Putting Jennifer Rubin In Context

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin has had enough with people pointing out that the Romney campaign frequently, habitually attacks President Obama with sound bites ripped out of context:

"Out of context" also does not mean "You misconstrued this sentence." Dems claim "You didn't build that" meant "You didn't build [those] bridges and roads." But the comment, however you interpret it, is perfectly in context with Obama's rag on entrepreneurs, who he claims steal too much credit, thinking they're so smart and work so hard. In fact, as I've pointed out, it was a favor to Obama to pick out the "build that" phrase since the rest of the speech was worse.

The self-defeating logic of this paragraph is ridiculous enough (why would the Romney campaign do Obama a favor?) but let's focus on her broader argument -- that attacking Obama over "you didn't build that" is just using his beliefs against him:

But from here on out, let's stop using "out of context" to mean "using my own statements against me." The latter is a tried and true political tactic, and both sides, not to mention the press, should stop bellyaching about it. It also might help, by the way, if pundits and the campaigns didn't use these rhetorical arguments to avoid the substantive arguments.

The left now seems to want to argue "out of context" instead of defending liberal nostrums. Liberals playing the "out of context" game apparently don't want to defend their belief that government should play a central role in the economy or that culture matters to the prosperity of a country. Go figure.

Here's the thing: no one is denying the idea that government plays a central role in the economy. What's getting all us excitable lefties agitated is when people like Jennifer Rubin use "you didn't build that" to argue that president exhibits "pernicious... antagonism toward wealth creation" and believes "wealth creation is threat to prosperity." Or that Obama has "an abusive relationship" to small business. Such sentiments bear exactly zero similarity to what the president actually said, and can only be arrived at by presenting "you didn't build that" in isolation and then building around it a crude caricature of an anti-capitalist radical.

That's why the context matters; it reveals a standard-issue liberal argument that isn't particularly controversial unless you have an interest in making it so. And the easiest way to do that is to take his words out of context. The Romney campaign and the conservative blogosphere aren't hammering away at "you didn't build that" because they want to do Obama a solid.

Posted In
Economy, Elections
The Washington Post
Jennifer Rubin
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