Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Of Things Built and Not Built

So the drama has been playing out for a while now. The President gave a speech where, according to reports, he said that businesses were not built by their owners. I heard the speech and took the words in context, meaning that he believes that America offers an infrastructure in which private business owners can be successful.

The reception from many other people has been quite different, though. According to them, the President was clear when he said that businesses were not built by their owners and were, instead, built by the government.

I finally decided to go back and read the words of the speech to see if that would help clarify. And for me, it did.

Here's the passage in question:
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.
Yes, I see the troublesome phrase. But I also see the sentence before and, more importantly, the sentence after.

As I read it, the President is referring to the system in which businesses thrive, specifically the roads and bridges. It is not really clear for me until I read the sentence after.
Somebody else made that happen.
It makes no sense that the President isn't giving a small business owner credit for building his own business and then turning around and giving someone else credit for it. That doesn't track at all.

I'll let the talking heads and campaign strategists make of this what they will. For me, though, I read it in the context in which I believe it was presented. The whole paragraph is about the "unbelievable American system" and that is what the President is saying was not built by any one small business owner.

Awkward phrasing? Maybe. But I don't believe he meant what he is being accused of. And for all my criticism of this President, I don't need to invent reasons to find fault with him.