President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton have all been victims of creative quote shortening.
By Carl Petersen
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. 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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
-President Obama (1)

When government is working it builds the foundation of a successful economy. Businesses cannot grow without educated employees. Roads are needed to bring supplies to factories and goods to the marketplace. Law enforcement helps to ensure that physical assets are protected. No man, or business, exists in a vacuum. Drown education funding, infrasture investment and federal support of local governments in a bathtub and the economy will suffer.

The President was referencing this theme of interdependence when he spoke in Roanoke, Virginia on July 13, 2012. The speech clearly makes the point that every successful person stands on the shoulders of others and that their success would not be possible without their own hard work AND the foundations provided by society. Unfortunately this message was muddled by web ads, speeches and convention themes that took one sentence from this speech and presented it out of context. (2)(3)(4)

Concern about our nation’s debt and an unwillingness to increase taxes is limiting what our government can spend. The solution is not to blindly slash away but to find out how to become more efficient and effective. The President set the stage for this discussion with his speech but the Republicans took away the opportunity when they chose to divert attention by misusing his words.

“You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention — it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.
But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
-Nancy Pelosi (5)

It has been said that watching legislation get through the Congress is like watching sausage get made – if you knew how it was done you might not want to eat it. When the opposing party is willing to do anything to block passage even as you compromise to satisfy their interests, the toxicity is guaranteed to get worse. Throw in a ratings starved media who covers the politics over the substance and conditions become ripe for complete gridlock.

When Nancy Pelosi spoke on March 10, 2010, she was not accidentally revealing a grand conspiracy to hide the details of health care reform from the American people. Instead, she is clearly expressing excitement about the positive results that will come about because of the bill that she was helping to craft. This is lost when Conservatives focus on just nine seconds of the speech. (6) Even worse are those who use to the quote as “proof” that she did not read the complete text of the law before voting for its passage. Even at 974 pages, the text was readable within the eleven days between the speech and the vote. (7)

Pelosi’s biggest mistake in her speech was assuming that passing the bill would remove the fog of controversy as the negative campaign against the law has been unrelenting. Unfortunately, the debate has not been carried out in a way that has made people any more knowledgeable about the subject. When polled “many Americans still don’t realize that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare is (sic) the same thing.” (8) A majority of Americans also say that they oppose the law while at the same time supporting its provisions. (9)

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the-the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The I.C. has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out.

But, you know to be clear, it is from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it, than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.” (10)

As they lick their wounds from their fifth popular vote defeat in six years, Republicans seem to have convinced themselves that if the American public had just know that Benghazi was a terrorist attack, then Romney would have won the election. They believe that the administration covered up this fact, but on September 12, 2012, Obama stated that “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” (11) On that same day Hillary Clinton referred to “violence apparently by an organized Libyan Jihadi group.” (12)

In her testimony before Congress Clinton was clearly referring to the dispute over the events leading up to the attack. However, when Republicans strip the quote down to “what difference does it make,” a new talking point is born. It is a meme based on a half-truth that implies that the Secretary of State did not care about the people who died.

As a boy I was taught that not telling the whole truth is the same as telling a lie. Under this standard Republicans have not met the criteria of telling the truth in any of these three cases. This lack of honesty may serve them well in firing up the base, but it has done nothing to encourage debate. It certainly has not brought us any closer to prioritising spending, providing universal health care or making sure our diplomats are safe.
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(12) Meet the “Candidates: NYS Senate District 31”, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, September 12, 2012