Fair warning: this post is unabashedly partisan! It contains an “alternative” state of the union speech, one I wish President Obama would give tonight, though of course I know he won’t. I’ll put the text beyond the break for readers who don’t want to read my musings on politics.
My fellow Americans,
One year ago, the state of our union was the worst it had been in generations. We had entered the worst economic recession in three quarters of a century—a recession exacerbated by the reckless misconduct of Wall Street’s bankers. Our reputation as the world’s beacon of hope had been sullied by one illegal war in Iraq; the irresponsible bungling of that war and the one in Afghanistan; and the images of cruelty and torture as American policy. At home, our ability to help our own citizens had been crippled by irresponsible tax cuts and runaway spending on these wars, hidden from public view by an administration that governed with contempt for the world, for its critics in Congress, and for the beliefs, ideals, and core values of the American people.
One year ago, you elevated me to the greatest office in the world, President of the United States, with a strong majority and a clear mandate for change. I pledged to rescue our economy; to restore our nation’s rightful place as a symbol of freedom, democracy, and hope in the world; and to restore the respect and dignity with which you, the American people, ought to be treated by your president. Among the first priorities, I promised a solution to a problem faced by every American: a health care system that forces us to choose between protecting ourselves and our families from the ravages of illness and protecting ourselves and our families from financial ruin.
In this first year my administration and our Congressional allies have worked tirelessly on all these fronts. We have distributed billions of dollars across the economy to stimulate spending and economic growth. We have brought our financial system back from the brink of collapse while holding Wall Street accountable for its recklessness—and make no mistake, we will continue to hold Wall Street accountable. We have begun the complicated process of ending two wars that continue to make Americans and the world less safe, and of repairing the devastating damage done by our nation’s conduct in those wars. We have appointed to the Supreme Court of the land a first-rate jurist with an impeccable record and a personal history that demonstrates the very best of our country, the land of opportunity for all. And we have started to craft a system that will provide all Americans with high-quality health care, regardless of who they are, where they live, how much money they make, or whether they have a pre-existing condition.
When we started on this road together, we knew we faced challenges. What we didn’t know was that the biggest challenge we would face would come not from our enemies abroad, nor from the state of the economy and the budget. The hardest challenge we have faced in carrying out the people’s will has been from big special interests, their allies in the Republican party, and the conservative media establishment.
I took office pledging a different kind of Washington—one where we could disagree without being disagreeable, one where we placed Americans’ well-being before the cynical calculations of the next election and the next campaign contribution. My administration has worked hard to be bipartisan, to respect those who disagree, and to negotiate in good faith with all parties. We have listened to the concerns of our Republican colleagues and offered them more consideration than has any modern-day president, regardless of party, mandate, or legislative majority. We have been met with obstruction, stonewalling, and vicious lies. We have offered up for discussion every facet of the changes you, the American people, asked us to bring to Washington. We have been met with obstruction, stonewalling, and vicious lies.
My fellow Americans, the time for obstruction has passed. A year ago, you asked me to do your business with what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King called the “fierce urgency of now.” The opposition sees no urgency in millions of Americans without access to health care, in millions more just one illness away from financial ruin. My Republican colleagues sees no urgency in Wall Street running roughshod over Main Street. Rush Limbaugh sees no urgency in returning America to our cherished status as the leader among nations, the great hope for the world. But I see that urgency. I know the time is now. I have spoken with Americans struggling to put food on the table, brave military personnel struggling with repeated deployments, doctors and nurses on the front lines of the health care crisis. I know the year you’ve had to wait is already too long.
So let the word go forth, from this day forward, that no longer will the people’s urgent business be held hostage by the special interests and their congressional allies. In the next week I will be taking the following actions to get the people’s agenda back on track:
- I am requesting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, under Senate Rule 22, suspend the practice of procedural filibusters. In plain language, that means that if a Senator wants to block the people’s business, she or he must stand up in front of the Senate and the American people and say so.
- In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, I will be introducing the Edward M. Kennedy Health Security Act. No more back-room deals, no more seeking common cause with the insurance industry. This bill will introduce Medicare Part E – the E stands for “everyone.” We’ll pay for it by lowering the cost of health care and drugs and, yes, by spreading out the Medicare payroll tax. If you make less than 250,000 dollars a year, you’ll pay less in Medicare taxes than you and your employer would have to pay for health insurance now.
- Every dollar of taxpayer money that went into the big bank bailouts will be repaid, and with interest, before Wall Street’s big banks pass out another dollar in bonuses. I have asked Timothy Geithner to step down with my thanks for his good service, and in his place I have nominated Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist, to drive my administration’s fiscal policy.
- As commander in chief of the U.S. Military, I am ordering all U.S. military personnel out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops have served bravely and honorably, all the more so because the missions on which they were sent were poorly defined and unwinnable. Susan Rice, our ambassador to the United Nations, has been working with that honorable body to provide peacekeeping and transitional help so the people of Iraq and Afghanistan can enjoy what they so richly deserve: peace, freedom, and democracy.
- I am ordering the immediate closure of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the transfer of the prisoners there to super maximum security prisons in the United States. Our Republican colleagues lack the faith that the greatest criminal justice system in the world can handle the prosecution of a few hundred terrorism suspects. They think American justice is weak; we know it is strong.
- Make no mistake—these decisions are about waging the war on terror the right way. For too long we have settled for the appearance of a war on terror, for easy answers that looked good in the media but that made America less safe, cost dearly in blood and in treasure, and undermined the basic values we believe in as Americans. Those ideas—freedom, equality, liberty, and opportunity—are the greatest weapons we have in the war on terror. Practicing those ideas makes us the world’s leader; sacrificing them makes us a target for violence and an object of scorn abroad.
The way forward will not be easy. We have a lot of work to do, and we have to do that work amid the chaos of a damaged economy and an enormous national debt left by the previous administration. But with your help, my fellow Americans, we will do it, because it is the right thing to do. I ask you today, ladies and gentlemen of the Congress, and fellow Americans, to join with me on this journey to reclaim the mantle of American values. Thank you, and good night.