Sorry Media, ‘Context’ Really Doesn’t Excuse Obama Slam Against Entrepreneurs

President Obama's “you didn't build that” remark about business entrepreneurs touched a nerve on the Right, and sent liberal journalists and bloggers scrambling to explain away his gaffe by asserting that, “in context,” his statements weren't bad at all.

While it is true that Obama's remarks are frequently referred to in a short-hand manner, in their full form, his comments are just as insulting, if not more so. And no amount of media spin can make them otherwise.

As Washington Examiner columnist Philip Klein notes, "even if viewed in their full context, Obama’s comments downplay the accomplishments of successful small business owners and diminish their contributions to government.”


Klein -- in an article that presents the full text of Obama's remarks -- breaks down the heart of Obama's message, in which Obama maligns successful business people who think they owe their success to hard work and individual smarts:

“His argument is directed at business owners who attribute their success to their smarts and hard work. Business owners are clearly the 'you' in this part of the speech, and Obama is scolding them, like a preacher, for taking too much credit for their accomplishments. Obama may not literally be claiming that government has built every business in the U.S. But he is clearly trying to urge people to allocate more credit to government and less to small business owners than they otherwise might. Aside from being unnecessarily insulting, his argument makes little sense. Everybody has access to roads and bridges, but not everybody builds successful businesses.

“It’s also worth noting that Obama made this argument within the broader context of arguing for raising taxes on wealthier Americans. He said those wealthier Americans that support him 'want to give something back.' The implication is that successful Americans have been freeloaders off of government under the Bush era tax rates, and now they have to help pay for the roads, bridges and public schools that helped them succeed.”

No, the liberal media's effort to defend the president by putting his remarks “in context” doesn't help Obama at all, because his “you didn't build that” statement was, in context, even worse than if read as a standalone sentence.

The Romney campaign certainly realized it -- their "These Hands" ad created in response to Obama's “you didn't build that” comment presented virtually the entire passage of his speech. The full context hurts Obama even more so than the single sentence, in part because it shows that single sentence was not a verbal gaffe, but really how Obama thinks about business success: It isn't something you earn or create, but something that government hands you.

Considering Obama's sole experience in business is doling out stimulus money to ventures like Solyndra in which his cronies are heavily invested, it's not surprising he thinks that's how business operates.

It’s even worse for Obama because if you believe that no one deserves sole credit for their successes, then you must also believe no one is responsible for their sins. Yet for some reason, I don’t think we’ll see the president claiming credit for the fact that the accused Batman killer, James Holmes drove to the movie theater on government-created roads.

That would probably be too much context.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013