Green Room

Context of Obama’s “You didn’t build that” line makes it worse

posted at 12:30 pm on July 19, 2012 by

The Romney campaign and myriad others have jumped on President Obama’s now infamous line “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it that happen.” They use it to portray the President as anti-business, anti-individual and anti-American.

The rebuttal from the Democratic camp is that Romney et al are taking the line out of context. If one looks at the relevant excerpts of the President’s speech given in Roanoke, VA, one gains a totally different perspective on the President’s comments, say Democrats. Romney’s simplistic criticism unfairly perverts the President’s message that individual achievement flourishes best in an environment of collaboration and cooperation.

Unfortunately for Democrats, looking at the full context of the President’s notion that “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it that happen.” only makes his statement more alarming and his position more vulnerable. Unfortunately for Republicans, Romney is ill-equipped to take advantage of the President’s weakness.

President Obama did not intend his comment as the premise for an intellectual discussion of the role of society in individual achievement. The “context” the Democrats would have us consider is a logical argument for raising taxes on a minority for the purported benefit of the majority. It is a justification for using the force of government to confiscate private resources for government to “invest” as it sees fit regardless of the intention and values of the individuals who created them.

Obama is making the pragmatic argument “Because a road runs past your building and a teacher taught you to read, goverment is entitled to tax you at a higher rate to give your neighbor health care.” He is making the argument “Government has the moral authority to ‘spread the wealth around.’”

We can certainly debate whether a successful individual has an obligation to contribute a greater share of his wealth to the community, but it is beyond debate that government has moral authority to take from some individuals simply because they have resources and use those resources for purposes not among the enumerated powers of the federal government.

Unfortunately, Democrats are correct that Romney’s attacks are out of context. Romney Republicans’ simplistic attacks on President Obama as anti-business, anti-individual and even anti-American may resonate with the base, but they do little to elevate the man Mitt Romney as a candidate or the Republican Party as the party of ideas.

Have we really fallen to the level as a country where the American people cannot be challenged with more than sound bites? Do Republicans have so little respect for the electorate that they do not trust the American people with substantive ideas? Can we not make the case for what we believe instead of always taking the default position that “Democrats suck”?

(Interesting that on this site there are more tags for Barack Obama than Mitt Romney.)

Why, for example, are Romney and Republicans fighting defensive battles on the Bain Capital and outsourcing fronts? Simply going with the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” response to the President’s attacks, however forceful the expression might be, is more bluster than brains.

A man representing the party of ideas would be defending outsourcing as a viable and necessary component of prosperity. He would be defending the morality of free-market capitalism itself. He would make the case that indeed individual achievement depends on collaboration and cooperation — the voluntary collaboration and cooperation of a free market not the coerced collaboration and cooperation of a command and control economy.

Once again President Obama has led with his chin, and once again Republicans are responding with body blows. Instead of giving us Lincoln and Douglas, Romney and Obama are giving us Bluto and Dean Wormer. Time spent listening to these two guys provides high entertainment value, but when the lights come on, you really haven’t gained a lot of insight. Republicans could do better.

Craig Westover is a Republican activist and a Ron Paul delegate to the Republican National Convention. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigWestover and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/craig.westover.

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(Interesting that on this site there are more tags for Barack Obama than Mitt Romney.)

Um, 3.5 years of Obama as president making news effecting us everyday vs the Republican primary contestant that has just recently hit the ‘real’ radar, over the past what? 8 months? That’s not including the last election and primaries.

Thank you, come again.

Tyrs Fury on July 19, 2012 at 1:26 PM

The time will come for the dialogue you desire. We will have Romney vs. Obama debates soon enough. Right now, I like the sound-bite jabs back at Obama. Unfortunately, we are quickly becoming an ADHD society and only able to internalize small kernels of information at a time. This is why the 2-minute or less videos are becoming so effective.

HoosierStateofMind on July 19, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Ahhhh. Ron Paul delegate

cmsinaz on July 19, 2012 at 1:34 PM

With this lsm good luck

cmsinaz on July 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Craig I think you hit it right on the nose regarding Obama’s intentions. But it gets a bit tiresome to hear how only Ron Paul can make the argument…I know you didn’t say that but that is the implication you make when you say that Romney cannot make the argument. I call BS to that…I have met him twice and he is perfectly suited to make the argument. Furthermore he is perfectly suited to beat Obama which is even more important than making points in a debate.

PierreLegrand on July 19, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Why, for example, are Romney and Republicans fighting defensive battles on the Bain Capital and outsourcing fronts? Simply going with the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” response to the President’s attacks, however forceful the expression might be, is more bluster than brains.

Because the RINOs are terrified of Dems calling them “meanies”. Nothing drives RINOs to their knees faster than “Republicans are mean-spirited”, “Republicans are racists”, “Republicans are for the 1%”, “Republicans hate the poor”. They keep hoping that some day the MSM will write nice things about them.

catsandbooks on July 19, 2012 at 1:42 PM

We can certainly debate whether a successful individual has an obligation to contribute a greater share of his wealth to the community,

He does not.
First, it’s his. He has no obligation to give any of it to anyone.
Second, the community benefits more from his wealth creation than he does. The community owes the successful individual, not the other way round. The successful individual makes the community possible. It would not exist without the creativity that drives material success. That debt is paid by leaving the fruits of his labor that he accrues to himself unmolested. Demonizing and punishing success is stupid and immoral.

single stack on July 19, 2012 at 1:47 PM

But it gets a bit tiresome to hear how only Ron Paul can make the argument…I know you didn’t say that but that is the implication you make when you say that Romney cannot make the argument. I call BS to that

I don’t think I said or implied that Romney cannot make this argument. In fact, I think his background puts him in a better, i.e. more credible, position than Paul to defend free market capitalism. The point is, he is not making that argument.

When he counters Obama’s attacks against outsourcing by claiming Obama is a bigger outsourcer than he is, Romney is essentially admitting outsourcing is somehow wrong.

I agree: Mitt Romney on paper is suited to beat Obama,but the Romney who is campaigning is running on a “we’re not as bad as Democrats” platform.

Craig Westover on July 19, 2012 at 2:10 PM

@single stack: I don’t disagree with your comment. My point is there is a philosophical discussion to be had as to the moral obligation individuals have to “feed the hungry, cloth the naked and house the homeless.” But those decisions should always be individual choices, NOT as Obama would have it, subject to imposition of government force.

Republicans, including libertarian Republicans, too often take the easy path of concluding that simply because Democrats propose economically unsound solutions to problems that there is no problem.

Given that government policy creating perverse economic incentives is the root of most of the countries problems, government is somehow going to be involved in the solution — even if that is creating policy that extracts government completely.

Craig Westover on July 19, 2012 at 2:18 PM

but it is beyond debate that government has moral authority to take from some individuals simply because they have resources and use those resources for purposes not among the enumerated powers of the federal government.

To say that a proposition is “beyond debate” is to say that the proposition is so true as not to be debatable. I don’t really think that’s what you meant.

UnrepentantCurmudgeon on July 19, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Enjoy the convention, Craig!

Marcola on July 19, 2012 at 4:22 PM

I wish I had thought of this but, I didnt but I will steal it .
” North Korea has roads as well, How is their economy going?” The notion that because the gov “built” something (and it didn’t really build them, it took monies from people and companies and paid other companies and people to make the roads.)that somehow that is the nucleus for business is a straight out lie. There are plenty of companies that have started on the outskirts of towns and paid for the roads out of their own pocket. The media is the problem as they are working overtime to keep oblunder in office.

ColdWarrior57 on July 19, 2012 at 6:36 PM

I keep reading the same c-rap over and over and over again and some of it’s coming from the RINO elites. If you guys all have crystal balls that are telling you the absolute impact of whatever is said or done, why don’t you go directly to Romney and tell him what he should do and then we’ll see whether or not you all who can predict the future are right or not. It’s gettin’ old and tired.

stukinIL4now on July 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM

We can certainly debate whether a successful individual has an obligation to contribute a greater share of his wealth to the community,

How about we have a debate how all these takers should get off their ass and pull their own weight!

dominigan on July 20, 2012 at 12:17 AM

And before someone calls me a heartless SOB. I’d like to point out that its not the poor that are the takers… it’s the faux compassionate liberals, who use the force of government to take from successful people to give to the poor, because they are too greedy to give out of their own prosperity.

dominigan on July 20, 2012 at 12:22 AM

What we are witnessing is local crony Democr$p pay to play governing on a grand nationwide scale. The people in Prezzy You Didn’t Build Thats’ audience understand his words better than the whole of the Repub party.

Kissmygrits on July 20, 2012 at 8:53 AM