President Obama at Roanoke, Virginia firehouse, Friday 13 July.
Find below excerpts from the White House transcript of the president's remarks to an enthusiastic audience in Virginia last Friday: what I find most surprising is not that POTUS clumsily asserts, "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen," rather that POTUS speaks to his audience in such a colloquial singsong fashion that it is unclear if he is being condescending or being ignorant. E.G. the Internet: POTUS argues that the government invented the Internet "so that all the companies could make money." This is laughably wrongheaded. The Internet is a commercial success today not as a result of government invention but as a result of private ingenuity, taking a hard-wired communication link between a few educational institutions (itself the result of the development of the original computer system language during the atomic age test programs) and transforming it into a shopping mall. Not a government plan, not a single thought from Washington or anyone in government, nothing to do with federal or state planning or risk. Private enterprise and gifted daring entirely, funded by venture capital, IPOs and bull markets. Further, when POTUS tries -- "there are some things, just like fighting fires (he is in front of a firehouse) we don't do on our own" -- it is difficult to figure if he is being goofy or if he believes this is an example of collectivity. Firefighters? This is the explanation for why Obama campaign wants to raise taxes in a slowdown? Also, the closing paragraphs cited here are another demonstration of stumbling, patronizing simplicity. The Romney campaign is going to run advertisements against Obama? Surprise! According to POTUS, the ads will not be worthwhile, because "they don’t really have a good argument for how they would do better." Is this a sober remark? Does POTUS have time to listen to his opponents? Start with the 80 year-old debate between Keynes and Hayek. Start with the failure of the stimulus packages, the QE1 and QE2, the housing bailouts and the banks too big to fail getting bigger. POTUS argues that the other side doesn’t have a good argument? Is this the level of discourse on the campaign trail? Is POTUS going to try harder on the stump? It is impossible to avoid the judgment of this performance as trite, muddled, sloppy.
THE PRESIDENT: "There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. 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. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: "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 PRESIDENT: "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.
THE PRESIDENT: "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. (Applause.)"
THE PRESIDENT: "Now, over the next four months, the other side is going to spend more money than we've even seen in history. And they don’t really have a good argument for how they would do better, but they're thinking they can win the election if they just remind people that a lot of people are still out of work, and the economy is not growing as fast as it needs to, and it's all Obama's fault. That’s basically their pitch.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: "No, no, I mean, I'm just telling you. You've seen the ads, and they're going to run more of them, and there will be all kinds of variations on the same theme. But it will be the same basic message over and over and over and over and over again.
THE PRESIDENT: "Now, their ads may be a plan to win an election, but it's not a plan to put people back to work. It's not a plan to strengthen the middle class. And the reason it doesn’t worry me is because we've been outspent before. We've been counted out before. The pundits, they didn’t think I could win Virginia the last time. (Applause.) The last time I came to this part of Virginia, all the political writers, they're all like, well, he's not serious, he's just making a tactical move. No, I'm serious -- I'm going to get some votes down here..."
Senator Mark Warner, POTUS, Senate Candidate Tim Kaine.