You Didn’t Build That: Did President Obama Take Credit for 1 WTC in Last Night’s DNC Speech?

Who built that? (Pool photo/NBC NY)

Obviously all we think about, all we care about, here at the real estate desk is, well, real estate. Which is why one line in particular jumped out during the president’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last night.

“I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11,” President Barack Obama declared. “And we have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.”

A new tower rises above the New York skyline.

Well, technically two are rising, and really, they’ve basically stopped rising. Unless the president was referring to the other two, which are trying desperately to rise. But we digress.

Not to take a political cheap shot, but didn’t it seem like President Obama was taking some credit for helping 1 World Trade Center get to where it is? Granted the thing was practically invisible until shortly before he took office, so maybe such a claim is not outrageous. Just as we got Osama bin Laden on his watch, we have watched the World Trade Center retake its place on the skyline for the duration of his administration.

It is not as though President George W. Bush really did much for the rebuilding of Ground Zero, either. Almost entirely it was political brinkmanship (and infighting) in New York, Albany and Trenton that (slowed down and) helped launch the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. If anyone deserves credit in Washington, it is Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Jerry Nadler (not to mention former and current Senators Clinton and Gillibrand) who lobbied tirelessly for billions of dollars in federal funds to help Lower Manhattan rebuild.

Did the president take credit for rebuilding the World Trade Center last night? Of course not. This is a practice in exactly the kind of out-of-context-taking the media loves, the kind that ensnared the president when he uttered those four fateful words, when Mitt Romney declared “I like being able to fire people.”

Still, the phrase jumped out at us. It was striking. Maybe more than anything else, it was all we could think about (again, we love real estate). After all, the sentiment does fit into the Obama narrative, the idea, the very thing the president meant when he said “You didn’t build that,” which is that you didn’t build that on your own.

The same goes for the World Trade Center. Perhaps no single project since the Tower of Babel has been such a work in design by committee. We are better off for it, and worse off as well. As with all things in government, all things in society, all things in humanity. The same thing goes for the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument, the space program, Medicare, public housing, public schools, food stamps, social security, the Interstate Highway system.

You didn’t build that. We all did. And sometimes, when the strife bubbles up to the surface at Ground Zero, it is good to be reminded of this fact. You Didn’t Build That: Did President Obama Take Credit for 1 WTC in Last Night’s DNC Speech?