By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Words can be quite powerful. “I like being able to fire people.” “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
Those words were spoken by Mitt Romney, who seeks to displace Barack Obama from the presidency of these United States.
Unfair, say Mitt’s supporters. Those words were taken out of context and shouldn’t be used against him to paint an unflattering portrait of what appears to be an out-of-touch, rich politician.
But it’s politics, where every word, every phrase muttered by one side is dissected by the other.
And President Obama, often good with words, has been known to flub a few lines, especially when he goes off prepared remarks. Much hay has been made of these words he said recently: “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that.”
Critics have raked him over the coals for that line.
I’m no fan of Obama or his policies, but that line – like Romney’s – was taken out of context, too.
So let’s put some context around Obama’s line:
“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me – because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t – look, if you’ve been successful, 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 hard-working 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, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Two ways you can look at those words. First, Obama was talking about the bridges and roads, then followed with the business “you didn’t build that” line. Perhaps he was saying businesses didn’t build those bridges and roads, that “somebody else made that happen.”
Or that he actually was talking about businesses and that they weren’t built on their own.
In many ways that’s true. You had to have customers, you had to have vendors, you had to have permits. … no, businesses didn’t, and don’t, just happen. My parents, who ran their business for 40 years, would attest to that.
I think the last part of the speech sums up what Obama was trying to say: “We succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Had Romney said those same exact words, we’d no doubt have the same arguments.
But in the end, actions speak louder than words, don’t they? That should be the true measure of a candidate for president. Right now, the choice may boil down to the lesser of two evils. No context necessary.
Dennis Seid is the business editor at the Daily Journal. Reach him at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.