Recycled Rhetoric

Let me call your attention to a quote that’s been popping up all over the Internet lately, from a speech President Obama gave in Roanoke, Virginia, last Friday:

Two comments — First, I’ve seen several of the President’s supporters claim that he is being quoted “out of context”, as if his opponents are up to shenanigans. (This particular objection, by the way, seems to be a tacet admission that there is something wrong with what is quoted above.) So, in the interest of fairness, here is the immediate context of the quote:

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.  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.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.

If this isn’t enough context for you, here is a transcript of the entire speech. Knock yourself out. But I think the quote in the graphic is a pretty fair representation of what the President was trying to communicate.

So here’s the second thing: There is absolutely nothing new here. Obama is a great campaigner, and voters love stuff like this because it sounds so true. That’s why last year, MoveOn.org was working so hard to spread a virtually identical quote from a speech given by Elizabeth Warren shortly after she announced her candidacy for this year’s Senatorial election. Here’s the “viral” quote from last Fall:

Whether you saw this quote last year or not, surely you can see the similarity between Warren’s words and those of her boss (one of the plethora of new government jobs created by our current President — “Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” — belongs to Warren). So rather than respond directly to Obama’s quote, let me refer you instead to what I wrote in response to Elizabeth Warren last September, which pretty much all applies to the latest rhetoric from the Campaigner-in-Chief.

Time to move on.

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