"You Didn't Build That"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 18 2012 5:45 PM

"You Didn't Build That"

The always on-target Phil Klein analyzes our current meme and aims to rebut the pro-Obama spinners.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Obama’s defenders argue the “that” in “you didn’t build that” refers to “roads and bridges.” I’m not so sure we can make that assumption, given that “business” is the noun that directly precedes the pronoun “that.”
Advertisement

Okay, toss whatever "hack" insults you want at me, because I completely think that Obama was referring to roads and bridges. Look at the (to their credit) full video the RNC clipped.

Watch (again, can't believe I'm saying this) the body language. Obama is gesticulating to count off the various ways people have been helped -- great teacher, American system. At 0:44, he says "somebody invested in roads and bridges," and gyrates his arms as if mapping out said roads and bridges. "If you've got a business," he says, making one more gyration, "that -- you didn't build that." The extra "that," a false start, is not captured in transcripts. It really looks like "that" refers to the stuff that business-builders utilized on the way up, not the businesses themselves. Obama switched up, mid-sentence. These things happen.

What really convinces me, here, is that the Fox News and Romney campaign versions of the clip start RIGHT AFTER the gyrations.

See the difference? They've repeated it several times in quick succession, because they're very, very concerned about the context.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 16 2014 6:00 AM Can of Worms Prudie offers advice to a letter writer who wants to blackmail a famous ex with tapes of his fetish.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.