In politics, political openings come and go. Quotes, gaffes, and off-hand comments usually have a short-lifespan. Gutter-ball attacks - say, Romney vacationing with his dog on the roof of his car 30 years ago - might last a week or so and then few care anymore. In 2008, Obama's "spread the wealth" comment to Joe "The Plumber" was about the low-light of his campaign. But the effects didn't linger.
But on July 13th, Obama let slip what the 2012 presidential campaign is about: Being for a bigger, more expensive and intrusive government or being for a smaller government with an individualist and capitalist drive.Here is the bulk of what Obama said:
"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.
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."
Both of those paragraphs received wild applause and Obama delivered them with fiery passion. Later in the speech, Obama unenthusiastically added "that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." But that was it on the individual achievement front. It was basically an afterthought. An aside. Compare one sentence, which was applause-free, against the very passionate 2 paragraphs devoted to saying "you didn't build that" and pushing a collectivist mentality.
The moment captured the essence of the 2012 campaign. Business owners, individualists, and conservatives became more fired up than they already were (in case the Obamacare ruling didn't do enough firing up). Obama clearly put the emphasis of success on "the rest." His emphasis was on those who let the opportunity happen, not on those who grabbed the opportunity by the horns and took off. On the other hand, Romney, and conservatives in general, put the emphasis on the creators and individual success. After all, there is no need for a road if nothing is at the end of it. (And don't governments beg businesses to come to their cities and, if they do, they will build roads?) Ten days later, people are still talking about the president's comments that day. Chances are, this is one comment that will have legs throughout the campaign.
For your amusement, visit: You Didn't Build That