Obama responds to ‘you didn’t build that’ uproar in new TV ad: ‘What I said was…’by George Bennett | July 25th, 2012
Republican criticism and mockery of President Obama for his “you didn’t build that” remark about businesses has clearly had an impact.
The Obama campaign has responded with a new TV ad in Florida and other swing states in which the president, speaking directly to the camera from the White House, accuses Mitt Romney and the GOP of twisting his words.
“Those ads taking my words about small business out of context – they’re flat-out wrong,” Obama says in the new spot. “Of course Americans build their own businesses. Every day, hard-working people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs, and make our economy run. And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has, by investing in education and training, roads and bridges, research and technology. I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message because I believe we’re all in this together.”
Romney and the GOP have accused Obama of denigrating individual initiative and entrepreneurship in a July 13 speech in Roanoke, Va., in which the president went on a riff about the importance of public infrastructure.
“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” Obama said in the Roanoke speech.
“You didn’t get there on your own. 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.”
Obama continued: “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.”
Part of the debate is over what Obama meant by “that” in “you didn’t build that.”
Critics say “that” refers to “business,” in which case the president was effectively saying “You didn’t build that business.”
The Obama campaign says “that” refers to “roads and bridges” in the previous sentence, in which case the president was effectively saying “You didn’t build that roads and bridges” — an ungrammatical but not particularly controversial acknowledgement that tax dollars helped build basic infrastructure.
Romney, in an interview Monday with CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, said Obama’s remarks are “disconcerting” regardless of how one parses the “you didn’t build that” line.
“Just read the whole speech. I found the speech even more disconcerting than just that particular line. The context is worse than the quote,” Romney said.
“The context, he says, you know, you think you’ve been successful because you’re smart, but he says a lot of people are smart. You think you’ve been successful because you work hard, a lot of people work hard. This is an ideology which says hey, we’re all the same here, we ought to take from all and give to one another and that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past.
“It’s a very strange and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy. We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds. The kid that gets the honor roll, the individual worker that gets a promotion, the person that gets a better job. And in fact, the person that builds a business. And by the way, if you have a business and you started it, you did build it. And you deserve credit for that. It was not built for you by government.”