BooMan asked yesterday what we wanted to hear in Obama’s State of the Union speech. Here’s some of what I’d like to hear.
I wanted to come before you tonight with a different story.
I wanted to tell you that people on the right and left have come together to do what’s best for this country, that people put aside their fears, their dislikes, and reached down and found a common goal in truly helping the least fortunate among us.
I wanted to tell you that right and left worked together to pass landmark health care legislation.
I wanted to tell you that the bankers had seen the evil of their ways, that greed is on the decline, that common decency and goodness was on the rise.
There is so much I wanted to tell you by now that I can’t. Because it wouldn’t be true.
The Republicans have obstructed our efforts from my first month in office. While my door has always been open, and I’ve actively reached out to the Republicans on the hill, they have never once reached back.
Their spokesman, Rush Limbaugh, has stated the goal from the start: They want to see me fail. And I wouldn’t mind that, if it was just me. I’d be willing to take the hit, if it would help the rest of you. But the truth is, if I fail, we all fail. Our country rises or falls together. We do not have the option to have winners and losers in government. Either we are all winning together, or we are all losing separately.
So I have to be honest. The state of the Republic tonight seems tenuous, at best. I don’t know if this experiment in democracy, so conceived, will survive the ravages of those who would destroy this country for private profit.
Too many people are out of work. And while many say I should have focused on jobs from the start, look, no one ever died from losing a job. But people die in this country every minute — every minute — from a lack of health care.
My own mother died in part due to our inability to cure a disease we’ve studied for over 100 years. Think about that. We can kill someone remotely via a drone, but we can’t save a woman from cancer after 100 years. What is wrong with our priorities?
I can’t fix everything. But I can fix some things. And I haven’t been doing enough. I told you we had ended torture. But our definition of torture is still too broad. I’m going to narrow that definition.
I told you I would fight for you. But I appointed the same people who brought us this fiscal crisis in the first place to craft a solution.
I was wrong. I admit it. And I’m pledging to you right here and now, I will do better.
Starting tonight, I have asked Tim Geitner to resign. This is not a symbolic move. I am not just sending a signal, or making a gesture. I firmly believe we have not pursued the best possible course, and that Geitner is too close to the problem to craft an appropriate solution.
I invited Paul Krugman, but he turned me down. [Laughter.] I can’t say I blame him. [More laughter.] But I am asking him to make recommendations. I am listening to many voices. And your voices are going to be more important than the beltway voices, going forward. This I promise to you.
I’m asking Congress to please do the right thing. Pass the health care bill. And let’s be honest. We all know this is not really a health care bill. It’s an insurance reform bill. But until we can change the political discourse in this country, we can’t make more radical changes. And this bill will save lives.
Let me repeat that. It will save lives. We can change it later. But we must put a stake in the ground now, while we still can. This bill will save lives.
Now. Let’s talk about the wars. I told you I’d bring the troops home from Iraq starting in August of this year. I’m not waiting that long. Starting in June, the troops who have been on tour the longest will be home, for good. They will get not only whatever medical care they need. I will personally ensure they receive mental health care as long as they need it.
There is nothing more horrific than having to kill another human being, and to see people kill each other. I want to ensure that those people who put their lives on the line for us every day know what we will honor their commitment to them in return the fullest. We will find them jobs. We will help them return home. We will help them in any and every way they need, because they were willing to give everything for us. We owe them no less.
Afghanistan. I know many of you have doubts about why we are there. But make no mistake, we have a vital interest in securing the border region from actual terrorists. I know you’ve heard that before. But I’ll ask you to trust me on this a little longer. I don’t want to give away what we know. But I promise you, our goal remains not to tame the region, but to train those who live there to control it themselves. It’s a difficult mission, and it’s possible we will not succeed. That’s why I’ve given the military a short timetable. If we can’t fix it in a year and a half, we can’t fix it in five years, or fifty.
I promise you that before my term is up, our troops will be back from the Middle East.
There is so much more I’d like to hear him say. But in the end, this is only a speech. I’m much more interested in what Obama will actually do, going forward. Only then will I know if our ship of state is truly under repair, or sinking.