If this election were won by the people who can take the most innocent statements and turn them around to mean something completely different, President Obama would be in trouble. There has always been a habit of taking a phrase or statement made by a politician out of context during elections. However, the absurdity of the practice is so dramatic this year that even those on the side of the offending party are beginning to get annoyed.
I imagine if you were to get your hands on the Romney campaign’s internal plans, you might find a section about looking for anything that they can take out of context. I will start with a commercial from the Romney campaign titled “It Worked.” This commercial begins with an Obama speech in which the President says, “we tried our plan — and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.” The commercial then goes on to question how the President’s plan worked if the economy is so bad and so many people are still struggling with a final question asking, “do you agree it’s working?”
The problem with this is that the speech by the President is taken wildly out of context. Here is the text of the speech leading up to the President’s remarks.
I’m running because I believe you can’t reduce the deficit — which is a serious problem, we’ve got to deal with it — but we can’t reduce it without asking folks like me who have been incredibly blessed to give up the tax cuts that we’ve been getting for a decade. I’ll cut out government spending that’s not working, that we can’t afford, but I’m also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well.
Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.
With the full text of the speech, one can clearly see that President Obama is actually talking about the economic policies that were used during the Clinton administration versus those used during the Bush administration. What he’s saying has nothing to with what he is doing right now. But those few words were very convenient for the Romney campaign to take out of context and use against the President.
It doesn’t get better from there. One of the biggest quotes that Republicans have used against the President has been “you didn’t build that.” It was even the basis of the slogan for their convention. That is very fitting, considering that so much of their claims have been based on concepts taken out of context. This has been restated so many times that it’s redundant, but I’ll say it again. The President was talking about the need to invest in infrastructure. His point was that the businesses didn’t build that infrastructure. Everyone relies on someone else at some point, and in some way. We are not all self-taught. We have parents to thank. Teachers to thank. Someone who took a chance on us. And someone who built the infrastructure that allows us to conduct business. This is what the President was saying.
In the most recent example of Republicans taking something horribly out of context. I saw some posts on my Facebook wall questioning Democrats at the national convention saying that we all belong to the government. Of course, this idea is so offensive to the people of our country that it immediately became another point of contention for Republicans with Mitt Romney tweeting “We don’t belong to the government, the government belongs to us.” If this statement, from a video shown at the Democratic National Convention, was accurately portrayed, I would agree completely. However, here is the problem. The video actually said, “Government’s the only thing we all belong to. We have different churches, different clubs, but we’re together as a part of our city, or our county, or our state – and our nation.” The point being made was that, no matter what different organizations or belief systems we each belong to, we are all citizens of the United States. Being a citizen, we are an active part of our city, county, state, and nation. No matter what gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation, we all belong to this great group of people called the United States.
I live in a very conservative state. When I hear my conservative friends saying that they are sick of seeing people taking statements out of context – referring to Republican comments about “you didn’t build that” – it really says something to me about the extent of the problem. The Romney campaign, which is already on shaky ground when it comes to honesty, should take note before they drive the remaining independent and moderate voters away from the Republican Party. Or don’t…it makes my job easier and will give us another four years with President Obama.