New York Times political reporter Peter Baker's Thursday "campaign memo," "Philosophic Clash Over Government's Role Highlights Parties' Divide," marks the first appearance in the Times of President Obama's already notorious slam on business, which, according to Baker's helpful spin, "make clear that he celebrates individual achievement and free enterprise while believing that they are bolstered by collective investment."
It took only a few days for it to become a favorite Republican talking point. President Obama told an audience that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen.”
And it only took six days for the remarks to appear in the Times, on Thursday (Obama made the remarks last Friday night in Roanoke, Virginia). The rest of the media were also behind, as documented by the MRC's Geoff Dickens. Meanwhile, Romney surrogate John Sununu's crack that Obama should "learn how to be an American" made instant news at the paper.
Baker pled for calm, emphasizing "proper context" and lamenting the "Internet-fueled distortions" of what Obama said, while admitting that the remark did demonstrate that "Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney presents voters with starkly different philosophies about the role of government in American society."
Suddenly his critics had proof that he does not believe in individual success or the free market. Mitt Romney scrapped much of his stump speech on Wednesday to focus on the line and sent surrogates to reinforce the point. Mr. Obama’s aides said he was taken out of context, that he was referring to the value of public structures like bridges and roads in the nation’s commerce.
Either way, putting aside the predictable partisan cross-fire and the inevitable Internet-fueled distortions, even in proper context the president’s remarks crystallize a profound disagreement that defines this year’s campaign. More perhaps than any presidential contest in years, the choice between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney presents voters with starkly different philosophies about the role of government in American society.
Read in total, Mr. Obama’s comments make clear that he celebrates individual achievement and free enterprise while believing that they are bolstered by collective investment. At its core, the president’s argument is that the every-man-for-himself ethos he attributes to his opponents does not work. Instead, he advances a we’re-in-this-together creed born out of his days as a community activist. It is this belief that to him justifies government programs as necessary for American progress at a time when that is not fashionable.
Baker buried that total quote in the middle of the story, while dismissing the controversy as partisan conservative fodder.
Mr. Obama’s latest comments came on Friday night in a fire station in Roanoke, Va. “Look,” he told supporters, “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, that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Within days, critics took notice, and the remarks became fodder for discussion on Fox News and in outlets like National Review. By Wednesday, Mr. Romney made it his topic for the day.
The remarks certain didn't become "fodder" at ABC, CBS, or NBC.