Remember when Mitt Romney told America that he just didn’t give a rip about poor people?
He did, you know. He said it word for word, on Feb. 1, 2012, and I quote:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
Of course, that’s not what Romney meant, and everyone knew that’s not what he meant. Taken in context, he meant that the safety net for the very poor remains intact, and that the real challenges lay in solving the problems of the middle class. So after a brief kerfuffle in which a few people tried irresponsibly to make his statement into something it clearly wasn’t, everybody moved on.
Contrast that to what the Republicans are doing with Obama’s “You didn’t build that” statement. Like Romney, he said it word for word: “You didn’t build that.” And just like Romney, that is not what he meant and everyone knows that’s not what he meant.
Taken in context, he meant that no person or business succeeds alone. For those who care about such things, here are his actual remarks:
“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.”
In my mind, it says a lot that the Republicans are building their 2012 convention message, and much of their 2012 campaign, around what they know in their hearts to be a blatant lie. That lie is repeated and repeated and repeated, and it gets no more truthful with each iteration. In fact, as demonstrated by an RNC video shown at the convention last night, it gets worse.
Note that the audio has been edited to remove the entire runup to the magic four words — the part in bold above — leaving behind no audible trace that Obama ever uttered it. The words simply vanish, and history is altered. As George Orwell wrote in 1984:
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”
It is distressing to see so many Americans gleefully embrace and rally around what they know in their hearts to be a doctored version of history. And it gives an ironic twist to the fine words of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie last night in his speech to the GOP convention, in which he stressed the importance of telling the truth to the American people:
“We’ve never been a country to shy away from the truth,” he said. “History shows that we stand up when it counts and it’s this quality that has defined our character and our significance in the world.”
“Standing up when it counts” does not mean basing much of a campaign on an obvious, shameless lie. Not in New Jersey, and not anywhere else in this great country.
Except perhaps in Tampa.
– Jay Bookman