Obama's Roanoke Speech
I found out yesterday that I have until Monday to move to my new office.I'm still slammed, but I now have time to say a few things about Obama's Roanoke speech before the news becomes completely stale.
The reaction of the mainstream press and Obama supporters since the "you didn't build that" quote went viral has been as interesting as the quote itself. My favorite was this headline from Jake Tapper:
Ummm...yes. The article could have been one word long.
A commenter on a Reason blog said "The intellectual dishonesty it takes to believe that's what he said and then to spread it around is staggering".
Actually it's not intellectual dishonesty that makes people believe Obama really did say "If you've got a business, you didn't build that". It's listening to the speech.
People have complained about context. This is usually a lazy argument (the people who make it frequently don't give any context).
To be fair, a pro Obama commenter on Tapper's piece made a reasonable, if not conclusive argument:
“Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. ”
He’s not saying you didn’t build your business. He’s saying YOU DIDN’T BUILD THE ROADS (the infrastructure).
Half of you know what he meant and are lying and the other half are just plain stupid.
I have to admit the antecedent of the pronoun "that" is ambiguous. But you don't have to be dishonest or stupid to think he's referring to the business and not the infrastructure.
And if you want context, the paragraph before the infamous quote gives you plenty. Obama said:
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.
This is more damning than the original quote. He is clearly minimizing the hard work and intelligence of individual achievers. So if you take the whole speech as the context (as many Obama defenders do), it's even easier to believe he meant that business owners didn't build their own businesses.