In the ongoing debate over the meaning of “that,” John O’Sullivan points out the president’s genuinely statist logic:
Let us look at the life-span of Obama’s successful businessman: He is not only allowed to “thrive” by “this unbelievable American system,” his goods delivered over government roads and bridges, his efficiency improved by an Internet “created” by the government, his status improved by entry into a middle class “created” by government, but he is himself shaped by government through “some great teacher” and the G.I. Bill passed by government. His own abilities don’t explain his success — there are a lot of “smart” people who don’t make it. And if he thinks he’s done well through hard work, well, remember he had a great teacher and a college education. “Doing things together” under such circumstances means that the business owner becomes the junior partner to the government with civil society gradually morphing into semi-independent licensed agencies of the state.
The much-mocked “Life of Julia” ad also assumes that most of its main character’s achievements in life are due to government. It’s one thing to say that there is a government role, or that we are all products of an environment larger than ourselves. What Obama and Elizabeth Warren are saying goes well beyond that.
And that, despite all the indignation about roads, bridges, and antecedents, is why the Roanoke speech has blown up into a major campaign issue.