By Stacey J. Haseleu
Despite a hurricane and the absence of once key members of the Republican party such as former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and even once loved, Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, the Republican National Convention did proceed this past week. A series of speakers laid the foundation for Republican nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s platform. But were the bricks of the Republican platform’s foundation built on solid ground? For the purposes of this posting, I would like to focus, as so many of the speakers did, on Obama’s statement “you didn’t build that.”
As Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post states, “From House Speaker John A. Boehner to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to Ann Romney, speaker after speaker made reference to Obama’s statement that “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
But where exactly did this statement come from? And did the speakers at the RNC give this statement fair justice? Or did they take it out of context and spin it until it became unrecognizable to the actual context of Obama’s original quote?
The original statement was made by President Obama on July 13 at a campaign appearance in Roanoke, Virginia. It didn’t take long for the Romney campaign to cash in on the out of context statement. On July 15 Mitt Romney’s campaign posted the video below.
In its 15 second entirety, the heavily edited video features President Obama saying five times, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”
From there the political faux pas spread like wildfire. On July 20, American Crossroads, a conservative group founded by Karl Rove posted the below web video featuring the President’s comments.
American business owners responded in outrage against the comments, and this gave many of the RNC’s speakers an opportunity to cash in on what could be taken — out of context of course — as a huge blow to American business owners and entrepreneurs alike who worked so hard to build their businesses and ideas from the ground up.
Yet another video, posted by Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, not only edited Obama’s words and statement until the words were completely out of context, but he also compared Obama’s words to Presidents of the past showing a huge juxtaposition between President Obama’s so-called views on free enterprise verses many past, perhaps considered great, Presidents.
But the videos failed to give the complete scope of Obama’s comments. Eugene Kiely posted on factcheck.org the entirety of Obama’s quote in unedited, non-video format. 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.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”
What so many failed to realize from the heavily edited videos posted by conservatives in an attempt to propagate the false idea that Obama doesn’t believe in individual accomplishment, is that what President Obama was trying to say is that it takes cooperation by all to build success and that we cannot attribute everything that we (individually or communally) have, to one person; we help one another build and succeed. Everyone does their part in American society.
At no point was President Obama making the point that business owners didn’t build their own businesses or that successful entrepreneurs didn’t deserve credit for the hard work and risk they devoted to make their dreams a reality. Still as Peter Baker, a former correspondent with the Washington Post, tweeted, “If Obama had a nickel for every time a Republican quoted his “didn’t build it” line, that would take care of the whole national debt problem.”
Knowing the full context of President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” quote discredits the speakers at the Republican National Convention. If they are so indignantly and passionately criticizing our current President on a quotation of words taken out of context, what other information that they’re offering to the voters is also being taken out of context?