With a new campaign video, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts is hoping to use Elizabeth Warren’s viral video about the role of government in fostering business - the one that helped make her a star on the left - to paint her as an enemy of American free enterprise.
The Brown campaign’s video, “Let America Be America,” released this morning, links Warren’s comments that “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” with similar comments later made by Obama that “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.”
The comments by Obama and Warren are contrasted with statements by Democratic and Republican presidents - Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton - exalting the role of free enterprise, as well as idyllic photos of children selling lemonade and other images conjuring success stories such as Apple’s Steve Jobs.
The video was not included in Brown’s rotation of paid television commercials, but restricted to the Internet, a free medium where viewership is driven word-of-mouth and through media coverage.
While liberals have delighted in Warren’s and Obama’s direct talk about the role government plays and the responsibility of the wealthy to give back, conservatives have viewed them as anti-business, a sign that both politicians are undervaluing the role of entrepreneurs, and soaking the rich to expand government.
Brown, a Republican, is counting on winning over independents, who may be suspicious of calls for further taxes and regulation suggested in the rhetoric.
“When you do well, everyone else does well,” Brown tells business owners in the video. “And I promise you this, I will never demonize you as business leaders and business owners for the work you do or the opportunities you create because I think we should not be blaming you - we should be thanking you.”
The most controversial element of the video is the use of Obama’s comment that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Obama supporters say the comment has been taken out of context and that the president was speaking specifically about infrastructure.
Here’s the full quote from Obama, delivered July 13 in Roanoke, Va.:
“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,” he said.
Still, Obama was clearly calling challenging the notion that business people have achieved success solely on talent:
“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. 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,” he said.
Brown’s strategy represents a subtle shift in the campaign’s dynamic.
Warren so far has been working to link her candidacy with Obama, given that he is expected to win big in Massachusetts, and that Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in the state.
Brown, conversely, has tried to diminish the role of party politics and contrast his personal character and personality with Warren’s.
Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.