If Barack Obama loses the election, historians will point to his remarks in Roanoke, Va., on July 13 as a cause. Clip the paragraphs and laminate them: They express his worldview with clarity and force.
Obama began by attacking Mitt Romney’s calls for tax cuts. “I’m not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney.” The word “investments” drew him into a rumination on the way the world works. “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 hardworking people out there.”
Register the meaning of this statement: Obama devalues the talents and virtues of the successful because other people — all people? — have them in equal measure.
The president continued: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” He gave as an example “a great teacher.” But then he called in the helping hand of government. “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system . . . that allowed you to thrive.” The system of law and property rights? No. “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.” What else? Rachel Maddow’s favorite, the Hoover Dam (a mighty structure, but hardly the Erie Canal); the Internet (half-wrong: the Pentagon helped create it, but the crucial work was done by private actors); the GI Bill (a great boon — but then didn’t all those greatest-generation college graduates have to show intelligence and hard work?). In sum, your talents are a trifle, because the government does the lion’s share.
“That’s the reason I’m running for president,” Obama concluded — “because I still believe in that idea.” That idea is a cradle-to-grave corset of prompts, subventions, and the plans of your betters. Hammer at it, Mr. Romney, and offer an alternative — the American alternative — and you may win.