Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What is the Meaning of That?

Last Friday at a campaign event in Virginia, President Obama admitted that his plan for America includes public ownership of all private business.  He laid the foundation for his impending takeover of property from working class job creators by claiming federal credit for all business success.

“If you own a business -- you didn’t build that.” 
The message was explicit.  If Americans didn’t build their own business, then they have no claim to ownership rights for that business.  Left unsaid by Obama was that after confiscating all private means of production, he would turn his attention to taking away your guns.

While this is not quite correct, it is the story being painted by the Romney campaign and their uncoordinated surrogates.  Never mind that the “that” that business owners didn’t build refers to the preceding sentence’s reference to “roads and bridges”, conveniently omitted in Romney’s retelling.  If you are a business owner who personally paid for and constructed your own roads and bridges, I apologize and stand corrected; otherwise, “you didn’t build that” is entirely accurate and un-newsworthy, except in 2012. 
The irony is that the opposing candidate from Michigan, or Utah, or Massachusetts, appears to agree with the President on his essential point.  The next day, Romney said at an event:

“I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police (emphasis added). A lot of people help.”

So the Romney campaign has been attacking the President for a position that it shares.  Only in American politics can you attack your opponent for having the same position without shame or the slightest embarrassment.

This is the stuff that gets me worked up.  But my writing about this is not changing any votes (yet).  Only well-crafted attack advertising changes votes.  Willie Horton changes votes.  Swiftboat Veterans for Truth change votes.  John Roberts changes votes.  Obama needs an ad that equally distorts his opponent’s words in order to have an impact and move votes in his direction. 
Obama is beginning to fight back against the rampant out-of-context-osity of the current GOP campaign.   Obama accused Romney of “knowingly twisting my words around to suggest that I don’t value small business,” adding: “When folks just like, omit entire sentences of what you said, they start kind of slicing and dicing… he may have gone a little over the edge there.”

That’s a bit more of an academic counterattack than I had in mind.  Only the academic elite will hear that line, and they are already in the tank for Obama, with their fancy “facts” and “reason”.  You can’t bring a teleprompter to a knife fight.  Unfortunately, calling out a lie at a public event is no longer effective.  Not enough voters hear the speeches, and the lie and the truth are guaranteed equal time on cable regardless of merit.  So there has to be another way.

Thankfully for Obama, Romney is the gift that keeps on giving.  Here are his words from 2002 before the Olympic Games:

"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.  For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].”

This seemingly benign quote (except that "you Olympians" sounds oddly close to "you people") provides the fodder for my proposed Obama attack ad.  Here’s the script:

Scary Voice:  Mitt Romney.  Now he’s taking credit for our Olympians:

 Grainy video clip of Romney giving his speech"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.”

Quick cut to images of Carl Lewis running, Mary Lou Retton smiling, Michael Phelps waving a flag, the Dream Team walking into the stadium for Opening Ceremonies, while voice over continues: 

“Obama is proud of our athletes and recognizes that their individual courage, commitment and fortitude made them great – not Mitt Romney.”

Back to Grainy video clip"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.”

Happy optimistic voice:  “Obama knows that you succeed in America because of hard work.  Mitt Romney believes our Olympians take short cuts because they couldn’t do it alone.  But there are no short cuts in life, unless you are a billionaire with Swiss bank account who plays by a different set of rules.”  

Back to Grainy video clip"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power.”

Scary Voice:  “Mitt Romney, why do you insult the American spirit of rugged individualism?  Our athletes have earned and deserve your respect.  They play by the rules.  That’s the American way.  Do you?” 

Closing picture of Mitt Romney and his Bain partners surrounded by money, with the final words from his Olympic pep talk voiced over with grainy video clip:  “All right! [pumps fist].”  

3 months, 13 days left.

Obama full quote from a campaign event in Virginia on Friday, not quite so evil in its entirety and more indicative of a uniter and not a divider:

“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.”

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