Shock and awe describes my reaction to President Obama's "You didn't build that" speech at a fire station in Roanoke, Virginia, last Friday. His defenders might have a point, though. Had he added only two words to the statement "by yourself" this controversy wouldn't exisit. This speech explains the past four years of economic, social, and health devastation better than any pundit could hope to do.
For the record, after lauding every imaginable shape and form of government, the president's exact words were, "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen." He then referred to the government's irreplaceable role in the "invention of the internet." The full text of the 5,500 word, one-hour stemwinder is posted on the White House website.
Only one day before this speech, the president told CBS News that the biggest mistake of his first term was to "fail to tell his story" to the American people. In one of quickest White House action steps of the past four years, within 24 hours he was at length "telling his story" to an audience in Virginia, in regards to Big Government.
The offending statement (and the entire, lengthy speech which supports it) doesn't say that people don't build successful enterprises completely on their own, nor does it suggest that government also plays an important role. Those are reasonable statements.
It says that people who have a successful business did nothing to make that happen, and adds that those who lack successful businesses are not responsible for their lack. Other parts of the speech suggest that luck is responsible for success, not hard work, or refer to the old favorite: nepotism ("Someone gave that to you").
All of these statements regarding luck and nepotism are true about a small number of people who appear externally "successful," and the president is one of them.
As John Donne said, "No man is an island, entire of itself."
In addition to being to filet mignon as the president's utterances are to a Jack in the Box taco, Donne's words mean "we're in it together." That's hardly what the president said and absolutely not what he meant.
He meant: "You're in it for me."