WSJ: Four Little Words


“What’s the difference between a calm and cool Barack Obama, and a rattled and worried Barack Obama? Four words, it turns out.”

This morning’s Wall Street Journal contains an article by Kimberley Strassel that starts with that question.

“‘You didn’t build that‘ is swelling to such heights that it has the president somewhere unprecedented: on defense.”

Strassel points out that Mr Obama has cut an ad directly responding to criticisms of the now infamous speech, claiming it was taken “out of context.” The Republican National Committee’s response to that gripe was to run an ad showing context – a full minute of Mr. Obama’s rant. Says Ms. Strassel: “In addition to “you didn’t build that,” the president also put down those who think they are “smarter” or “work harder” than others. Witness the first president to demean the bedrock American beliefs in industriousness and exceptionalism. The “context” only makes it worse.”

Mr. Obama’s “follows two separate ones from his campaign attempting damage control. His campaign appearances are now about backpedaling and proclaiming his love for small business. And the Democratic National Committee produced its own panicked memo, which vowed to “turn the page” on Mr. Romney’s “out of context . . . BS”—thereby acknowledging that Chicago has lost control of the message.”

According to Strassel, Obama has elevated poll-testing to “near-clinical” heights. “That Mr. Obama felt required—teeth-gritted—to address the “you didn’t build that” meme means his vaunted focus groups are sounding alarms,” she says. “And no wonder,” she goes on.

The immediate effect was to suck away the president’s momentum. Mr. Obama has little positive to brag about, and his campaign hinges on keeping negative attention on his opponent. For months, the president’s team hammered on Mr. Romney’s time at Bain, his Massachusetts tenure, his tax returns. “You didn’t build that” shifted the focus to the president, and his decision to respond to the criticisms has only legitimized them and guaranteed they continue.

The RNC has done their own polling and they note that “Mr. Obama’s problem is that his words cause an emotional response, and that they disturb voters in nearly every demographic.”

She concludes:

One unexpected side effect of “you didn’t build that” is that it has emboldened the GOP to re-embrace and glory in free enterprise (so abused since the financial crash). And the president’s disparaging attack on business has also made voters more open to a defense of it.

Meaning, it’s a perfect time to marry emotion with some policy. Mr. Romney has explained why the president doesn’t get it. The next step is to explain why his own tax policies, regulatory proposals, and entitlement plans are the answer for those who actually do the building. The president is on defense. We’ll see if Mr. Romney can keep him there.


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5 Responses to “WSJ: Four Little Words”

  1. jbt Says:

    It was taken out of context. Anyone who has seen the entire video clip knows that. The Romney campaign must be getting desperate to hype out of context statements by the President and spin them for all its worth. That demonstrates they have nothing substantial that President Obama has been quoted saying that they can run against—so they have to make things up.

    What President Obama actually said was this:

    “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 [those]. Somebody else made that happen,”

    It is abundantly clear that he was talking about roads and bridges that are part of the American system that allows business to thrive. Business owners did not build those roads and bridges, we ALL built those roads and bridges through our tax dollars going to the government. The infrastructure in the United States has been the foundation for the businesses success enjoyed by our country for many years. It is this same infrastructure that is rapidly deteriorating due to the obstinance of the GOP to fund the necessary repairs that would put people back to work, help the economy, and insure business success in the years to come.

    MSNBC has shown this clip of Mitt Romney during the 2002 Winter Olympics expressing exactly the same point that President Obama was making. Romney said that “communities built venues” [with lots of state and federal dollars].

    It is a sad state of affairs in our country when the notion that all citizens pulling together to make America better creates such a political firestorm. The GOP seems to be stuck on not only “ME FIRST”, but “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME” as well.

  2. markg91359 Says:

    Its indicative of how angry and delusional that the GOP has become that they have to torture a remark like this by the President to try an invent a campaign issue. All the President was trying to say was that the system we have in the USA helps foster entrepreneurship. If you have good schools, good roads, the rule of law, and honest public officials you have a good bedrock upon which small business people can build a foundation for success. That’s what your taxes are all about. That’s why we have laws that we everyone to obey.

    The Tea Potty may well prove to be the ruination of what has been the greatest country and greatest success story in this world.

  3. Jerome Borden Says:

    There’s a You Tube out there titled something like “It’s Worse In Context”. I saw the whole section and Barry’s message was that Your achievements don’t count. The implication is that anyone in business got their stuff at the expense of other people. This line is straight from the Comintern which people “my age” can recognize. It was also the mantra of the Yippies and Weathermen of the Sixties and Seventies and now the Occupy (whatever) of today.

    This statement actually falls below an earlier statement of his made in San Francisco about “bitter clingers” in Pennsylvania who are still hanging on to their guns, religion, and values.

  4. jbt Says:

    Let’s try that again.

    Somehow the link in my last post was changed from the one going to Mitt Romney’s speech at the 2002 Olympics to a link going to Fox News. Here is the link I believe that I posted the first time.

    Let’s see if it mysteriously gets changed to a link to Fox News again. Do you know anything about that Holly? I have made a print screen record of this post this time to prove what I originally wrote, just in case there are any shenanigans going on.

  5. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    The actual quote …

    “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.” — Obama

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