Attempting to change the subject from the latest scandal over Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, conservatives have seized on new fodder for the narrative that Obama is secretly out to destroy small businesses. Fox and Friends on Monday morning aired a clip from an Obama campaign speech in Roanoke, Virginia, in which he says, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else did that.”
The sound bite soon reverberated throughout conservative media outlets. Fox News later ran the headline, “Obama Insults Small Business Owners,” and House Speaker John Boehner scoffed, “He said that because he has no idea what it takes to build or run a small business.”
The quote also prompted talk show host Rush Limbaugh to declare that President Obama “hates this country.”
Of course, Obama’s supposedly insulting comment is somewhat different in context. The full text of his speech, rather than denigrate small business, challenged the idea that wealthy and successful individuals have never benefited from government programs:
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. 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.
Without the context, Obama’s point that individual effort is bolstered by community systems is completely lost. The idea is nothing new; Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made very similar comments that went viral in September of last year. Indeed, far from denigrating small business owners, Obama has cut taxes on small businesses 17 times.
Deliberately editing Obama out of context is not a new tactic for conservatives. In one blatant example, a recent Romney campaign ad quoted Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” a quote Obama was in fact using to criticize then-candidate John McCain for his refusal to discuss the economic crisis in 2008.