me. From Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:
Mitt Romney’s plan of blatantly lying about President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech is clearly drawing blood. But what makes the attack work so well is not so much the lie itself but the broader subtext of it….The key thing is that Obama is angry, and he’s talking not in his normal voice but in a “black dialect.”
Huh? First of all, how, in any way, is Romney “lying?” Second, does Chait mean to say that posting a video of a President’s actual remarks is somehow “racist” if the President is angry? Come on. And finally — if that was Obama talking in a “black dialect,” well:
See for yourself. Sounds more like a redneck to me, actually. But then, I guess it’s all in how you see — or hear — it.