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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"You Didn't Build That" -- a Gaffe with Legs

An ill-chosen phrase -- not to mention a bad decision to defend it -- is a gift to Mitt Romney. ABC reports:
After two weeks of volleys from both sides on tax returns and Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, the former Massachusetts governor and his allies have been finally been able to move onto offense and capitalize on President Obama's "you didn't build it" comment.
The Romney campaign's latest television ad, released this morning, features the owner of a metal fabricating company who asks: "My father's hands didn't build this company? My hands didn't build this company? Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you demonizing us for it? It's time we had somebody who believes in us, someone who believes that achievement should be rewarded, not punished." 


Peggy Noonan writes:
The president seemed to me to be confusing a poor argument—he implied we owe our wealth and growth as a nation to government programs—with a good one, that nobody achieves success alone. This is true: Nobody proceeds unhelped through life, everyone who's achieved something got some encouragement from a neighbor or a teacher or a coach.
But Mr. Obama makes this point mischievously. He aims his argument at his political opponents—Republicans, Romney supporters. Yet many of them—most, probably—are involved one way or another with churches, synagogues, civic groups and professional organizations whose sole purpose is to provide assistance and encouragement to those who are ignored and disadvantaged. Conservatism doesn't mean "do it alone." God made us as social animals and asks us to help each other.
Mr. Obama was trying to conflate a nice thought—we must help each other—with a partisan and ideological one, that government has and needs more of a role in creating personal success. He did not do it well because his approach was, as it often is, accusatory and vaguely manipulative. Which makes people lean away from him, not toward him.