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Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Politics | 24 comments

Quote of the Day: Mitt Romney Told Olympians They Didn’t Get There Alone

Our political Quote of the Day gives us one more strand in the heaping-plate-of-spaghetti-of-hyocrisy called American partisan politics, where the accuracy of an assertion is not what matters. What matters is that you pick up something that can be repeated, and exaggerated and cherry picked but try to forget or deny or not mention what you yourself said. Via First Read, here’s presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney talking to Olympians in 2002. Keep in mind that Romney has seized on an out-of-context part of one of President Barack Obama’s speeches to say Obama believes no businessmen got where they are soley on their own efforts.

“You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power,” said Romney, who on Friday will attend the Opening Ceremonies of this year’s Summer Olympics. “For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].”

In full context, Romney, of course, also praised the Olympians’ efforts – right before he made his “you didn’t get here solely on your own” remark.

“Tonight we cheer the Olympians, who only yesterday were children themselves,” Romney said. “As we watch them over the next 16 days, we affirm that our aspirations, and those of our children and grandchildren, can become reality. We salute you Olympians – both because you dreamed and because you paid the price to make your dreams real. You guys pushed yourself, drove yourself, sacrificed, trained and competed time and again at winning and losing.”

First Read notes:

Mitt Romney has criticized President Obama for his “you didn’t build that line,” when it came to businesses. The president was making an “it takes a village” argument, which the Romney campaign and conservatives have roundly panned.

But in 2002, during his speech at the Opening Ceremonies at the Winter Olympics — the games in which Romney was lauded for turning around the management of the event — Romney made a similar argument about Olympians.

But accuracy, schmaccuracy, and holding politicians (particularly Mitt Romney) accountable for past assertions, what does that matter? The point is political attack and repeating political mantras.

And, in fact, I personally can say this:

–In my incarnation as a freelance journalist living and writing in India and Spain in the 70s, I didn’t get there alone.
–When I was staff writer on newspapers owned by Knight Ridder and the Copley Press, I hadn’t gotten there alone. Would they have hired me without a resume, solid references and good clips?
–In my college career and high school, I didn’t get there alone.
–In my entertainment career, I didn’t get there alone.
–In the values I adhere to in my interactions with friends, relatives, families, and my wondeful Internet friends and readers, I didn’t get here alone. Was I just born with these values and not influenced by others?
–As I sit in my condo in San Diego, I didn’t get here alone.
–My father who ran a business with my two uncles that had been his father’s, and who put in so many hours and hours talking to and wooing clients, he didn’t get there alone.
–My grandparents who fled Russia at the turn of the country or left Poland, when they arrived on the boat and as they built their family life and businesses here, they didn’t do it alone.

So it’s a great sound bite to take something and use part of it to try and demonize someone — Republican or Democratic — but, in fact, if we all look at our lives, very few of us have gotten here totally alone.

As my 18 year old cat jumps on my computer keys as I write this, she didn’t get here alone.

But don’t bother telling her that.

No matter what fact you throw at her, she just wants to jump and won’t change her mind.

Just like some partisans.


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  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Oh, but Joe, what Romney said (and meant) is entirely different… 🙂

  • slamfu

    That’s nothing. I once heard Romney passed an entire health care law when he was gov of MA that is pretty much exactly what Obamacare is about, then turned around later during is presidential bid to say that its a really awful idea. I mean that one is almost impossible to believe right?

  • RP

    And remember the Obama campaign is 2008 and now never used a sound bite or anything out of context in their political ads.

  • roro80

    Mmmmm…hypocrisy spaghetti. Nomnomnom.

    But seriously, it kind of blows my mind that that people are spitting up their milk at hearing that it takes more than bootstraps and rugged individualism for someone to be successful. Yes, we need education. Yes, we need infrastructure. Yes, we need mentors and supporters and family and community and consumers of whatever good we are selling. Hard work and drive and intelligence too, of course, but all those other things as well.

  • ShannonLeee

    it is all a matter of degrees.

    I think everyone accepts that family and friends play a major role in our success. It is once you get out of those inner circles and into the greater community where Reps and Dems tend to defer.

    Athletes themselves are more than a product of themselves and their families. We use decades of publicly funded research and education to create the perfect training program that allow them to peak at the Olympics. We are bigger, faster and stronger because we know more about the human body than ever before.

  • DaGoat

    I defended Obama in another thread and agree his quote is being criticized by Romney while ignoring the larger context. That said I don’t care much for this article from First Read, which indicates to me somebody went through 10 years of Romney speeches to find something that sounds kind of like what Obama said.

    Instead of discussing the issue of to what extent government plays in an individual’s success, this is just more one-upmanship so now Democrats can accuse Romney of being hypocritical. Maybe that’s journalism, or maybe it’s more partisan BS. Depends on your point of view I guess.

    On DDW’s comment above, yes I think it’s likely many conservatives will see a big difference between parents helping their children and government providing basic services.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    “On DDW’s comment above, yes I think it’s likely many conservatives will see a big difference between parents helping their children and government providing basic services.”

    Agree the quote is old. But since when does age of anything mitigate the politics of it (Obama’s words and actions from 20 or more years ago, his high school grades, his “planted” birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper 50 years ago, etc., etc,)

    Agree there may be “a difference” when one just refers to parents helping children.

    But Romney also mentioned “communities,” and I guess some will argue that communities, in this case, are of course not like government providing basic services.

    And so we go on and on…

  • roro80

    “I think everyone accepts that family and friends play a major role in our success.”

    I’m not so sure, DaGoat. Sure, if you put it that way, most people would agree. However, it doesn’t stop many from blaming those who grew up in a less-than-ideal family situations or poor communities for their own lack of success. It doesn’t stop those same people from arguing against policies (strong public education for all students, health care for all, programs for poor children, etc) that would help those who happen to be born into less advantageous situations to fullfill their potential. And whether we’re talking about Romney’s quote or Obama’s, that’s really what we’re talking about.

  • DaGoat

    roro, you’re quoting Shannon Lee and not me but you raise good questions. Individual success is a function of positive and negative external forces, individual effort, innate ability and luck. Conservatives and liberals seem to assign those factors different levels of importance. That’s a better discussion than “woo hoo, look what Mitt said”.

    My kids have had advantages some kids haven’t, from the things you list to things like being read to every night from a very early age, and having two parents that loved them and supported them in academics and activities. I feel sorry for the kids that didn’t have those advantages but I don’t think society can come close to replacing what my wife and I did, and invariably there will not be a level playing field.

  • roro80

    Oh, you’re right DaGoat. Sorry about that.

    To your point, of course I agree that the advantages your kids have had just by having good’ loving, involved parents, can’t be replaced by social programs. However, things like programs that make sure kids of poor but loving parents don’t go hungry can help those kids do better in school. Programs and policy that make sure adults who get sick don’t end up living in their cars because of medical bills will help those adults keep their jobs, continue to build wealth toward success, and of course stay off of public assistance. Kids who don’t have involved parents can still get read to at a young age if there are strong preschool programs; great teachers in public schools can mean these same kids go onto academic and eventually professional success.

    I think I’ve discussed on other threads how I think of success as kind of numbers game, where we can play with numbers based on policies meant to encourage the numbers we want to see. Even among people with every advantage – wealth, loving parents, good health, etc – there will be a certain percentage who do not end up successful. Likewise, even among kids who are poor, with bad or no parents, etc, a small number will still succeed. The numbers for eventual success will get better and better going from the latter to the former. Things like providing everyone with education, health care, and other assistance if needed, plus economic policies that encourage creation of jobs that pay a living wage across a broad spectrum of industries and skill levels, bring up the possibilities for success for those who start at every level.

  • ShannonLeee

    head start
    government paid lunches
    well-paid teachers
    positive environment both in the classroom and in sports

    these are the things that helped me, a poor white kid from a single parent welfare family, become (imho) a successful person that is in turn giving back to the world that did so much. …and of course a loving mother.

    The first two things on my list are available to many…the last two are not, but should be. Oddly enough, conservative Republican voters paid extra property tax for the last two.

  • DaGoat

    Shannon, I was thinking about a couple of things last night relative to your post. One was HeadStart, which provides short term scholastic benefits but has not been proven to provide any lasting benefits. This is a program that tries to level the playing field but ultimately falls short.

    The other was related to your location (I believe you’re in Germany?). It seems to me the German educational system at certain points stops trying to level the playing field and assigns students to different tracks based on testing. This is somewhat at odds with the US vision of every student being allowed to fulfill their full potential – or maybe not since Germany seems to decide what that potential is. I haven’t completely thought through this whole topic yet.

  • ShannonLeee

    DG, i dont know if headstart helped me, but it surely could not have hurt. I still have vague, yet happy memories from that time.

    the German system is hard core and a bit unfair in my opinion. Your grades as a young child dictate whether or not you are allowed into a school that will let you attend a university, if you can graduate. Those that dont perform as young children are sent to different schools…some to learn tech jobs like construction or other jobs like being a secretary. There is a very difficult night school path for those that were sent to a “lower” school, but still want to attend a uni. Not many make it, but some do and then get to attend uni.

    needless to say, the school environment the children have to deal with are VASTLY different between the different school types. Most of the people in the lowest can barely speak German.

  • ShannonLeee

    edit 🙂

    I cant statistically say that headstart helped me, but I think it did. I know I learned things there that I would not have learned at home and that probably saved me some embarrassment in my first few years of school, which can also have a massive effect on a person.

  • roro80

    “which provides short term scholastic benefits but has not been proven to provide any lasting benefits”

    Source? The studies I’ve seen show exactly the opposite.

    “A [2003] San Bernardino County study found that kindergarten students who had gone through Head Start scored 9% better in literacy than students from similar backgrounds who had not participated in the program. They were also 9.6% better in language skills and 7.3% better in math skills. And they were absent from school 4.5 fewer days than their peers who hadn’t gone through the program. Other research has shown that Head Start children are less likely to need special education services, less likely to repeat grades and more likely to graduate from high school.”

  • roro80

    [Full disclosure: I worked with a HeadStart program for a short period of time in 2002, and still have friends who work with the program.]

  • DaGoat


    The 2011 DHHS study showed no lasting benefits of Head Start by the end of the first grade. Mind you I am not necessarily anti-HeadStart but I do think either we should fix it or stop paying for it. BTW you did not source your information.

  • roro80

    From the article you site:

    “Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade, a potentially important finding for children’s longer term development.”

    That is not the same as “the study showed no lasting benefits of Head Start by the end of the first grade”. Shannon says it was beneficial to her.

  • ShannonLeee

    him… but we can still be friends 😉

    also…you really have to take a lot of different things into these calculations. I went from Head Start into a solid school system with great teachers. I think your average Head Start kid gets tossed into a crap school with teachers that are just trying to not get shot…or simply do not care.

  • DaGoat

    I think you are probably right Shannon. A lot of the at-risk kids that get into HeadStart go back into a bad school system where any benefits of Headstart are not reinforced.

  • roro80

    “him… but we can still be friends”

    No way! I’ve thought you were a woman for years. Sorry about that — not that there’s anything wrong with being a woman, of course. 😉

  • geeisme50

    Let’s face it, Mitt Romney has a problem when it comes to slipping at the mouth. Before he said this Olympic insult, he said quote I do not care about the poor, then he realized what he said and threw in there that he don’t care about the rich either. What a ignorant statement that is, here the guy is running for president and he don’t care about people! He’s absurd. He has no people skills. Having Mitt for a president would make the white house a 3 ring circus. He will continue to make corporations big money so he can put more cash in his pocket.. We all must be somewhat blind to think he really cares about this country. Obama better win.

  • geeisme50

    One more strike against Mitt Romney with his stupid comments. He is really letting people know what a chooch he is. I think he needs to pack it in. Stupid is as stupid does! One last thing for your information, Mitt has a problem with saying things before he thinks them through, that is just one more to dumb thing he said to add to his repertoire. You will see more to come in the future. At least we as Americans have free entertainment watching Mitt give speeches.

  • Yes, Romney may have made comments similar to what the President made a few weeks back; however, here’s the big difference for those who constantly want to preach context, context, context. . .this President has made it a mantra of his administration to bash business almost constantly. The only time he seems to have praise for business is when it is a business that promoting one of his pet projects, i.e. the now bankrupt Solyndra for example. . .if it weren’t for how the President seems to bash the business community in general for the past three and a half years, then perhaps those of us center right and beyond would not have been so critical of him.

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