Context — It’s What’s For Dinner

Not having a reason to watch regular TV anymore does have it’s perks — I get to avoid the onslaught of political ads this time around. It’s not that I’m not paying attention, it’s just that all that most folks need to know about both candidates has already been pretty clearly spelled out. So that means the American people — especially from those poor sonsofbitches in battleground states — get to hear who can amass the better smear campaign. Making people nauseous is no longer a deterrent.

What you get used to is when some candidate makes a bold point that is more than eight words long, it’s a quote that is ripe for plucking by the opposition to be taken out of context. It happens a lot, but not so much in Presidential campaigns as the message control is like nothing you’ve ever seen. But it seems that Obama made this mistake, and the Romney campaign is running hard with it.

Even without a TV, I’ve become aware of the “You Didn’t Build That” roast that’s got the conservatives in fits. Of course it helps when the party flagship network spends the majority of two days of news cycle driving into the heads of its loyal viewers. The funny thing is that the Romney camp waited a bit before jumping into the fray on this one. But no longer — he’s beating that drum like a death metal stickman.

Something to keep in mind, especially if you’ve fallen for this particular talking point cudgel, is that Obama’s words were taking completely out of context. Here’s the full quote — I’ve bolded all but the only thing that Fox and its blind followers have been regurgitating.

OBAMA: 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.

Context is a funny thing, isn’t it? It would be difficult to find someone who disagrees with the full statement Obama made. But he made the mistake of saying something that could be plucked and completely mischaracterized for the benefit of his opponent. That said, I wish that this would’ve been the worst mistake he’s made since he took the Oval Office. But we’re talking campaigning here, so let’s stay on subject.

Back in 2000, then Presidential Candidate Al Gore made a similar statement that was so horrifically taken out of context that most people don’t recognize it as anything but Gospel truth. See if you remember this one: “I invented the internet.” Damn that arrogant Al Gore! How could he be so full of himself?!

Well…he wasn’t. At least not any more than usual. Here’s the actual quote:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

And just to be clear, it was called “The Gore Bill“. Just another one of those big federal spending projects that actually benefited people that you never hear in that particular phrasing. Steep that, Tea Partiers.

But the fact is that the ruse worked well enough to stoke the fires of the Conservative base, and Bush was appointed to the Presidency. And the Romney camp is hoping for the same with this “You Didn’t Build That” nonsense. I wish I could say that the American people are smarter than that. But let’s be honest…