"You didn't do that!" the breitbarted clip of President Obama's remarks now has a place in television ads and keynote speeches. Diced, sliced, spliced, and reedited to mean something very different from what he said, crowds respond. Here is what actually happened, with the parts in italics showing what was sliced out, the parts in bold showing what was spliced in.
Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 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.
Watching as much of the Republican convention as time permits, a theme strikes me in a similar way conservatism has been increasingly sounding to me in recent years. I don't mean conservatism as a coherent ideological system.
I mean the sort of cultural conservatism that is overwhelmed, dominated by what to many is an earth shattering event. The Presidency of Barack Obama has about the same effect on a huge number of conservatives that historical proof would have on Christians like me that Jesus was never crucified, but rather died running from Gethsemane with a Roman spear in his back. It is similar to the effect that a mountain of evidence favoring Darwin's evolution has had on generations of Christian literalists.
A radio evangelist visited me over 3 decades ago. He explained to me the pre-Cambrian geological layer, impossible biological intricacies that had to have been designed, and, finally, a wonderful explanation of why dinosaur bones can be found, oil is pumped from the ground, and light from galaxies many millions of light years away can be seen.
When the world was created 6,000 years ago, God gave to it "the appearance of age." That's why Adam and Eve had navels and fingernails, and mature aspects of nature existed. The original idea came to Philip Henry Gosse over a century and a half ago, and is called the Omphalos hypothesis after a book he wrote. After my evangelist friend explained his version of Omphalos to me, I offered a counter proposal.
If the Creator of all existence had gone through that much trouble to endow the world and the universe with the appearance of age, wouldn't it be only fair for us as worshipful children of God to go along with the scheme? Wouldn't it be the sporting thing for us to go ahead and be fooled?
But creationists continue lo to this very day, contriving logical loopholes to explain a view of scripture that, to some of us, misses the whole point. Darwin himself is alternately an evil, loathsome lowlife, or a belatedly good man who repented on his deathbed and renounced all evolutionary thoughts.
It's hard for me to keep from thinking of anti-evolution literalists when I consider victims of Obama-derangement, poor lost souls a large part of whose existence is devoted to explaining how all this just cannot be happening to them.
It goes beyond putting words into, or more precisely taking words out of, the President's mouth. The real story is not the falsehoods. Lies are forever with us. When Karl Rove started a whispering campaign that a political opponent famous as a children's advocate was actually a child molester, it wasn't racial hatred that motivated him.
The real story in the age of Obama is the appetite that exists for such fabrications. The tall tale about President Obama slashing Medicare benefits by $700 billion dollars - in actuality, he required corporations to stop overcharging - was about the nagging suspicion that this fellow is out to take your money and give it to those people, undeserving lazy people. Speeches are given about measures taken to strengthen work requirements in welfare programs. And the lie comes in: those measures are said to be the direct opposite of reality.
The redistributionist myth, take from you and give to them, is part of it, but only part of it.
The denials are twins: He didn't get elected legitimately. And he can't be handling himself competently. The pathways of of these twin denials are filled with the debris of justifications.
His all-American story of bootstrap accomplishment had to have been a rigged game.
We see subterranean myths surface episodically. ACORN organized fraud put him in office. A tidal wave of ineligible stealth voters sneaked past poll watchers. He isn't a real American, having been spirited into our country as an infant from Kenya. He is an affirmative action President, put into office because he is black. His accomplishments before entering public life are suspect. Demands go forth for transcripts that will undoubtedly prove his grades were way below his white colleagues. Weren't his literary triumphs, wonderful books about hope and accomplishment, actually ghost written by his radical white friends? Lack of proof is it's own proof of conspiracy.
His accomplishments in office are denigrated beyond what we have always seen in normal political posturing.
Oh, I do remember similar observations about Bush-derangement. I have spoken and written about my own reactions to some Bush mannerisms, and my sometime overcompensation for that. But even my less inhibited anti-Bush friends could be goaded into acknowledgement of occasional points of gratitude. His outreach to Latino voters was more than political ploy. His stand against anti-Muslim bigotry after the 9/11 attacks dampened at least some of the persecution that has gone on since. His actions to fund aids prevention in Africa was gratuitous, without any apparent benefit to him or his party.
I ask conservative friends to name something they like about President Obama, and only occasionally can I get a grudging acknowledgement of the watery home inhabited by the lifeless body of bin Laden. The foreign policy successes are ignored. The anti-terrorism drive is characterized, against all evidence, as weak. Terrorist leaders are killed by scores, yet complaints are rife that they ought to have been captured instead. The turnaround of the economy is slow, but conservatives insist, in the face of evidence otherwise, that the President has destroyed jobs.
And, of course, there is the willful belief in outright documented fabrications.
It goes beyond policy to the personal. He is an undeniably good family man. His family is attacked. He is an accomplished orator, and a silly story is circulated, and instantly believed, that he is pathologically dependent on teleprompters.
The desperation with which so many embrace improbable theories of anti-colonial anti-white mau mau revolutionary socialist plotting is alien to rationality. That he is a strange hybrid of evil genius and hopelessly inept bumbler is not the result of competing images. They are beliefs simultaneously held, often by otherwise rational people.
There were people whose pride in our country deepened at the election of a black man after centuries of slavery, oppression, and discrimination. The effect on actual votes was measurably overridden by those who were shaken, sickened, and ashamed that such a thing could have happened.
The twin denials ignore two facts that ought to be undeniable:
- That he was a success both before and during his political life because of his own hard work and ability, followed by a political ability to inspire and enroll huge numbers of people
- That he has been a far more effective President than circumstances could have caused any reasonable person to expect.
"You didn't do that" is only the latest fiction intended to deny the obvious. It is a reflexive reaction by those who know by looking, who need no evidence, that Obama could not possibly have merited his ascension to the highest office, and that he could not have accomplished anything worthwhile during his tenure so far.
They point at the President and sing from the conservative hymnbook:
"You didn't do that!"
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If history concludes that President Obama said what conservatives say he said, then history will have to have been written by people who believe houseflies are flying houses.
Obama’s collectivist view is that individual entrepreneurs and would-be businessmen would not be successful without government. I guess that is his justification for increasing taxes, fees, mandates, and fines on them.
Yes, government did provide the roads and highway infrastructure. Yes, our tax payer dollars go to pay teachers, police, firefighters and other public servants. But government provides those necessities for EVERY American, regardless if they take the risk and put forth the hard work to try and build a business. One can sit at home, watch The View and Oprah, all the while collecting a welfare check too. That dependency on government so that one doesn’t have to work IS indeed something that government built.
It is the rugged individualism that has yet to be fully extinguished by nanny-state liberalism that inspires many Americans to try to create something better. It is those folks, through their own hard work and investments, that take advantage of the services and infrastructure that are available to ALL Americans, that go out and never cease trying that build those businesses. They do build that. Government doesn’t give them any advantage or help them anymore than they do the average person. Those courageous folks simply have the tenacity and drive to build something on their own, despite the detrimental impact and hurdles that government builds to put in their way.
Yeah, Obama meant exactly what Republicans are saying he meant. Adding the additional context in no way changes that fact, sir.
The fact that you disagree with President Obama does not transform what he actually said into the caricature that Republicans have spliced and edited it into.
The "that" in "you didn't build that" refers to infrastructure that supports a business, not the business that was built.
The fact that you consider the GOP ads to be aired in the service of liberty and patriotism does not make them truthful.
The lie put forward by Republicans is still a lie.
That said, your position does make some sense now. It is kind of like what the definition of "is" is.
Are you sure you aren't channeling your inner David Axelrod in trying to defend that statement, sir? I don't think most other Americans understood it the way you did either.
I suppose I could be wrong though too, because I admittedly don't hear all of those "racist" dog whistles that our conservative candidates are blowing either.
Cheers to you regardless!
Actually, the meaning is manifestly clear without any splitting of semantic hairs. All that is needed is to go past the Republican re-edits and take a brief look at what President Obama actually said.
I know it's hard for conservatives to do that, but give it a try.
If the meaning is manifestly clear, and yet I and evidently most all conservatives legitimately missed this point anyway, I can only assume based on concurring public opinion with my take on this issue that there must be far more conservatives than what I originally thought lived in this country. That does indeed bode well for our country and its saving come November!
I hate to rain on your parade, but you pin that hope on two premises that are speculative at best.
One speculation is that most Americans saw President Obama's original comments. If they have only the doctored videos to go by, they may well draw erroneous conclusions.
The other speculation is that most Americans believe the GOP lie. Conservatives are certainly eager to believe it.
It is reasonable to think that one of those must be true. It is plausible that both are true. I think it's a stretch to conclude much of anything beyond that some lies are believed.
My own additional observation pertains, I think. Some conservatives are so caught up in their Obama hatred, they are prepared to believe most anything that will support that hatred. Which is to say that you may want to reconsider your use of the word "legitimately" in "most all conservatives legitimately missed this point..."
The sentence has not been taken out of context. "Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that."
"That" is singular and clearly refers to the object of the sentence, "a business." I understand the Democratic spin (which you happily repeat here) that Obama was referring to "roads and bridges." If he was, he misspoke and used poor grammar.
That is the most charitable explanation you can give. You can't say the statement is out of context. You can't say conservatives are skewing Obama's words. To say so is demonstrably false.
If I am fighting a battle, I am finding an easy time of it. I have simply to skip past the Republican re-editing and go directly to Obama's words.
It could not have been clearer if Obama had explicitly made the point that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
Oh wait ... Those are his words, aren't they? You just won't find them in the Republican cut and splice version.
Normally you're an honest guy, Burr, so why are you fighting this battle? Why can't you admit the words are Obama's and Republicans are quoting them accurately? Go right ahead and claim that Obama meant roads and bridges, but stop claiming that Republicans are re-editing or taking him out of context. You're making yourself into a liar.
The punctuation does make clear that the words come in different sentences although repeating the same message.
I don't need to "claim" anything. I simply look to the words that were spoken, going past the re-edited, sliced up clip Republicans like to show.
Although I like you and I think you write well and creatively, I confess that I enjoy watching you twist and turn, trying to "prove" what is so clearly a departure from plain truth.
Please feel free to continue.
Those who quote this without the context distort Obama's meaning. It is really that simple.
Liberals do not have to perform a "charitable reading" to understand the point, which is explicitly stated in his own speech:
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
Those who misinterpret his quote when they know the full context either have a strong bias against Obama or seek to dishonestly discredit him with gotcha journalism.
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