Remember the big fuss among Republicans this past summer over certain remarks President Obama made in an extemporaneous speech in Roanoke, Va.?
Obama was making the point that success in life usually is due to a combination of individual initiative and help from others.
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…
Suddenly, a big fuss, led by Fox News, arose over the passage where the president said: “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
The president’s point was pretty clear when his remarks were read in full context. He was saying that if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build the roads and bridges that might benefit that business. Somebody else made that happen, just as somebody else helped create our American system in which you can thrive.
The whole point of the speech was that success in business often depends on the efforts of other people and society in general as well as on the efforts of the individual.
But the right-wing media and Republicans in general, ever eager to make Obama look bad, took two of his sentences out of context to create a false impression. They isolated just one part of his remarks: ”If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.” They said he was telling successful folks that “you didn’t build” your business. What he actually said was that “you didn’t build” the roads and bridges.
Anyway, for much of the next month, Republicans ran wild with their distortion of what Obama said. They even made it the theme of one entire day at their convention and mentioned it in virtually every speech over the three days of the gathering in Tampa.
They were so all-fired sure that this so-called gaffe would hurt the president in the polls and greatly diminish his re-election chances.
Funny thing, however: It didn’t work out that way. The polls never reflected any impact on this score. By mid-September, the matter was pretty much forgotten (except among the die-hards on the political right).
But wait! Now the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a left-wing rag) is out with a poll showing that the remarks at issue actually might even have helped Obama at least a little.
The poll put the matter to respondents thusly:
Barack Obama recently said that if you have been successful, you did not get there on your own. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create the American system that allowed you to thrive. He said if you have a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen. When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. Does this make you feel more positive or more negative about Barack Obama, does it not make much difference in your opinion or do you not know enough about this to have an opinion at this time?
Thirty-six percent of respondents said it made them feel more positive about Obama. Thirty-two percent said it made them feel more negative, and 26 percent said it made no difference. The rest didn’t know about the matter.
The poll also put this issue to respondents:
Mitt Romney recently said forty seven percent (47%) of people will vote for President Obama no matter what because they are dependent upon government, believe they are victims, and believe the government has a responsibility to care for them. He said his message of low taxes does not connect with the forty-seven percent (47%) of Americans who pay no income taxes so his job is not to worry about those people as he will never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives. Does this make you feel more positive or more negative about Mitt Romney, does it not make much difference in your opinion or do you not know enough about this to have an opinion at this time?
Forty-five percent said it made them feel more negative about Romney, while 23 percent chose the more positive option, and 24 percent said it didn’t make a difference.
Controversies like these don’t always work out the way some people expect, do they?
UPDATE: Steve Benen has more on this matter HERE.
UPDATE II: And there’s THIS, too.