S.O.T.U. (2:00 a.m. Edition)

A friend called me this afternoon and asked me if I intended to watch the SOTU, and I reflexively said “of course”.  The truth is, I wasn’t planning on it.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but perhaps the most important one is that I wanted to just chill out with the kids tonight.  We cooked a delicious dinner, then settled in with a movie.

That doesn’t mean I don’t care what was said, and what was proposed.  As is my habit, I got up in the middle of the night and read the full text of the speech, and these are the lines that resonated with me:

“To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.”

I couldn’t agree more.  But I have to add something that would probably not be a President’s place to say… that the deficit of trust extends beyond that between Govt and Citizen.  It exists between merchant and consumer as well, probably more so than ever before.  It exists between parent and teacher.  It exists between neighbors.  Some of this is a result of real, verifiable actions, but much of it is a result of a culture of fear and distrust that is perpetuated by those seeking to profit from it.  Until  we admit and address this problem, no meaningful change can occur.

“But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent – a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.”

My kids don’t know an America without deep division.  They are growing up in a world where everything is measured and proclaimed Red or Blue.  They were toddlers during the 2000 fiasco.  As small children, they ate dinner with the news on in the background.  They went with me to meetings and rallies, and they dealt with a houseful of strangers that stayed with us while we worked with MoveOn.  I’m sure that for most of their young lives, they just assumed this was normal, that every family devoured political news 24/7, and that every family lived and died with every soundbite offered from some pundit on the television.  I made a conscious decision to change that last year.  The first thing to go was television.  They haven’t missed it, not one bit.  (I struggled during football season, but some good friends Tivo-ed a few games and allowed me to come watch at my leisure.)  Anyway, a childhood spent listening and watching politics just didn’t seem fair to me, and I felt that it was taking too much of my time and attention away from them.  Bottom line:  Its been better for us at home.

“Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions”

“Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.”

Two things I’d like to emphasize:  We lack leadership everywhere, and people are starving for it.  I’m always surprised to read comments from people that assert our elected officials must represent their constituents by giving them what they want.  Thats the last thing they should do, if you ask me.  If that was the case, you could literally elect anyone to do this.  We need leaders who are not afraid to cast an unpopular vote and then go explain to their constituents why they did so.  That is leadership.

Poll numbers.  I hate them.  Most of the time, they are meaningless.  I’m not saying that they can’t be better, and some guys, (Nate Silver comes to mind) have really gotten good at reading the tea leaves.  But when elected officials rely on them to decide whats best, well, the old saying “look, there go my people, I must run ahead of them so I can lead them!”  is certainly applicable.

There were some great parts of this speech, and after reading it I was reminded why I was excited about Obama in the first place.  Even without the aid of seeing him deliver it, the speech was uplifting and, dare I say it….hopeful.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “S.O.T.U. (2:00 a.m. Edition)

  1. democommie

    Mack:

    This:

    “We need leaders who are not afraid to cast an unpopular vote and then go explain to their constituents why they did so. That is leadership.”

    IS what separates politicians from public servants and leaders. Pols will vote for whatever is expedient and then LIE about why they did so, to keep their jobs.

    I was listening to Gov. David Patterson last evening, in a session he had with the editors of about nine upstate NY newspapers. He basically said, that if the legislature will not do what needs to be done he will do it by executive fiat. I think there is not much chance of him being elected to serve a term on his own (he was elevated when Eliot Spitzer stepped down) but he is both a public servant AND a pol.

  2. Nomi

    I was disappointed by his remarks about nuclear power (“safe and clean” or “clean and safe”) and by the ovation in response.

  3. Nomi, me too. I don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to nuclear plants, I’d accept the risk once we are able to turn the waste into something harmless. But this country will not be the one that does that.

  4. This is a great post, Mack. (Will be sharing it on FB.)

    A friend of mine recently challenged me to not watch the news for a week and see how my outlook on life was affected.

    I accepted the challenge (under the condition that all bets were off if a) God forbid another 9/11-type catastrophe happened, and b) anything happened to Barry Gibb). Come to find out I was a lot less depressed and hopeless feeling about life in general.

    For me, I’m trying to find a balance between being ignorant to the events that affect us and just not investing the time & energy in worrying about (i.e. accepting) what we can and cannot control…and unfortunately, that list is getting longer everyday.

  5. I took a poll and 87% of the people polled agreed with you on this. Nobody trusts anyone anymore. Sadly, with good reasons.

    I do have a knee jerk reaction to nuclear power, but it’s because those of us who lived in Tennessee during the 70s and 80s watched TVA try to build a plant in Hartsville not too far away.

    Every contractor cut their bids as much as they could to get the work and then had to cut every where they could to reduce the costs. Mostly they cut things like safety requirements by not using enough rebar or using a lesser grade of concrete. Then they started threatening the construction inspectors in an attempt to hide their crappy work.

    The cooling towers still stand there as a testament to low bidding, but you can’t make power there.

    I’m not afraid of the waste, I always figured a Saturn V rocket could easily boost a payload of waste into the Sun where it wouldn’t even be noticed.

  6. Jim, you may be turning me around on this…

    Ah, Ginger! Nice to see you drop by! Yup, lose the TV (especially American Idol)

  7. The Missus

    I agree with Jim about nuclear power, except I am afraid of the waste. I also didn’t like the happy talk about coal and off shoe drilling. The President’s delivery was great. I hope that Congress gets to work.

  8. The Missus

    Off shore drilling, sorry.

  9. Travis

    The speech by Obama is spot on. It oozed with charisma and the ideas he has laid out are exactly what I have been feeling and thinking for quite some time. Where has this president been the last year? If we can not put the silly political partisanship behind us like Obama has said, we are doomed to repeat the past. As a father I can not let that happen and refuse to watch us (all of us) fail. Change is something, no matter how hard Obama tries, he can’t achieve, not by his self. People have to change Washington and they have to do it quickly. Call your leaders and DEMAND them to get along. Call every single one of them and make change happen.

  10. democommie

    jim v.:

    “I took a poll and 87% of the people polled agreed with you on this. Nobody trusts anyone anymore.”

    I bet the were all LYING!!

    Ginger:

    I don’t got no teevee for something over 2 years and only watch it when I’m in bars where the news is mostly about athletes and pop-stars. I get a totally skewed view of what’s really important–just like the people who watch the networks, cable or satellite.

  11. Do It Yourself TV (ok, and NCIS reruns) is plenty of reason for a TV.

    Having big feet, I am abjectly opposed to off shoe drilling, Missus.

    Demo, all the people surveyed were non-Chicagoans, non-Memphians (and therefore alive during the polling) and consenting adults – although two did look kinda young – but as for lying, how could they lie in a poll that doesn’t exist? That’s impossible, therefore they were telling the truth. And that’s what is important here – that 87% truthiness of the poll.

    My God, I could runfor office on statistics like that, especially when they’re so cheap to produce.

  12. Except that, following your logic, Jim, off-shoe drilling would by definition take place off your shoes, rendering any reference to size moot.

    And please God run for office.

  13. He’ll, I don’t trust their aim.

  14. democommie

    Trust has become a four letter word!

    Mack:

    Check your e-mail.

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