On this occasion, I am honored to stand before you, delivering a State of the
In 2009 when I raised my right hand and swore the Oath of Office, I was newly inaugurated and full of the inevitable hope, enthusiasm, and bluster inevitable for a newly inaugurated President. When a new President first sits in that chair in the Oval Office, he or she is dazzled – the history, the power, and the seeming endless ability to achieve anything for the nation.
While there is great power, there is great responsibility – and with that great power, in our system of government, there are also – wisely – checks and balances that, when working properly prevent a President, a Member of Congress, or a Supreme Justice from imposing their whimsies – no matter how wise or foolish, kind or heartless, generous or penurious – upon the nation.
These checks and balances force a leader to compromise, to consider, to refrain from the worst excesses of power, and impose limits on the extent of a Presidents’ independent action – for even the wisest, kindest, most insightful and generous President can – by virtue of the power of the office – go awry on a far grander scale, once possessed of a wrong-headed notion, than almost any other leader and we should be grateful that the founding fathers of this nation saw this, through the lens of the revolution they had so recently waged, and put in place well-considered restraints to keep any one branch of government – even the President - from running amok.
Those restraints are at their weakest when a single party holds all the levers of power. While advantageous for members of such a party in advancing the ideals and goals they hold dear as being the best possible path for the nation, such an environment – where the only meaningful opposition consists of disputes within the dominant party – diminishes those restraints to the extent that, to put it bluntly, the crazy wing of whichever party holds that awesome advantage comes crabbing out from underneath whatever rocks they have been secreting themselves beneath, proudly don their special tinfoil hats, and without the sunshine of effective opposition to deter or restrain them, fly their lunacy flag high…and worse yet, will even get legislation passed that under normal circumstances members of their own party would strangle before it saw the light of day.
While the recent election in Massachusetts left me little cause to celebrate the increased ease of enacting this administrations programs that would result from the election of a Senator of the Democrat persuasion from that great state, I am forced to admit, in my heart of hearts, that “ease” isn’t what the Constitution is designed to provide a President or a Congress.
And that in that same heart of hearts, in the long run, a Senate without a Super-Majority of 60 Senators is likely better for the country, and likely to produce better, stronger, wiser, and more effective legislation based not upon influence-peddling and vote-buying with a majority part – but on the clash of philosophies between two passionate and differing viewpoints, hopefully wearing away the foolishness, greed, and downright corruption that a single party system engenders in all it touches.
In 2010, I remain hopeful and enthusiastic, but am less blinded by the rosy haze of those first few weeks of office. Our State of the
All is not sunshine and roses, not everyone wildly agrees with my policies and eagerly rushes to enact them, we are a nation facing a war on multiple fronts, our economy continues to suffer at unprecedented levels, more of our people are unemployed than at any point in the last thirty years, and we – all of us as leaders – face an angry nation that increasingly distrusts and despises us. Many of us, facing the justified wrath of voters, may not be meeting in this Chamber next year, having been helped to retirement by voters at the polls.
That is not defeatism. That is realism. Things are bad. They could be worse. But, not surprisingly, our citizens don’t LIKE bad … and have the power to express their dismay decisively. We must each of us rededicate ourselves to the openness, honesty, and ethics that our voters expected of us when they elected us to office – or at least they hoped for, against hope – and strive to be worthy of their votes in November of 2010. None of us, Republican or Democrat, have proven particularly worthy of that trust in 2009 – as the blogosphere is more than happy to tell us.
The back-room deals, the vote-buying, the bullying machine politics that leaves no room for honest differences between like-minded persons of character and decency, and the arrogance of these last months must end – or our citizens will end it for us. The nation will move on, but without us. We have exceeded our citizens’ tolerance, and must win back their trust.
I promise this body, and the American people, that my administration will in the coming months make an honest effort to return to the transparency we advocated on the campaign trail. To be open to a variety of opinion and viewpoint – and to abandon the abrasive “Chicago Political Style” of threats, vindictiveness, and cronyism. It may work in
I have accepted the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, effective immediately, and asked former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to serve as interim Chief of Staff while I select a new candidate to nominate to the Senate of the
I campaigned on hope and change. What I never realized, as a candidate, was that while I’d get to keep hope, change was something that happens to an administration far more frequently than it is something that an administration makes happen.
Hearing the unvarnished truth, without the filters of “classified” or “eyes-only” to shield one, as President is a bit more eye-opening than even a Senator is subject to – and unless completely blinded by ideology, some of those ugly realities demand changes in policy for the good of the nation, and often those necessary changes are at best distasteful even as reality requires them. We cannot afford a President so wrapped in ideology that he or she neglects reality.
I pledge not to be such a President. In our enthusiasm, and our desire to help our fellow Americans, even with the best of intentions, we have made serious mistakes that will require effort from all of us as Americans to remedy.
We are a nation at war. Worse, we are at war with religious fanatics not bothered by principals or morals, the rabid dogs that inhabit the fanatical boundaries of almost every faith.
It is not, to the extent any armed conflict can be, a neat and tidy war of uniformed armies meeting upon battlefields to struggle for triumphs. It is a war waged against us less by any one nation, but by bands of terrorists loosely affiliated with each other in ever-changing alliances, acting not on a battlefield to triumph against our military – but in bombings, hi-jackings, and terror attacks world-wide. They seek to destroy not only us – but to them, more importantly, they seek to destroy our way of life and our way of thought. And by our own hand, they are succeeding.
We must stop them, and treating them as criminals – as opposed to war criminals, an entirely different proposition – is not merely bad policy, but a recipe for disaster. These individuals flagrantly violate the laws of war, and those they have yet to violate, are surely mere oversights as they specifically target non-combatants – women, children, innocents – as a means of spreading terror, even as they fund themselves by a combination of donations from well-heeled co-conspirators and the sales and production of illicit drugs and contraband. They are a plague upon humanity.
I am asking our military leaders, our generals and admirals, to craft a plan to swiftly and utterly crush these terrorists and their supporters. I am asking members of the Cabinet to craft a plan to economically isolate and punish the supporters of these terrorists. I am revoking Executive Order 12333 as it regards these terrorists. I recognize that this will impose hardships on those in the vicinity of these creatures – I strongly suggest they stop being in the vicinity of said persons, or resolve the problem themselves. Or we will do it for them. I am asking Congress to authorize a significant increase in our forces in both
Our economy is, if not in a shambles, well advanced in that direction. I ask Congress to remove, even if only temporarily, many of the shackles that cripple American business from competing at home and abroad against those who do not suffer under such limitations. Give our people a level playing field, and we cannot help but triumph.
Citizens are suffering as investments in all areas suffer – wiping out retirement incomes, destroying promising college futures, and creating fear and uncertainty regarding the economy…which in turn, leaves people understandably afraid to invest in and create new businesses and as they tighten their purse strings – the economy slows, and yet more people are laid off due to lack of demand.
I ask Congress to impose a “floor” on the income tax and stop kicking Americans when they are down. Specifically, I ask that Unemployment Compensation and Social Security income be exempted from the income tax, and all persons earning less than thirty thousand dollars per year be similarly exempted for a period of five years as we, as a nation, struggle to recover from a worldwide economic disaster and rebuild our economic strength.
We need to help the middle class, battered by our economy, by lightening the burden of government upon their shoulders. Towards that end, I am asking that Congress offer relief in the form of a ten thousand dollar tax credit each year for the next 5 years for persons making between thirty and eighty thousand dollars per year, and further, exempt investment income from new and small businesses for an equal period for such individuals.
We are faced with a new tragedy in
We are hurting, but as a nation, we are not without compassion for those that are hurting more. It is our moral duty to aid
I am asking my party to concentrate on the basics in this time of troubles, and set aside for the moment many of our long-sought goals. Yes, we need health care reform – but the American people have made abundantly clear that they do not support the current proposals. And much as it saddens me, I must admit that in their place – with the backroom deals, vote-buying, and general corruption surrounding the current effort – that no matter how much good I might think it would do, I would be vindictively angry if I were in the shoes of the average American. It’s time to step back, people, and try again.
Let us break health care down into the things we, Democrats and Republicans, CAN agree on…and move those initiatives forward one step at a time, cautiously, ever mindful that we may be horribly mistaken and need to undo our prior efforts and try a different approach. We’re politicians, not tin gods, and much as we might want to claim we are certain of all the possible effects of our efforts – history shows we never have been, with a plethora of historic accounts of unintended consequences even in the presence of the best of intentions. We have no reason to believe we are immune from this – an incremental approach to health care reform may well be better for the nation, and quite possibly involve less horse trading in smoke filled rooms.
I am further asking my party to acknowledge we are at war, whether we like it or not, and our only choices are between winning – something I believe is possible, if we but have the moral courage – and varying degrees of defeat, one that would make Vietnam look tame by comparison. The impact on human rights alone is horrific to contemplate.
None of us in the administration are so foolish as to believe the above will come without costs. We will, in order to get through this, need to slash the size and function of the federal government to a degree we’ve never seen before – possibly to levels that we’ve not seen since before the Second World War. At the same time, we’ll be re-building our military.
Finally, particularly painful for us, we will likely lose some of our most fervent supporters and dearest friends as we put the nations interests in front of ideology – for we cannot help ourselves or others, if we do not first survive and prosper as a nation. If this costs me a second term, so be it. I will not willingly preside over the destruction of our nation, or of our unique and honorable heritage as the world’s most successful republic.
I ask our colleagues in the GOP to meet us in the middle, and to open a dialogue so we may work together to protect our great nation, and to rebuild our economy. I ask our citizens to step forward, and help us – and where they see those of us in elected office going astray, to write us, call us, fax us, and run against us –and if deemed worthy by the electorate, replace us.
This is not a country of Republicans. This is not a country of Democrats. This is the greatest country in the world, and if we, as elected officials are forgetting that or failing to represent you, our citizens, you need to vote us out of office in favor of someone who will. Today, however - together - we can make it through this night, to a dawn of a brighter future.
Let us together go forth from this session with a new spirit and new hope, undaunted by our nations troubles – regardless of how many of them are self-inflicted – and dedicate ourselves again to the task of leading these United States.