Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Sun

31

Jan

2010

State of the Union
Sunday, 31 January 2010 16:41
by Stephen P. Pizzo

It was his turn to speak and everyone else had to sit and listen.

There in the front row were the Supreme Court justices in their black burkas, five of whom had just painted a giant “For Sale” sign on Congress. Over on the right sat Republican members looking all the world like they were being forced to sit through the funeral of someone they didn’t even know. On the left were the “majority” Democrats, clapping like trained seals as though they actually done anything to celebrate.

But I will admit, the fella can capture even cynics like me. Man did that guy string together some stirring, inspiring and uplifting zingers last night.

I loved it when he got right in the face of the Supremes. They had it coming, and they didn’t like it. Too bad. We didn’t like their ruling last week either. Maybe they get a guaranteed lifetime job, but nothing in the constitution says it comes with a “take it, like it and shut up about it,” clause.

And I loved the part about how everyone in both parties are always running for re-election, and how that has completely jammed the wheels of government. True.

And I liked that he threw a punch at his own party, telling Democrats that when the going gets politically dangerous you “don’t just run for the hills.” (Even though we all know, and he knew,  that’s exactly what they will continue doing.)


But, after a couple of years of campaigning, and a year in office, this is what I’ve learned about this guy:

An Obama speech is like the old joke about Chinese food. It tastes terrific. But a hour later I’m hungry again.

Which explains why, as time goes on, fewer and fewer of us care what Obama says, even though he says it so well, Instead our focus is increasingly shifting what he DOES. And, frankly, so far, he hasn’t done much of anything. In the coming year I want to see his feet moving a lot more and his mouth moving a lot less.

Yes, his victory was indeed a delicious moment. It filled us up with hope. But a year later, we’re all hungry again. So, going forward, we’d like something that really sticks to the bones.


(Below is the speech he should have given)


My fellow Americans, I am here tonight to report the state of our Union. Let me be clear. The state of our Union is awful.

Of course, you knew that. But I must add to that the warning that the state of your government too is awful. It has, for all practical purposes, nearly ceased to function.

This is not the way I had envisioned my first State of the Union. During the campaign I promised change you could believe in. I promised to change the way Washington does business. I promised to end America's reckless and counterproductive military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I promised to close America's gulag at Guantanamo. I promised to begin repairing the damage done by 8-years of Republican economic mismanagement and redressing the horrific damage those policies did to America's once robust and growing middle class. And I promised to put the US at the forefront of protecting our endangered environment.

A year later those promises go largely unkept. Instead of leveraging the enormous political capital entrusted to me by voters to keep those promises, I made deals with some of the very people who caused the massive challenges we now face.

I took office believing if I was reasonable, the other side would be reasonable as well and, after establishing a foundation of trust and good faith, we could find common ground for the common good.

I was warned the other side had no intention of seeking common ground but instead were dedicated only to making certain that I and my fellow Democrats fail at whatever we try. And that's exactly what has happened.

Now my party, just one year since voters entrusted their hopes, dreams and confidence to us, is exhausted and facing the prospect of defeat next November. The blame for that belongs squarely on my shoulders. Many of them resisted, but I insisted. I was wrong. They were right.

Now 35 million Americans may continue to have no health insurance. Taxes cuts continue to enrich the already rich while average Americans suffer. Hundreds of billions of dollars that we don't have continue to be squandered in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Washington continues protecting big banks and Wall Street brokerage houses while 15% of America's workers remain unemployed, struggling to keep a roof over their family's heads, even to provide their daily bread.

For these failings and others, for breaking my promises to voters, for managing from a distance rather than leading from the front --- for all this, my fellow Americans, I take full and personal responsibility. When the history of my first year in office is written, historians will not be kind – nor should they be.

But that's the past, a bell that cannot be un-rung. So I must look ahead. Not all is lost. I have three more years in office, and I intend to use every precious second of those years to redress those mistakes. So, enough with the mea culpas and onto tomorrow.

First let me announce that, effective February 1, there will be some personnel changes at the White House. Economic adviser, Larry Summers, will be leaving to return to academia. And Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, will be leaving to return to Wall Street. I want to thank both these good men for for their service during the most difficult economic times in nearly a century. I wish them both God's speed.

I will submit for Treasury Secretary the name of Paul Volcker, a man who requires no introduction and who's qualifications for this difficult and critical position go with out question. I expect the Senate to confirmed him immediately. Mr. Volker will also serve as my economic adviser assuring that the policies decided in the Oval Office are carried out in the most expedient manner by Treasury.

Tomorrow I will ask the House of Representatives to vote within the next few days to accept, unchanged, the Senate version of health care reform. I understand that the Senate measure differs in many important ways from the House version. But, let's be clear, the Senate version is the best we can get under current circumstances. Blame me for that if you wish, but we need to get this measure signed into law immediately as the forces of obstruction have seen their obstructionist tactics bear fruit at the ballot box. We no longer have 60 votes in the Senate. So get the Senate version on my desk and I will sign it into law. Then we will at least have a reform platform upon which to build, rather than trying to start from scratch in election year – and we all know what that would mean.

During the campaign I decried the reckless and, many would say, lawless way the previous administration treated the law, international laws and our own precious constitution. But I haven't acted on those concerns. Instead I decided doing so would be seen as simply a partisan attack by the other party, complicating my domestic initiatives, like health care reform. That was wrong. Americans are rightly proud that in a land of law, not men, no one is above the law... or should be.

Therefore I have authorized the Department of Justice to pursue any legitimate evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the executive branch. And I have ordered all government agencies, including the CIA and Department of Defense, to fully and completely cooperate with any investigations the Attorney General authorizes. This includes, but is not limited to those who authorized torture, engaged in torture, lied or misled Congress or aided and abetted any of the above.

To ensure any such investigations are not deemed political, I have asked the attorney general to engage a unquestionably non-partisan prosecutor whose credentials and neutrality are beyond question. If no wrongdoing is uncovered, fine. The nation can move on. But if laws were broken, those responsible must be treated exactly the same way ordinary Americans are treated when they break the law. Because when America is no longer about equal justice for all, America is no longer.

Earlier this month the US Supreme Court issued a ruling which, if left untouched, would change our representative democracy in ways that would render it unrecognizable, not to mention un-democratic. Corporations and unions big enough to buy whatever they want, will be able to take everything they want as well. The ability to literally purchase a member of Congress, even future presidents, thanks to this shocking decisions, is now a reality.

Congress must soon find ways to legally neuter that wrong-minded decision. In the meantime I have instructed the IRS to work with Congress to formulate rules abolishing corporate deductions for purely political expenditures, retroactive to Feb 1, 2010. There is simply no socially or morally justifiable reason corporations and labor unions be allowed to harvest tax credits for purchasing legislation and legislators at taxpayer expense.

Furthermore, this new restriction, while in no way inhibiting the free speech rights of corporations and unions, will put company shareholders and union members on notice that their dividends/dues are being spent in ways that may not reflect their wishes or beliefs.

Let me now talk about re-framing homeland security in the 21st century.

Much has been said and written over the past decade about the many dangers we face, but little thought has been given to how those dangers differ from Cold War times. No longer is America faced by any genuine strategic threat, as we were when we were toe to toe with the nuclear-armed former Soviet Union. Today we face a very different enemy, an enemy that employs the asymmetric threat, like the hit and run terror tactics of al Qaeda and similar groups.

Nevertheless, in the wake of the tragic attacks of 9-11 the previous administration framed these new enemies in the same existential and apocalyptic way we had previously viewed the former Soviet Union. Generals are often accused of “fighting the last war.” In this case it wasn't the generals, but their civilian leaders, still steeped in Cold War thinking, who fought the last war.

That has proven to have been a fundamental, tragic and expensive mistake. Rather than reducing threats from abroad, our occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our extra-judicial handling of prisoners from that region, have served only to foment more hatred of America and deeper distrust of our intentions in the region. In short, rather than reducing terrorist threats from that region, these outdated tactics have increased those threats as well as increasing terrorist ranks.

That is not to say terrorists don't threaten Americans, they do. But, while terrorist tactics pose a serious threat to public safety, what they don't pose is a strategic threat to America . In other words, there is no way al Qaeda can “defeat” America, in military terms, or “takeover America.” All they can do is threaten public safety as a way to scare – to terrorize – us. And when we allow them to scare us into doing things generations of Americans have rejected and our laws and constitution explicitly prohibits, we hand terrorists victories. In reaction to the 9-11 attacks, our deepest fears were exploited to justify spying on entirely innocent Americans, creating secret gulags, torture, imprisonment without representation and even possibly the summary executions of prisoners in American hands.

We must reverse this mindset, not just because it's been ineffective and counter productive, but because it's as un-American as anything since the nation sanctioned slavery and segregation. It's time to engage the American public in an adult conversation about these new, asymmetric threats. First of all terrorists and terrorism will be with us just as hurricanes and earthquakes will always be a threats. That's just a fact. Of course we must react to these threats, but not by soiling our constitution, or ignoring our laws or international law. Not by destroying the very America we claim to be trying to protect.

So, nation-states that harbor and/or finance groups or individuals who threaten America and Americans, will be aggressively sealed off from the civilized world. At first this will be done with aggressive financial and political sanctions. But if that fails I will authorize surgical military action against such rogue states.

If sanctions fail to change their behavior I will expand our use of armed drones and highly skilled special forces to eliminate any immediate threats. And yes, I will expand the role of civilian domestic and international law enforcement to further manage these threats.I already have done so in Pakistan and will do so without hesitation when justified in the future.

What I will not do is to continue sending tens of thousands of American men and women to fight in and occupy such those nations. I wish it were otherwise, but it's not. And continuing to the truth of that, sentence America to a 100-years of wasted lives and wasted treasure.

Therefore let me reiterate my decision to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan in one year and to speed up our withdrawal from Iraq. Neither of these two nations can or will stand on their own feet until it becomes clear to their leaders that America is no longer willing or financially able to continue propping them up.

Even if we wanted to, we can't continue propping up these troubled lands because, frankly, we're broke. And not just broke. I wish it were only that. We are not only broke, but we're in debt up to our collective necks. America and Americans are now treading in a sea of red ink. We owe trillions of dollars – some of it to competing nations that wish us ill and others just itching to eat our lunch, like China. And if we don't get our fiscal house in order, and quickly, they'll do just that. For example, while China invests in it's civilian infrastructure, building a national network of high-speed trains, we can't seem to even be able to keep our aging passenger trains on their tracks. If the 20th Century was the American century, the 21st century could go down as Asian Chinese century, thanks entirely to our unsustainable burden of debt.

Which is why I am asking Congress to begin work immediately on legislation rolling back most of the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 1% of America's earners. Those folks prospered during the very time the vast American middle class saw their net earnings decline, their jobs disappear and their homes foreclosed upon -- by some of the very companies and individuals who prospered most under those tax policies. The time has come to re balance that equation.

I will propose that half the revenues gained from this change automatically flow to repay and reduce our national debt. Bill Clinton did this and, by the time he left office he had not only paid down the debt but left a surplus for his successor.

The other half of tax revenue raised by this change will used in its entirety to create jobs for working Americans. We will continue to incentivize the private sector to hire as well. But during such a deep recession it's unlikely that, even with generous government credits, the private sector can create the number of new jobs we need to jump-start the economy.

Therefore I have asked the Department of Labor to recreat the Depression-ear WPA – the Works Progress Administration, which became the beating heart of recovery during the 1930s.

I take this action because I find it impossible to believe that there's not enough meaningful work to be done. After all, America's critical infrastructure, much of it built by Roosevelt's WPA, is now crumbling. Hundreds of bridges need repairs, upgrading or replacement. Our roads and highways crumble beneath our vehicles. Toxic waste sites from coast to coast await cleaning. Hospitals and schools need billions of dollars in upgrading or replacement. And the new WPA will spearhead those projects if no private sector company steps up the plate. Because we need both a major infusion into our national infrastructure and we need the jobs such an effort would create. We will therefore get a double benefit from the money spent through this WPA by creating desperately needed job and preparing America's infrastructure to compete with growing economies like China in the decades ahead.

Now let me be perfectly clear. To those on the right who object to any government-run jobs program I say this: then do it before we do it. Prove that you can create enough private sector jobs quickly. I'd prefer that. But don't tell us the answer to jobs are more tax cuts for corporations and the rich. We already tried that and it didn't work. In fact, it not only didn't work, but since we tried that eight years ago we've seen a near-gutting of private sector jobs.

So, if that's all you've, get out of our way. This has gone on for too long already. We have jobs to create, any way we can create them.

Finally, to those who would continue to obstruct rather than lend a hand, I say this.

I have three more years in office and whether or not I get re-elected to a second term is so far down on my string of worries I can't even find it. All I care about now is carrying out the promises I made to voters. If you want to continue obstructing those efforts you'll have to do so without my help from now on. And I will make sure the American public knows who you are. That goes double for members of my own party, those of you who've decide your own political futures are more important than addressing the dire problems facing American families who sent you here.

I apologize if this speech comes off as dismissive of Congress, or the quest for a more collegial and bipartisan process. I want that too and the Oval Office door will always be open to those who sincerely seek the same. But, we all know the old saying.. fool me once... and you know the rest. I tried the bipartisan course and it yielded nothing, giving me no incentive to put any of our legislative eggs in that basket again. Because time is running out. Our money has already run out. And now the patience of the American public is running out.

The state of the union is awful. One year from now I don't want to be standing here giving the same report. That's not why I was hired by the American people. And it wasn't why they hired you either. Nothing less than the American Dream is threatened, and not by al Qaeda, but by us, those of us in this room tonight.

We owe the American people better. A lot better.

Thank you, and good night.

 
More from this author:
Predictions for 2007 (6659 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo The War: Jenna & Barbara Bush will not be part of their dad's troop surge. Ditto for any member of the Cheney clan. ...
White House Chess (6226 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo The Washington media spent the holidays trying to guess what the President's new plan for Iraq might be. Meanwhile in the...
Fine Mess You Got Us Into This Time (7828 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo At the moment all the focus is on what George W. Bush is going to do about the mess he's made of Iraq. But the larger...
New Lies Forward (6087 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo Well it's a new year, and you know what that means... time to update the administration's list of stated reasons for it's...
The GOP's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Scam (6641 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo Traditional conservative, William F. Buckley was once asked how he would describe a “liberal.” He thought for...
Related Articles:
The Real Axis of Evil - A State without Mercy (11394 Hits)
by William A. Cook “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they...
Bush and the F-word in 2006: Police State or Progressivism in 2007? (8152 Hits)
by Heather Wokusch "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." ...
Meat-eater's State of "The Nation" (5806 Hits)
by Mickey Z. The (so-called) alternative press rarely "gets" vegetarianism, animal rights, and related issues. Case in point: The...
"Notes from the Undergrown: State of the Oilman Address" (5771 Hits)
by Jayne Lyn Stahl The president's speech last night was more important for what it didn't say than for what it did. In an address that could...
State of the Cave (4128 Hits)
CLICK ON THUMBNAIL AFTER PAGE LOADS FOR FULL IMAGE David Howell was born in 1972 in Elmhurst, Illinois. He...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top