July 24, 2012

Context Is Key, or I Can Edit You To Sound Like An Asshole Too

As you, dear reader, have no doubt deduced from many of the posts on our little blog, one thing that is quite irksome to me is people proffering opinions based on incorrect information or bad assumptions.  Most of the time those opinions are simply parroted directly from some information-free cable "news" source.  (BTW, all of you failed fact/opinion tests in your logic or philosophy courses in college, didn't you?)  Further, when I am having a discussion about public affairs with someone I know (or more likely someone I don't know on a Facebook comment thread) there will almost inevitably be the adamant assertion that [insert name of public figure] is a scoundrel.  The basis of that assertion?  Often time it is inaccurate facts, or nearly always a carefully edited soundbite from said cable "news" source that appears to "prove" [insert name of public figure] is a horrible person espousing a monstrous ideology.

This selectively edited photograph
shows R's and D's seeing eye-to -eye
I was particularly reminded of this recently when I was out playing a round of golf with some old pals.  We were waiting to tee off when my good friend recited the oft repeated and incorrect quote attributed to President Obama, "you didn't build that."  He then spent some minutes incredulously opining about how awful it is for the President or the government in general to take any modicum of credit for the success of any hard working business.

Now, I know my friend quite well.  My friend also knows me well,  and I'm sure he was mostly trying to get a rise out of me (the Brits use the phrase "taking the piss out of ye", which is the perfect description), but I took the bait and wasted a few minutes trying to rationally point out that the line was grossly and intentionally taken out of context by Fox News, or the Romney campaign, or whomever he heard it from, because you can't have heard or read the actual speech and drawn that conclusion.  And that the President was just trying to counter the conservative cause celebre that government doesn't do anything constructive.  And that Mr. Obama is correct to give examples of how the economy has a solid platform of government support to build on.  And....well I wasted many words out on the teebox that day.

But, I do know deep down that my friend is a smart guy, and can make an informed opinion on his own.  So, for his benefit and for the benefits of many just like him, here is the entire, unedited passage of the President's speech from July 13th that I found here:

[THE PRESIDENT:] ...Now, one last thing -- one of the biggest differences is how we pay down our debt and our deficit.  My opponent, Mr. Romney’s plan is he wants to cut taxes another $5 trillion on top of the Bush tax cuts. 
AUDIENCE:  Booo --
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, like I said, the only way you can pay for that -- if you’re actually saying you’re bringing down the deficit -- is to cut transportation, cut education, cut basic research, voucherize Medicare, and you’re still going to end up having to raise taxes on middle-class families to pay for this $5 trillion tax cut.  That’s not a deficit reduction plan.  That’s a deficit expansion plan. 
     I’ve got a different idea.  I do believe we can cut -- we’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently.  (Applause.)  Not every government program works the way it’s supposed to.  And frankly, government can’t solve every problem.  If somebody doesn’t want to be helped, government can’t always help them.  Parents -- we can put more money into schools, but if your kids don’t want to learn it’s hard to teach them.  (Applause.)
     But you know what, I’m not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney or folks who don’t need them.  So I’m going to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.  We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, we’ve tried that before -- a guy named Bill Clinton did it.  We created 23 million new jobs, turned a deficit into a surplus, and rich people did just fine.  We created a lot of millionaires.
     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.)
     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.
Pretty funny how this passage gets distilled into "you didn't build that".  What's even more f&%king hilarious is that the first three paragraphs that I've quoted here could come right out of the mouth of a center-right Republican.  Obama says things in this speech that are both very sensible, and also right in line with probably 80% of Republicans.

(This is how Obama talks when he is addressing his core supporters at a rally.  Most. Reasonable. Politician.  Ever.  Someone needs to give him lessons on how to better pander to his base with batshitinsane accusations and demagoguery.  Paging Mrs. Bachmann...)

I happen to know a lot of Democrats that would bristle at the sentiment expressed by Mr. Obama, but in the hands of selective, irresponsible, manipulative editors it's some socialist, anti-commerce screed, right?  That's just as accurate as when a movie poster quotes critics referring to some piece of crap Hollywood film as "...A masterpiece..."

But, we can't have people, especially independents and centrist Republicans, agreeing with the President can we, Mr. Gillespie?  Mr. Rove?  It's more important to demonize the President than to solve real, systemic problems with our public policy and with our economy in an intelligent, reasonable way.
Ok, how about we do it to the other guy now?  Thanks to this post on thinkprogress.org*, I can legitimately claim Romney is a communist who hates the US Olympic Team.  See, he once said, "You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power...All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them.  Let’s also cheer...communities."  There.  Comrade Romney wants us to cheer communities, not Olympians.

Or should we just point out that The Mitt said exactly the same thing about businesses that Obama did: “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. A lot of people help.”


*Hat tip to the always smart +Steve B. and other of my Facebook and G+ pals for sharing that post.

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