The damage Barack Obama did to himself in Roanoke, Va. when he said “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen” has become the occasion for his defenders and apologists to say he didn’t say it, or he didn’t really say it, or he’s being taken out of context, or he didn’t mean it, or something.

Fine. Here’s the whole thing:

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.

I would argue the context makes the quote worse, not better.

Obama’s utter contempt for the idea that people deserve to prosper due to the fruits of their own labors and their own skills is made even deeper and more apparent from the entire quote.

The president is saying that people who are successful in business do not deserve credit for being successful in business. He scorns those who say “it must be because I was so smart” by citing the fact that there are a lot of smart people out there. So what sets the smart people who do well apart from the smart people who don’t? Is it that they are hard-working? No, of course not, because “there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” So if you do well, and it’s not because you’re smart or because you’re hardworking, what do you owe your success to?

Answer: “Somebody else.” As in “somebody else made that happen.” Somebody gave you some help. You had a great teacher. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. Not you.

Oh, yes, you. The whole idea of being a productive citizen who pays his taxes in a progressive system is that you are paying your own way—and even more than your own way to help others less fortunate. In other words, you are the one building the roads and bridges, or at least paying more than your share for your own use of them and their maintenance and their upkeep. The government gathers the money from every other user (and everyone else who pays for more than his use to help carry the burden of others who can’t) and pools it. That money is collected and pooled through the actions of a democratically elected legislature and signed into law by a democratically elected president, who are fulfilling the mandate assigned them by you.

Government doesn’t build it. Government doesn’t make it possible. You do.

For the president to say a taxpaying citizen didn’t build the infrastructure he uses is a fundamental denial of the entire concept of a self-governing citizenry.

So Obama defenders really ought to think long and hard about whether they want to continue advancing this meme. The longer it goes on, the worse he will look.

More on the Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012 via @commentarymagazine
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