James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States, and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book, China Airborne, was published in early May. More
James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His two most recent books, Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009), are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book, China Airborne, was published in early May. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free.That line isn't in this draft shown in the picture -- at least not the part we can see. But Obama is working toward it with this handwritten insert at the top of the page:
Through blood andHe recognizes that "toil" is not right -- "blood and toil" would be an allusion to Churchill, not Lincoln -- but he also knows that for cadence he needs another word after "blood," where he's crossed out "toil" and left a ___ mark.
toil____ we learned that no nation founded on these principles could survive half-slave and half-free.
As others may have pointed out, in the movie Man of the Year, Robin Williams character Tom Dobbs speaks this line:But the last few years we've been divided. Red states, blue states.
There are no red and blue states, there's only the United States of America. That's what we're about.
During one practice session, a Kerry speechwriter interrupted to say that Obama would need to rephrase or cut one of the lines from his speech because it was too similar to a line in Kerry's acceptance remarks. The line in question was the climax to Obama's famous passage on the red-states, blue-states divide. That passage, as Obama delivered it, reads: "The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states-red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states." Axelrod says Obama had originally written the passage to end with something like, "We're not red states and blue states; we're all Americans, standing up together for the red, white, and blue." But to satisfy Kerry's speechwriters, Axelrod says, Obama grudgingly cut out the line. A transcript of Kerry's competing text reads: "Maybe some just see us divided into those red states and blue states, but I see us as one America: red, white, and blue."The Bernstein story is full of nuggets like this that are all the more fascinating in retrospect. Here is one that really caught my eye, since I had remarked on Obama's use of exactly this "surfing" technique at the end of this latest SOTU (see note "ci-87").
After the rehearsal ended, Obama was furious. "That fucker is trying to steal a line from my speech," he griped to Axelrod in the car on the way back to their hotel, according to another campaign aide who was there but asked to remain anonymous. Axelrod says he does not recollect exactly what Obama said to him. "He was unhappy about it, yeah," he says, but adds that Obama soon cooled down. "Ultimately, his feeling was: They had given him this great opportunity; who was he to quibble over one line?"
Next, Obama had to master a technique known in professional public-speaking circles as "surfing" or "riding" the applause. [Speech consultant Michael] Sheehan explains how it works: "Because people at home don't hear when there's a big burst of applause-you hear it minimally in the background-speakers have to talk over the applause; otherwise there's long gaps of silence. People are clapping but you can't hear it at home-it's like, sentence-pause-sentence-pause-sentence-pause. It's just deadly."While I'm at it, Andrew Sprung writes in with a parsing of the speech that makes sense to me. He starts with my remark that Obama is famously "eloquent" but not in a way that can be reduced to quotes or phrases (emphasis added):
1) Re that strange absence of memorable phrases: it's not just balanced by one strength, it's book-ended between two: conceptual complexity/coherence on the macro side, and cadence on the sub-micro. At least in 2007/2008, less so now, Obama's speeches were musical, hinging on repeat phrases (yes we can) and on the simplest of rhetorical devices, various forms of parallel structure, e.g. anaphora, the repetition of beginning words (also a lot of parallel phrasings in series -- "A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin" etc.). It was no accident that Will.i.am was able to set one of his speeches to music to some effect.I agree entirely about the musical, and also preacherly, quality of Obama's speeches at their most "rhetorical." That's how "they deserve a vote" worked in this latest speech. Nothing memorable about those words, but he used them as if in a song or poem.
2) What are some of those endlessly repeated ideas that stitch his speeches together? A top of the head list:
a) Prosperity is only sustainable if it's shared
b) Democratic government is a commitment to shared prosperity
c) At intervals, the American people demand and get new commitments to extend opportunity to excluded groups and to expand investment in shared prosperity
d) That historical process described in c) expresses a drive to fulfill the promises embedded in the country's documents -- and those documents triggered that drive both by articulating "self evident" truths of universal appeal and by creating a government machinery to channel the popular will. The drive to fulfill those promises is the never-ending quest for a 'more perfect union.'
e) Over time, the will of the people, expressed through democratic processes, will bend toward justice, toward provision of the rights laid out in the Declaration. That is the source of the e pluribus unum that Obama made his bones by affirming in 2004.
f) The principles articulated in the Declaration are the political expression of universal values professed by all major religions: I am my brother's keeper, sister's keeper, etc. Political, in that by extending those values to "all men," they challenge the polity to expand the circle of those encompassed by the moral laws of the community -- basically, to extend them to everyone -- without the carapace of a body of specific observances or doctrinal beliefs that divide the faithful from the infidels.
It's a highly idealized view of American history, with a Hegelian/Fukuyaman undercurrent: the will of the people, channeled and unleashed by democracy, will tend toward ever increasing prosperity and progress and freedom. Idealized but basically right, I think -- if the period of growing inequality and government dysfunction we're in turns out to be cyclical and temporary rather than a marker of decline.
I think the "misremembering" of the red&blue states quote, comes exactly from obama reusing and refining the the same ideas.he actually used the quote you remembered in a later speech. his 2008 victory-speech:"Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America."
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of [our founding] words with the realities of our time. [Note: this preceding sentence is the one-sentence summary of the speech as a whole.] For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.I like the precise logical concision of contrasting "self-evident" with "self-executing" truths. But "blood drawn by the lash" is an impressive and confident touch. It was of course an allusion to a closing passage in what is generally considered history's only great second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln's in 1865 (right):
And for more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."Half-slave, half-free was an allusion to another of Lincoln's most famous addresses, his "House Divided" speech from his campaign for the Senate in 1858. (And Lincoln's phrase "house divided" was his own allusion to the Book of Mark.)
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.The rhetorical and argumentative purpose of the speech as a whole was to connect what Obama considers the right next steps for America -- doing more things "together," making sure that everyone has an equal chance, tying each generation's interests to its predecessors' and its successors' -- with the precepts and ideals of the founders, rather than having them be seen as excesses of the modern welfare state.
I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed, and so have I. I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the President.To me, that final sentence came across not as boasting or preening. Instead it had a startling spare, understated drama. Obama used it as the transition to a line about the burden of wartime leadership. ("That means I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return.") But I heard it as also conveying, Let's get serious here. I'm the President, so I know how hard these trade-offs are. I'm the President, so there are some things I won't joke about. But also: for all of you who think I'm a Muslim, an alien, a socialist, a fraud, here's a reminder. I'm the President.
[Obama] has laid the foundation for a new, modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you will renew the president's contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.Now, two messages from readers who object to the media's pooh-poohing of Obama's speech. First, from a male reader in the South:
Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.
Now, why do I believe it?
I'm fixing to tell you why...
I liked the speech. I especially liked its personal humility and the references to "citizenship." Don't know if he used the word "honor," but it's a similar kind of word. It's the kind of word your fantasy of a 50s dad would use. He fit himself right into the role of a more professorial version of Biden's dad. "I'm going away for a while, Joey, there's jobs there. But, remember things will be all right." It was the optimism of sacrifice. In our mythology, a dad conveys that, even though mother more often live it today.And, from a female reader in California:
He was playing Bambi's dad. Tom Hanks.
The entire convention was about asserting the "traditional values" of an untraditional American political coalition of tribes that has not before wielded real power. Nothing is more symbolically key to those traditional values than a wise, disciplined father.
For as long as I've been following politics, dems/liberals/etc. have been -- pardon the crudity -- the pussies. The people asking the power to be nice to them and complaining when it's not. Or maybe the kids. The powerful, world-weary father is the ultimate antidote to both of those perceptions. Dems have been fond of referring to themselves as the adults for a long-time. I think they're finally really projecting it.
I think that's what Obama was after. Obviously, we'll see if it works.
First, the speech reminded us he is the adult in the room. The MSNBC moderators wondered why people cheered when he said "I am the President." It resonated deeply to my husband and me. He is the MAN. And we were touched when he asked for our vote. You can't close the sale unless you ask for the money.Update: See The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta to similar effect just after the speech.
It was a measured speech, spoken with gravity and humility, with the strength to tell the hard truths about the Republican nominees (the foreign policy takedowns in particular). The new theme of citizenship was invigorating. It's not just that it echoed the false notes of Citizens United, but it UNITED people around a concept that again was neither red state nor blue state, to paraphrase his 2008 speech and swept up in its embrace the DREAMERS.
I marveled at the craftsmanship in which he emphasized again and again, without shouting it out, I am an American, I love America, I am a man of faith (it took Rev. Al and Melissa Harris-Perry to enlighten me on the biblical quotes and themes...but I was raised Buddhist). The way he re-framed the Hope and Change argument, reminding us that the path is long but it leads to a better place, my gosh, that made everyone want to dust off their Hope posters (take that Paul Ryan) or tack up a new one.
I think he also did a very good job reminding us that progress and change are personal. Our family is personally better off than Election Day 2008. Our 25 year old son got to join my husband's health plan. Same son got a good paying job this summer with the company of his dreams. My husband's company (Japanese auto) has been able to hand out pay raises and bonuses for the first time in years. I can get a wellness check for free. The value of our 401Ks, which had been decimated by 30%+ in 2008, have rebounded and grown, the value of our home is again rising. My daughter (a college junior) will someday benefit from the Lily Ledbetter Act and no co-pays for contraceptives. The war is over in Iraq and I can't remember the last time a friend in the Reserve has been called up. Gay friends can marry...
Pundits tend to be obsessed with the aggregate numbers of unemployment and rising gas prices. But they forget that the gut-wrenching fear of losing everything and the feeling of powerlessness in the face of rising prices (not just gas but CPI in general) are gone. We remember when prices were high under George Bush, but now there are more hybrid cars available, as well as improved public transit and bike paths and new towns that can be walked not driven. There is a growing internet economy that helps many with cheaper prices and opportunities to earn money outside the old-line corporate/small business/farm model. Have you been to a swap meet lately? Positive change has happened these past 4 years and it can't be denied...
Taken as a whole, the DNC speakers walked all of us up to President Obama's speech. The passion, fire, focus, MATH (as Jon Stewart marveled), were brought forth by the First Lady, Pres. Clinton (listen!) and Vice President Biden. My Facebook friends said they saw the speech and donated. I will too. That speech got me fired up and ready to go.
As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights - rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We're not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system - the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. [That is: we are for individuals, and for success. And now the pivot:]The reason this is interesting: It is a way to deal with the GOP's out-of-context "you didn't build that" meme not by (1) matching its out-of-context-ness, with an offsetting "like to fire people" theme (as some DNC speakers did); nor (2) directly making the case for the value of public/private interactions, as Bill Clinton effectively did last night, but (3) attempting to change the terrain, or the game, with a new definition of terms. More later on the implications, but a very interesting re-casting of the debate.
But we also believe in something called citizenship - a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations. [And on to explain the ramifications.]
Reminds me of the Adlai Stevenson story:And, about my claim that politicians could and should learn from sports-talk radio hosts, another reader writes:A supporter once called out, "Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!" And Adlai Stevenson answered, "That's not enough. I need a majority."Obama tends to connect to us wonkier people that like math - and have read the CBO reports :-)
Michelle Obama tends to connect with the "feeling" people - she does this wonderfully.
Clinton integrates the two masterfully. I just love to watch him speak - and realize what an art it is. He's the corpus callosum of politics - connecting right and left brains together.
I've begun listening to sports talk radio on my way to work because I cannot bear to listen to the news--even NPR cannot escape the false equivalence trap and I find it depressing. I am not at all interested in sports--as I was so obsessively when I was a boy. But I enjoy the calls, the laughs, the passion of everybody on 98.5, The Sports Hub. And I'm always telling my wife how amazing it is that these people know so much about their sports. I laugh about it.Corpus callosum image from here. UPDATE. A reader suggests another area of discourse where we assume the audience to be smart. Thanks to this reader -- and to many, many others whose suggest that any reference beginning "corpus" raises unfortunate unintended imagery concerning Bill Clinton. Assuming the audience here to be smart, and since this is a family-rated magazine site, I will leave it at that.
You are right, though. Nobody talks down--in fact, the hosts and callers pile on detail after detail, especially here in Massachusetts about the loved/hated/damned poor Red Sox and all their troubles. I'm going to listen more respectfully now.
You contrast sports media with political media. The other place where the media regularly displays high level reasoning is in high profile court reporting. I first noticed this during the OJ case. Every detail was examined and intricate legal arguments were explored from all sides. The media assumed that their viewers were intelligent enough to follow the discussion, and more important, were interested enough to care about all the details. I don't see this anywhere in the media coverage of political issues.
We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that "We're all in this together" is a far better philosophy than "You're on your own."Or
So who's right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private- sector jobs. So what's the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two.
Now, there's -- there's a reason for this. It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics. Why? Because poverty, discrimination, and ignorance restrict growth.
When you stifle human potential, when you don't invest in new ideas, it doesn't just cut off the people who are affected. It hurts us all.
We know that investments in education and infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase growth. They increase good jobs, and they create new wealth for all the rest of us.
Now, there's something I've noticed lately. You probably have, too. And it's this. Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.
I -- that -- that would be impossible for me, because President Eisenhower sent federal troops to my home state to integrate Little Rock Central High School. President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. [etc]
Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama's Medicare savings as, quote, "the biggest, coldest power play," I didn't know whether to laugh or cry...Different people have different natural modes for their speech, and not many people can pull it off just the way Clinton does. But Clinton reminds us of the value (and rarity) of this tone in politics -- and the next time you listen to a sports-talk channel, think how much better our political discussion would be if participants assumed as much sophistication about argument as ESPN and radio-talk hosts do.
... because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget!
You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.
Now -- so -- wait a minute.
Now you're having a good time, but this is getting serious, and I want you to listen.
It's important, because a lot of people believe this stuff. Now, at least on this issue, on this one issue, Governor Romney has been consistent. He...
I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment -- asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us. He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.He always has, and He always will. Evocative language, and a graceful ending. Peace upon us all.
I wanted to address the Hilary Clinton reference. It is, I believe, the first reference he's made to Sec. Clinton as a former foe since taking office. I was surprised by it, as were you, and I thought a bit about it.The "chessmaster, or pawn?" / "brilliant scheme, or blunder?" debate about Obama's performance is one I examined at length last year, and that is also the substance of a forthcoming long story in the magazine. For now I'll just say that while the reader's interpretation may be a little rococo and triple-backflip-ish for purposes of plausibility, it would be nice to believe that it's correct. Today I will.
I took three things away from it.
One is that this year, there will be a Republican battle for the nomination, but none on the Democratic side. Obviously, that's good for the incumbent, but it gives voters with short memory no basis for comparison between the Democratic candidate and the Republican contenders. That reference brought that battle back to mind and reminded us how much more intelligent and focused both Democratic candidates seemed compared to the current combatants. I was an ardent Obama supporter four years ago, and developed a deep dislike for both Clintons during the race, which is quite remarkable to me now considering that I had been a big fan of Bill's previously and am mightily impressed by Hillary now. But in retrospect, that campaign, and particularly the positive way that it was waged by the eventual winner stands in such stark contrast to what we are seeing today, I think it was worth a reference in the speech.
Second is the Team of Rivals meme that seemed so important at the time but has somewhat faded from memory. He bonded with Lincoln during the speech and he now references his SOS as a former rival. In case people want to cast his "working as a team" references as rhetoric, he can point to a former and sometimes bitter rival who is now an essential member of his team. That's the way politics is supposed to work. Strong people slug it out, then shake hands and work together. That doesn't seem to happen any more across party lines and by referencing the arc of his relationship with Sec. Clinton, he his showing that it is them who refuse to play well together, not him.
And finally, and perhaps I'm reaching here, the President has an eye toward the future... 2016. We know that he is a forward thinking and strategic guy. Let's assume he wins re-election. I don't think anybody sees Joe Biden, who will by then be 74 as a future President. The Democrats have four years to find and develop a rising star. Who is on the horizon now? I would have to say that on November 7 Hillary would be the odds-on favorite to be the next nominee. She'll likely step down after this term and that will give her four years to catch up on her rest, make another fortune on the private side, burnish her reputation further with Bill's Foundation, and raise a war chest for the election.
She would seem nearly unbeatable. Even now she is one of the few Democrats who seems unassailable. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are able to reference her admirably and get applause. They see it as a dig at the President, but he has the last laugh. After they mixed it up, he chose her for the biggest job she's ever had. And he did her the greatest favor imaginable. Rather than spending the last four years in the morass of the Senate, she has been out getting things done in a place where Republicans can't obstruct her.
So why reference her as a former rival? To remind the world that Hillary is her own person, her own brand. In four years, if the Obama administration is viewed as a success, she will be seen as one of its brightest stars. If the administration has mixed reviews or is starting to wear out it's welcome, she can still run as her own woman.
I think referencing her that way was a brilliant touch.
A "Year Four" SOTU is usually only the third State of the Union address a president gives. When a new president has been elected in November, there's typically no SOTU address the following January. The old, outgoing president has no further program to talk about, and the new one has said his piece in his inaugural address. Even though it seems—at least to me!—as if they're always happening, in fact we get only three SOTU addresses every four years, or seven of them in the eight years of a re-elected president's two term.
At the beginning of Year Four for a first-term incumbent, which was the setting for Obama's speech this week, the purpose of the SOTU address is less to advance a program than to build a case. Although Year Four presidents, including Obama, often go through the motions of urging action on various bills, they know that very little is likely to occur—especially when, like Obama, they face a divided or opposition-controlled Congress. (It doesn't say much good about our legislative system that for fully one year out of four it's essentially out of commission, as all members of the House concentrate on re-election, along with a third of the Senators. But that's life.) These legislative "goals," like nearly everything Obama mentioned in this speech, really should be thought of as "for example" illustrations of the larger case the president is making for another chance at governing. In reality, everything a new president does from the day after his original election is done with an eye toward the re-election run. But starting in Year Four, that "four more years!" case is out in the open and legitimate. I don't think that the leitmotif slogan of this speech—"Built to Last"—is really going to make it as the slogan of the Obama 2012 campaign. (And for obvious reasons, they're not going to resurrect "Change We Can Believe In.") But the ideas and arguments in the speech do, I think, set up the main themes Obama and his team will stress.
In a nutshell, that theme—the intended message of the speech—is: I am a reasonable guy, still hoping to be a uniter rather than a divider, and I have a plan to deal with the trends that make us all worry about our economy and society. Also, I'm very patriotic—and if you think I'm weak or pussy-footing, go ask Osama bin Laden about that.
Remarks of President Barack Obama—As Prepared for Delivery
State of the Union Address
"An America Built to Last"
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
As Prepared for Delivery -
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute  This is the first of many places in the speech where Obama gives a "hey, dummies, remember what I did??" reminder in words just slightly subtler than those. "Last troops" and "final, proud salute" are the allusive ways of saying, "Remember, we have in fact formally withdrawn from Iraq—and despite the contractors and others who remain there, and whatever else may go wrong on scene, this is a significant step." The combination of "final" and "proud" is also artful: whatever the historians eventually say, for now there's only upside for Obama in casting withdrawal in the noblest possible light, especially as concerns the military. The current status of the military as the only un-critcizeable institution in America affects a lot about this speech—and raises issues beyond those I'll deal with here.to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought—and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes  "Generation of heroes" is a nice touch. The subliminal reference is: "Greatest generation," doing all the heroics during the Depression and World War II. Then came the "worst generation," aka my fellow Baby Boomers, wrecking the country from their indulgent youth through the expensive impending retirement years. Now younger Americans—who went heavily for Obama 2008 but seem to have lost passion—can be cast in the role of another wave of greatness. Only a tiny fraction of America, and young America, is directly involved in these military efforts, but is rhetorically shrewd to cast it as a greatness of their times.has made the United States safer and more respected around the world The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in attendance, stand along with everyone else for the ovation that follows this line. This must have been arranged in advance: most of the time, like the members of the Supreme Court who attend, the Chiefs are expected to sit there stolidly and not betray any potentially partisan reaction.. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden Get it??? is not a threat to this country John Boehner, sitting alongside Joe Biden behind Obama, is quicker to his feet in leading the standing ovation after this line even than Biden is. In general Boehner is a mensch during the speech. By the end he is looking as if he's ready for bed, or for a smoke, but he claps for more of Obama's lines than I would have expected, and he is on his feet for applause more than a few times.. . Most of al Qaeda's top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. You do have to admire this. The unavoidable political message is: "These things happened on my watch, and whatever credit there is I obviously deserve part of it, since I would have been blamed if things had gone wrong." But the explicit formulation not only uses the word "selflessness" but avoids personal claims of credit altogether, instead deflecting the glory onto America's Armed Forces. Which I don't think I have seen with that exact capitalization before. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition I so wish that the camera had cut to Rep. Eric Cantor at this point. But alas.... They don't obsess over their differences. Or maybe here, for Cantor? They focus on the mission at hand. They work together These few paragraphs, and the mirroring passages at the end of the speech, constitute its main literary/rhetorical fancy-footwork. The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf doesn't like the implied collectivism of this argument -- see his post here. On the other hand, a year ago in the Washington Monthly, Heather Hulburt recommended, or foreshadowed, exactly this approach: arguing for American unity and teamwork by alluding to the one institution Americans in general and Obama's conservative opponents in particular do not want to criticize: the military. (Her article was here.) For now let's set aside arguments about whether Obama in fact has too "collectivist" a vision for America. Purely as rhetoric and persuasion, it's as good a way as he has to cast his arguments in terms the other side might accept. Plus, every president looks strongest and most symbol-of-America-like when appearing as head of state and Commander in Chief.. .
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example Boehner leads the clapping on this one, too. The Republican caucus must have decided that it is better to be good-cop than bad-cop (as in the old "we don't care about defaulting on the national debt" days), or at least for purposes of being on camera during this speech. . Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, Let's give this phrase its due: On rational grounds, it's a reasonable summary of the points Obama wants to make about long-term economic strategy. Also, the more it recalls the auto industry, GM (which originated the slogan), Detroit, and American manufacturing in general, the better for Obama. He can tell people: Remember, that Romney guy wanted to let GM go bust, but thanks to our help it has overtaken Toyota to be Number One again. So, that is all to the good. But it got only a smattering of applause on this first appearance, and you can't really see it on campaign posters or bumper stickers. My guess: a "good for the purposes of one speech only" slogan. where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
We can do this. I know we can, because we've done it before The recitation of how the U.S. economy REALLY developed in the decades of post-WW II dominance, and middle-class golden age, is essentially to Obama's policy arguments now. He is saying: public-private coordination made a difference then, and we need the same thing now. On the other hand, there is a kind of auto-text quality to this sort of historic reminder. All Democratic presidents, and some Republican politicians, have said something like this.. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. My grandfather, a veteran of Patton's Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth One of the rare sentences in the speech with a "Huhhh??" quality. Is he saying that the bombers were the finest on Earth? Probably they were, but I don't think that's the intended main point..
The two of them shared the optimism of a Nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share—the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement Face it: Obama will never really be convincing as an average-American economic populist. To me he is entirely convincing as an American -- someone whose story makes vivid the capaciousness of the country. But the "put a little away" doesn't ring true from him. Still had to say it, I suppose.
The defining issue of our time This is quite a bold claim, when you think about it. I agree with what he is saying -- but think how six or seven years ago any sentence containing the words "defining issue of our time" would also certainly end with "Islamic terrorism." Again, for my own personal taste, this is a welcome shift in emphasis -- but it's worth noting what a shift it is.. is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important In case you missed the point earlier.. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules It is hard to tell, with the "Date Night" seating scheme of Dems and Repubs sitting together, but it appears that only Democrats stand up and cheer for this line.. . What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values Of course an allusion to the phrase that first brought him to national attention, in his Democratic convention speech of 2004: that we were not a country of Red states or Blue states, but the United States of America.. . We have to reclaim them.
Let's remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren't, and personal debt that kept piling up.
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed 1) Nice to be able to refer to it, without the need for explanation, as a "house of cards." 2) A worthwhile variation on the accurate, but getting-old-even-to-his-supporters "Bush wrecked the economy before I got here" point. . We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people's money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn't have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office This makes it a little more personalized than in the previous paragraph -- and will sound like whining to his critics. Though of course it is accurate, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.
Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created Good to present this as "businesses have created" rather than "we have created" or "our policies have created." more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s Remind me, who was in the White House then?. Together, we've agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we've put in place new rules  Interesting that we don't hear the polarizing name "Dodd Franks" -- and, by similar logic, we hear very little about the other most polarizing Obama policy, the health-care reform billto hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.
The state of our Union Here it is! Mattemashita, as they say at Kabuki performances when a long-expected line is uttered! Every speech is expected to contain this magic formulation, and Obama uses it twice, with interestingly different emphases. Here the point is: it's tough, but things are getting better. Which has to be the main theme of his campaign.. is getting stronger. And we've come too far to turn back now. As long as I'm President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies This paragraph is significant in several ways: it suggests a revived, "good cop," bi-partisan approach; it threatens a "bad cop" alternative, instead of the passivity that disappointed many of Obama's supporters in 2010 and early 2011; and it lays down a marker that Obama will portray the Republican program as what caused the problems the economy is still recovering from. Only Democrats are cheering this part. that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last—an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values. Over the next 2000 words or so the policy meat-and-potatoes of Obama's program are laid out. Little or none of it will actually be put into law this year, and it has a suspiciouslyheavy reliance on tax incentives. My main emphasis in this note is rhetoric rather than policy, so I am not going to stop and weigh all the reasons why each proposal might be a good or bad idea.
This blueprint begins with American manufacturing.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some  Hmmm, would this be Gov. Romney? even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker Boehner gallantly cheers this too.. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.
What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can't bring back every job that's left our shores. But right now, it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China At this point it would have been useful for Obama to wave a copy of our current cover story to the crowd—the same one that all op-ed writers in the NY Times have been quoting. . Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master Lock's unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.
So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves  Any imperative sentence including the words "ask" and "your country" is a deliberate reference, for better or worse, to an inaugural speech 51 years in the past.what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.
We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.
So let's change it. First, if you're a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn't get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.
Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here.
Third, if you're an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut Top that, Republicans!. If you're a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.
My message is simple. It's time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I'll sign them right away "Right away" is a nice reference to the "jobs jobs jobs" speech last fall, which marked the beginning of a more aggressive tone from Obama. Eric Cantor is shown looking daggers at Obama after this line..
We're also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements I signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal—ahead of schedule. Soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.
I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by the rules. We've brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration—and it's made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires Another minor "Huhh???" line. Yes, it's about getting tough in a trade dispute over alleged Chinese dumping of tires, and voters in Ohio will recognize the allusion. But just as a sentence it sounds odd.. But we need to do more. It's not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated Hey, Hollywood, I still love you, despite that nasty SOPA bill!. It's not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're heavily subsidized.
Tonight, I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you—America will always win This gets a huge standing cheer from everyone except the JCS and the Supremes -- but really, this is a blunt-instrument way to make the point that ours is a great country.
I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can't find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that—openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.
That's inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.
Jackie Bray is a single mom No offense to Ms. Bray or the others in the First Lady's box, but really, this schtick has outlived its time. Look up "Lenny Skutnik" if you want to know how ordinary citizens became rhetorical props for presidential addresses. It's corny, and I dream of an America in which a President gets through a SOTU without this faux-realism touch. from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie's tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.
I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers ok—places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.
And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie Maybe I am an ogre, but again I have had enough of this faux-personal touch. have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need. It's time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.
These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.
For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on education each year, we've convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning—the first time that's happened in a generation.
At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies—just to make a difference.
Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.
We also know that when students aren't allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.
When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.
Of course, it's not enough for us to increase student aid. We can't just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we'll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who've done just that. Some schools re-design courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it's possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can't be a luxury—it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.
Let's also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American  There is a very nice throaty emphasis on "American" in this sentence that sounds heartfelt -- and unlike the faux-populist touches undoubtedly is linked to his own story in life.. through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else This whole section is policy-dense but delivered well..
That doesn't make sense.
I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That's why my Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That's why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.
The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform  For some reason, no crowd shot here, so we can't see who is cheering and who is sitting on his or her hands.right now. But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away This "right away" riff is delivered very nicely -- almost in an Al Green tone..
You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work. It means we should support everyone who's willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. Query: if the latest NYT story about Apple's subcontracting problems in China had come out on the morning of the speech, would he have used this line? Probably so, but they would have had to think about it.
After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let's pass an agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations [that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year Not likely, for the record..
Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don't gut these investments in our budget. Don't let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation  A Democratic president cannot remind people often enough that the government played a crucial role in the creation of the info-tech and Internet economies.. that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.
Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we've opened millions  Criticize that, Republicans!of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right—eight years. Not only that—last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.
But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source The passage that follows is an attempt to pull an Obama-style straddle on the politics of energy: reassuring Republicans that he's not ruling anything out, but reassuring Democrats with a firm defense of clean-energy investment, even including risky projects like Solyndra. of American energy—a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose  Oh, sure.between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock  For Democrats this will be the next item on the list of crucial modern industries that wouldn't have happened without government investment. After genomics, GPS-and geospatial info, the semiconductor, and the Internet, we now have ... shale gas!- reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.
What's true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world's leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
When Bryan Ritterby See "citizens as props," above. was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it's hiring workers like Bryan, who said, "I'm proud to be working in the industry of the future."
Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don't always come right away. Some technologies don't pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away  Impresive doubling-down on Solyndra! Plus he even uses the term "double-down" at the end of the paragraph, leading to standing ovation from Democrats and silence from Republicans.from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That's long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more profitable, and double-down ! on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and  I feel phantom-limb pain in this sentence, for the missing "right away."create these jobs.
We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there's no reason why Congress shouldn't at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven't acted. Well tonight, I will No More Mr. Nice Guy, part 118.. I'm directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I'm proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history—with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.
Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here's another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.
Building this new energy future should be just one part This is the classic and unvarnished "turning now to world affairs"-style transition sentence. of a broader agenda to repair America's infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We've got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our States with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today In the 2008 campaign, Obama didn't really have to make this case about the public role in private prosperity. Back then, his explicit argument against Hillary Clinton in the primary was "I had the judgment to be against the Iraq war"; and against John McCain in the general election the implicit argument to many Americans was, "I am an acceptable unifying figure." Now in order to justify what his Administration has done so far, from GM to health care, and also to prepare the ground for anything he hopes to do if re-elected, he needs to make the "government matters" case. Bill Clinton was the last national Democrat to spend serious time on this argument, which of course he presented in a folksier way.. .
In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it  Not sure how this math works out, but all the Dems cheer and none of the Republicans.to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.
There's never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren't the only ones hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who've seen their home values decline. And while Government can't fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn't have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.
That's why I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions A truly comic art-trouvee moment here as the camera cuts to Timothy Geithner, who is looking pained. will ensure that it won't add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.
Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules Bill Clinton went far on exactly this phrase, so why not give it a try again? every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same. It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last  This sentence illustrates why "built to last" isn't really going to, well, last as a campaign slogan -- but the sentiments are very similar to those that took Bill Clinton to two terms.. insists on responsibility from everybody.
We've all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn't afford them. That's why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. Rules to prevent financial fraud, or toxic dumping, or faulty medical devices, don't destroy the free market. They make the free market work better. No response to this line, but it is the heart of the Democratic argument..
There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I've approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I've ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don't make sense. We've already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill—because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk Scholars will try for centuries to understand how this line got into the speech. It wasn't even ad libbed: it was in the pre-released text. As I saw it coming, I started saying out loud: "No, no, he can't really be planning..." .
I'm confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder. But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution Dog-whistle to enviros: The EPA's recent ruling restriction mercury emissions, especially from coal-fired plants, was one of their big victories in recent years., or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies[63a][63a] What Obama's opponents consider far and away the most objectionable of his achievements, passage of the "Obamacare" health-care program, makes only the briefest and most indirect of cameo appearances in this speech. Significantly, Obama emphasizes the consumer-protection aspects of the bill, rather than trying to re-argue the case of "individual mandates" and so on. had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.
And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules Good line; no crowd reaction.. The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system's core purpose: Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, start a business, or send a kid to college.
So if you're a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers' deposits. You're required to write out a "living will" that details exactly how you'll pay the bills if you fail—because the rest of us aren't bailing you out ever again This is a very bold line. I think it would have gotten a big response earlier in the speech. But it is getting late, and most people want this to be over.. . And if you're a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can't afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over. Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray Another dog-whistle to "the base" among Democrats: Cordray is of course one of Obama's (relatively few) recess appointments.. with one job: To look out for them.
We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people's investments. Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there's no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That's bad for consumers, and it's bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.
And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.
A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us Another "we don't have time to make this fancy" transition sentence. as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.
Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Something strange is going on here. Obama is of course referring to the showdown late last year about extending the payroll-tax cut. The Republican hard-liners, led by Eric Cantor, are generally considered to have "lost" that showdown—since Obama dared them to let it expire, and they flinched. But the camera (predictably) cuts to Cantor, and he (inexplicably) is shown cheering like crazy. Hmmm. Maybe he is back to thinking any tax cut is a good cut? Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let's agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay 1) Why is "without delay" better than "right away"? Just curious.2) Cantor and Boehner both are cheering this one. I am guessing it might happen..
When it comes to the deficit, we've already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. Right now, we're poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary Who of course we see on camera now..
Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else—like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we're serious about paying down our debt, we can't do both This is the way for Obama to cast his argument: not that he's opposed to tax cuts for everyone, but that there are tradeoffs to make..
The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I'm prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.
But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me To the best of my knowledge it was Bill Clinton, in his post-presidential years of prosperity, who pioneered this touch: referring to "people like me" when discussing tax breaks and tax burdens at the top., and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent Hmm, is there any prominent candidate who has just released tax returns showing that on income of more than 10 million he paid tax of less than 15% ? The speechwriters are not earning their pay if they haven't thought about this. in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you're earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 Just curious: if the math worked out so that families with incomes under $250,000 represented 99% rather than 98% of the population, would Obama dare talk about "the 99%"? If the math fit, I think he should: he doesn't have to say "the" 99%, but by using the number he would send a signal.. percent of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up. You're the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You're the ones who need relief.
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich Hmm, I wonder who has used this language about "envy" recently?. It's because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference Again it is important for Obama's side that he point out the tradeoffs. In principle, everyone's taxes should be cut. But here are the real implications.... -like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That's not right. Americans know it's not right. They know that this generation's success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country's future, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That's how we'll reduce our deficit. That's an America built to last I've got the message!.
I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt; energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing You never want to use this kind of line in a speech, because it invites subversive responses. I was thinking at just that moment: It is nearly 10pm, we haven't talked foreign policy yet, it's time to wrap things up! right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.
Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?
The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn't come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco Boehner looks stoic. No cut-away to Cantor.?
I've talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad—and it seems to get worse every year.
Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let's take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading 1) It is incredible that this is even an issue. 2) It is more incredible that there seems to be some booing from the floor. Did anyone have a camera on Rep. Joe Wilson? by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let's limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let's make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can't lobby Congress, and vice versa—an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough Well, three years after his inauguration, it's not too early for him to be talking about the menace of the filibuster! to get anything—even routine business—passed through the Senate. \ Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days. This is a good, and overdue, idea. Next question: what's the "or else" provision if the Senate minority doesn't agree to this change?
The executive branch also needs to change Huge and not-entirely-sought ovation.. Too often, it's inefficient, outdated and remote. That's why I've asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our Government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.
Finally, none of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction Isn't it pretty to think so?; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.
I'm a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more Republicans start the cheering for this one, but Dems blunt them by standing up too.. That's why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and States. That's why we're getting rid of regulations that don't work. That's why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.
On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most I am sure he can name names on this one, which would be amusing during the campaign. about Government spending have supported federally-financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.
The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective Government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can't achieve Showing the undiminished role of ritual assertions, this gets a huge standing ovation.. .
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of the United States of America.
From this position of strength, we've begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come home. Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.
As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana'a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the world's longest-serving dictators—a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone Understated coldness, as with the bin Laden reference. Obama doesn't want to make "honey badger" his campaign mascot, but "honey badger is a badass" is the idea he's getting across. . And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can't be reversed, and that human dignity can't be denied Somewhat unexpected standing ovation for this line.. .
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings—men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.
And we will safeguard America's own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table It's too late to explore this whole topic, but this is the formula U.S. presidents have to stick with in murky situations like this. "Strategic ambiguity" is one fancy name for it: to say more, or less, would be destabilizing in itself. So a president, Democrat or Republican, conceals his cards. to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad He ad-libs a repetition, "and I mean iron-clad." In case you were wondering. commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. We've made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope This is a classic State of the Union line. On the merits, of course it is important to recognize what has happened in Burma. But in the negotiations before a SOTU, petitioners and officials from every part of the government are saying that it will be a huge problem if topic X or Y is not mentioned. So now no one can say that Burma "went unmentioned" in the speech,. . From the coalitions we've built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we've led against hunger and disease; from the blows we've dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back Huge ovation here, too. Nothing elegant about the phrasing. Some historian may eventually parse the cheers for the "We're Number One!" "USA-USA"-type lines in the speech as a sign of ... something .. in our national mentality of the era..
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about Another ovation here. See previous remarks.. That's not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they've been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can't control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation Trying out this phrase as a new diplomatic / campaign meme. It's a reasonable contention. in world affairs—and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep it that way.
That's why, working with our military leaders, I have proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing danger of cyber-threats As with the Burma line, this is in the speech mainly so no one can say, "But he didn't even mention...".
Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it The longest standing ovation of all. The ease of getting cheers for the military, during an era when only a tiny percent of Americans are in the military, will also be fodder for historians and anthropologists.. . As they come home, we must serve them as well as they served us. That includes giving them the care and benefits they have earned—which is why we've increased annual VA spending every year I've been President. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our Nation.
With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we are providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I'm proposing a Veterans Job Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.
Which brings me back to where I began This is another transition -- but in this case a wholly earned one. He is indeed circling back to the "military as model for a nation" motif with which he introduced the speech.. . Those of us who've been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if you're black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight Not exactly a dog whistle, but a reminder that Don't Ask, Don't Tell went away on Obama's watch. The people who hold that against him are already aware of it. He's making sure the people who should be grateful, but might have forgotten, are attentive to this fact.. When you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you're in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn't matter. Just like it didn't matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates—a man who was George Bush's defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton She gives a wan and tired-looking forced smile. Was it really necessary to introduce her in the context of a beaten contender? After all she has done?, a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn't deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job—the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other—because you can't charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there's someone behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team I know that there are people who disagree with this on the merits. My view of America's history is closer to what Obama is arguing here; and in any case, tying it to the SEALS is rhetorically very nice.. . This Nation is great because we get each other's backs A deliberate use of the vernacular; I think it works.. . And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we're joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong A very nice second use of "the State of the Union is..." theme, which effectively complements the previous "getting stronger." I won't belabor the useful way in which the two sentiments fit together. I will only say that the State of the Union will be stronger still when such a speech can end with such a well-wrought "real" ending, and not the boilerplate auto-text of the line that follows.. .
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
"But I am here today to tell you that I am guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion: This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.Great! And me neither, about the apologies. But as a guide to handling even a single difficult question, good luck in finding answers in this speech. Again, to be absolutely fair, do read it yourself and let me know what you've learned.
"God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.
"Let me make this very clear. As President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century. And I will never, ever apologize for America."
>>This larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone's money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own - that's not who we are. That's not the story of America.This argument may not prevail this year with the Congress or next year with the electorate, but in my opinion it is exactly the right place for the President and the Administration to make their stand. If he goes down, at least he will have gone down trying to defend the right ground.
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world.
But there has always been another thread running throughout our history - a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future - a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.
Ask yourselves - where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they [JF - and my uncles and father] hadn't had that chance?
How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?
No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.<<
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