Charlotte Hays

President Obama’s self-revealing “You didn’t build that” speech in Roanoke, Va., is turning out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

The speech was delivered July 13, and the New York Times last week dubbed it “the campaign story that will not go away.” There are several reasons why this story won’t—and must not—go away.

Reason number one is that this is the first time that President Obama has revealed for public consumption a foundational tenet of his economic theory. The Obama administration has a history of being cagy. For example, we think we know why White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to answer a question as to whether the administration regards Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last week. We have our suspicions. But we can’t be sure. No one will say.

With the Roanoke speech, the public at large can for the first time know with absolute certainty what the president thinks about those who succeed in business. Rather than being the engine of job creation, business mooches, in the president’s worldview. The disdain in Mr. Likeability’s voice and demeanor was palpable—and not very likeable.

This isn’t some anecdote dredged up from the president’s twenties, something uttered behind closed doors at a posh San Francisco fundraiser, something we ourselves can never hear, or an impromptu response to an importunate plumber. This is what the president believes, and for once he flat out said it. Thanks for sharing, Mr. President.

Moreover, these words, offensive to those who have worked to build family businesses, didn’t come out of thin air—rather than being the verbal meanderings of a tired man without his teleprompter, these words reflect a particular point of view that has wide currency on the far left.

William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection located one of the sources of this attack on the self-made man or woman (and that is what this is) in the works of Berkeley linguist George Lakoff. “There is no such thing as a self-made man,” Jacobson quoted from Lakoff. “Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone.”

This is very much what the president was saying in Roanoke. President Obama’s ally Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senatorial candidate and darling of the far left, also has said pretty much the same thing. President Obama, who like Warren and Lakoff has spoken fondly of the anarchistic Occupy Movement, spoke his own truth in a moment of off-scripted candor in Roanoke. These were not errant words, but words of sincere belief.


Charlotte Hays

Director of Cultural Programs at the Independent Women's Forum.