"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" - The Deeper Context

A lot has been written about Obama's rant about Americans who own businesses -- the now infamous "you didn't build that!" speech.   And a lot has been written about the "context" of the statement, with Democrats trying to say he was just talking about the government's role in building roads and bridges so that businesses can get their goods to market, while Republicans point out that the context was even worse, with Obama castigating people who think they've made it because they were smart or worked harder than others.  The Regular Guy sides with the GOP -- the context really does make it worse.   And Obama's argument about how the government spends money on roads and bridges is a straw man -- (a) building tangible infrastructure is not bankrupting America, and no one is arguing against such expenditures; (b) spending money on entitlement programs is.   But the deeper context is not "just words," as Obama once said.   Consider the President's attempt to walk the statement back through a campaign ad:

What is Obama's mood here?  He is calm, friendly, smiling.   He is speaking softly.   Now contrast that with the "you didn't build that" speech:

I see a man who is angry, a man who has hate in his tone when he talks about Romney, or the rich, or businessmen who think they've made it because they are smart or worked hard.   "Let me tell you something... there's a lot of hard-working people out there."   The spite drips off those words.

Put aside how wrong this is as a matter of observing human nature -- there are actually a lot of lazy slobs out there who have failed because of their own failings, and there actually are hard-working people who have succeeded because of their own effort, and there really is a difference between working 0 hours a week while claiming a fake disability and mooching off your "baby mama" and working 100 hours a week to start a convenience store or a laundry in the inner city.   Put that aside.   Just as a matter of tone, this is off-putting to a lot of Americans, and, I suspect, to a lot of independent voters.   They liked the calm and unthreatening Obama, the hope and change Obama.   I don't think they'll like the angry, hateful, spiteful, demonizing Obama.   I know I don't.

And, somewhat more to the point, if you meet someone and know them casually in society and they seem like a friendly, soft-spoken person, but then you see them in a different context and they are screaming at their kids or their wife, or violently arguing with someone in their business... wouldn't it always occur to you that the real person is the angry one, and the fake is the soft-spoken friendly facade?  

That's the deeper context of Obama's "you didn't build that" comment.   It's the moment when the veil fell and we got to see the real Obama.   And it's not pretty.

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