Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State Of The Statement

My fellow Americans, the state of the union is perilous. Wherever we look, we see crossroads; no matter the issue, we see complexity so daunting as to make us want to turn away. If ever there were a time when we need to call upon the greatest of our resources -- our good will toward one another, our ability to sacrifice at critical times -- it is now.

And yet, there are signs that for the first time in our shining history, we are unwilling and unable to meet the challenges. To an unprecedented degree we have fallen upon ourselves, fighting change, challenging the patriotism of those with whom we disagree, falling prey to a constant stream of hyper-partisan misinformation. At both ends of the political spectrum there are voices saying, loudly, angrily, if I can't have everything I want, nobody gets anything. In a country whose very founding was based on the art and necessity of compromise, we're becoming a nation of selfishness that threatens, most literally, our survival. It simply can't go on like this.

Now, I'll place plenty of blame on myself. I've been unable to convince many of you of my good intentions (for that matter, there are people sitting right here, unconvinced of my citizenship), nor have I avoided missteps in promoting my ideas. But I do not accept -- I reject entirely -- the idea that I have not reached out across the aisle. How many have forgotten the words of a Congressional leader who said, after my first month in office, that his party had already had more face time with the President than in the entire eight years of the previous administration? When was the last time the losing presidential candidate was feted at the White House?

Nor is there the remotest bit of truth that legislation has been devoid of compromise on our side. To the great dismay of many on the left, the public option was dropped from the health care bill. Months were spent working with a bipartisan group formed with the express idea of finding middle ground. And after that ground was found, no votes were forthcoming from the other side. Not a single one. The same is true of the stimulus bill, which economists from all sides agree has been of significant benefit. And now, most astonishingly, after raising serious and very legitimate questions about our budget deficits, Republican members of Congress who were among the sponsors of a bill creating a bipartisan commission to study ways to address our deficits, have voted down its formation. I'm sorry to say this, but I think a very likely reason is that they prefer to run for reƫlection against the deficits, rather than trying to fix them. Has it really come to this? In the most successful democracy history has ever known?

I hold neither myself or my party blameless. My point is simply to say that it's impossible to reduce the enormity of our problems -- whether they be the economy, jobs, wars, education, energy needs -- without a spirit of common purpose. Without compromise. Without willingness to forgo political expediency in the name of saving ourselves.

People are worried, they're angry. Their government, to a large extent, has failed them, and attempts to correct the failure have, so far, borne less fruit than anyone would like. But we can't let that anger become self-defeating; we must not let it destroy us. In times like these, there simply is no room for the close-minded adherence to one's view with no room for anyone else's. Nor, may I add, is there room for the sort of misinforming and destructive steam of vitriol that fills our airwaves.

So, my fellow citizens, here's the cold truth. In order for everyone to get something, in order for our country, most literally, to survive, nobody gets everything they want. Nobody. We cannot balance a budget without raising some taxes. Nor can we do it without cutting spending. Republicans will have to agree to finding reasonable cuts in our military budget; Democrats will have to buy into the notion that entitlements will need to be modified, so that those most in need get more, and those not in need get less. And, for now, everyone will need to be patient. The deficit spending we have undertaken, while not perfectly realized or distributed, is necessary -- let me repeat: with virtual universal agreement among economists -- we have HAD to spend money when none was available elsewhere, to get the economy moving. Were it not for the compromises we made, we would have spent more. And I think it would have been better. But that's what compromise is about.

When I ran for this office, a central theme of my campaign was that change doesn't come from above, it comes from below, from the people, from voters. To my shame, I believe I lost sight of that, and now I'm asking for amends, and I'm asking for the kind of help that this country needs more than ever. Citizens need to demand of their elected representatives, all of them, of whatever party, cease this intransigence and get to the extremely difficult work of legislating. Demand progress. Let them know that it's understood that, in a democracy, no one can have everything they want. Because if nothing else has become clear in this past year, this has: when we -- our politicians and our citizens -- break down into intransigence, nothing good comes of it. And yet, for far too many of the people in this room, for far too many of the people in the streets, for far too many of those who rant on our airwaves, that is where we are.

Democracy is built on compromise, it's built on the good will of people of all political persuasions. It demands thoughtful voters, and neutral but tough media. Democracy is hard. Democracy isn't for the faint of heart, nor the lazy or those of ill will. In legislation to fix our economy, no one will get everything he or she wants. No one. It simply can't be done. The same is true for our energy problems, our environment, our school. No one can have everything they want. No one. That's not how it works. Yet there are those who still demand it.

For the past year we've seen what I hope is the worst of our democracy. Angry people with no good will toward those with whom they disagree. Entire media outlets devoted to tearing down, to fomenting, to making things worse rather than pitching in. Politicians digging in their heels, calculating for their own benefit rather than for the country's. A year is too much. We don't have that kind of time to waste. It's time to get to work, it's time to realize that there are no perfect solutions but the only way to find the best ones is to drop blind ideology, to stop hoping for failure, and to begin the hard work, the noble work, the nation's work, just as our founders did, just as we have done every time we faced crises. Let us not be the first generation to fail. Let us not be the first to give up on one another, to give up on democracy, to resort to blind self-interest. To abandon decency. To forsake everything that has come before, and to forget about what ought to come later. Let us not lose sight of what has always made the United States of America great when the chips were down: hard work, cooperation, willingness to give up something now to secure a future for the next generations.

My fellow Americans, it is time. There is no more time, there is no other time.

[The above is what I wrote before the SOTU. His was better, of course, and calmer. That's why I still like the guy. He did touch some of the keys that I did, I'm happy to say.]


  1. (Off to go google the transcript, I missed it...)

  2. Hello Sid.

    I'm speechless. This is quite a stirring piece. I have nothing but admiration for your talent.

    I wish I were able to broadcast your thoughts to millions of Americans via radio or TV. You see, I wanted to be the "white" Oprah in 1957, before either women or blacks had television talk shows. Perhaps I have delusions of grandeur.

    I did read your piece to my husband and he salutes your talent, too.

    Peace, love and happiness,

    Ellen Kimball
    Portland, Oregon

  3. I also believe I heard him say at one point (I'll have go back to be sure), to his OWN PARTY, that if they were considering growing some testicles now would be a good time. Cheers for both speeches.

  4. Hey he forgot to say how he closed down Guantanamo and overturned "Don't Ask Don't Smell"....
    Oh yeah...
    I'll give you 3:1 his Mullatoe-Ness extends the Bush Tax Cuts...
    Only 337 days to go...


  5. Almost didn't publish that one, Frankie, but then I figured why should I worry about saving you from yourself.

  6. His speech was so good I forgot he was black! Now that's how a real news organization would report it--none of that Fox lyin' and stuff.


  7. Right. And the reaction from the left? Pretty much unanimous condemnation of the remark. As opposed to the crap that effluxes from Beck and Hannity, like Cholera stool, with nary a pushback from you righties.

    And, of course, there's a difference between making a personal admission, rightly or wrongly, and presenting completely non-factual claims as truth.

    But I don't expect you to get that, so it's okay. Don't feel bad.

  8. Interesting. I guess I missed the outrage (about this, anyway) on Kos, Huffpo...Coates in the Atlantic tried to excuse Matthews, then launched into how Obama proves white people's ignorance (like Obama;s mom, maybe? His "typical" white grandmother? Have to ask him). You must be reading the secret left stuff.

    The admission is that Matthews sees Obama as black. Really--and I know you don't believe this--I don't, most conservatives don't. But we hear this from the left--light skinned; clean, articulate...sounds like the dems haven't really evolved from their slavery days of 1860.


  9. For a more realistic look at the speech, try this:


  10. Right, jd, like the teabagger with the "Niggar" sign. JFC, man, this post was about something else entirely. You wanna make it about Chris Matthews, hardly a scion of the liberal movement, fine. Post all you want, and I'll publish them. But don't expect response from me.

  11. Sorry, my comment above was made before seeing your second comment, and refers to conservatives not seeing black.

    As to your next comment: you do know who Michael Gerson is, don't you? Realistic-wise?

  12. "Chris Matthews, hardly a scion of the liberal movement"

    I thought we were talking about your favorite, Fox news. You seem to worry that there's a network that isn't a toady to Obama. I just thought you'd want to consider the network that is a toady to him.

    Frankly, I think you watch too much Fox news.


  13. Correct me if I'm wrong, jd, but wasn't it you who brought up Matthews in this thread?


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