Bad news, kids: That speech Obama is giving tonight will almost surely suck, just like last night’s debate of the Republican presidential candidates sucked. But it’s not all bad.
It’s funny how I used to get sucked in with every election as if life would suddenly change for the better when my candidates won. Looking back, it almost makes me feel stupid.
When Obama was elected in 2008, there was a feeling in the air that this guy would change everything. I’m not talking about the legislation he would push through Congress. I’m talking about a change in the public discourse.
I thought we finally had a guy who was going to tell us what we needed to hear instead of what we wanted to hear. I thought he would put aside bullshit party politics and talk above the partisan divide, directly to you and me.
And the Republicans? I already knew they were damaged goods. Their politics always seem mean-spirited, appealing to our fear and anger. The solution to everything is a massive tax cut that never seems to help the people who need it most.
If I were one of Obama’s speech writers, I would urge him to say something like this tonight:
“My fellow Americans, the system is broken, and I admit to being part of the problem. I came into office promising a change in the national dialogue and instead resorted to the usual partisan politics.
“I thought the best way to move the country forward was to get a bunch of legislation passed. I did, but nothing got better.
“I should have told you from the beginning that the only way forward is for each and every one of us to make bold sacrifices. Instead, I offered you more candy.
“When the nation became paralyzed by the debt ceiling fight I should have pushed with every fiber of my being for a plan that would truly work — not a deal that would do nothing but push the debt crisis off the front pages until a later date.
“Now, as Yoda would say, ‘matters are worse.’
“Tonight I start over. It’s time to do what’s right, not what will get me re-elected. I’m going to start telling you what you need to hear.
“If I’m a one-term president, so be it. Besides, what good is winning a second term is I can’t do what’s right in this term?
“The Republicans — crippled by their confused efforts to appease the tea party — won’t do anything bold because their only answer to anything is to cut spending and taxes. It sounds terrific but ignores some simple truths.
“One is that all of us are responsible for this crushing debt because we always demand the easier, softer way from our government. Let’s fight and win a war on terror, but let the enlisted men take care of it while we get some extra spending cash to blow at the mall.
“Let’s go trillions of dollars into debt fighting two wars because telling Americans we have to pay for these wars as we go would be political suicide. Let’s tell them what they want to hear and not ask them to make even a quarter of the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made in the Great Depression and WW II.
“The Republicans always talk about spending cuts and living within our means but it’s always a lie. Just look at the spending orgy we saw last decade at the hands of a Republican White House and Congress.
“The Democrats always talk about fighting for the little guy and helping the neediest in our society but that’s a lie to. Just ask the honest, hard-working people who have been mired in government red tape during their greatest hours of need. Just ask the hard-working people who see so much of their pay go into Social Security and Medicare, only to discover later that once they’re old and sick the government isn’t going to give them anywhere near the services they paid for during a lifetime of sweat and tears.
“It’s time for some honesty. You want us to get rid of the debt? You helped create it, now you have to help pay it down. No tax breaks for anyone until we do what we must. And if you are among the wealthiest, you have a patriotic duty to pay your fair share.
“Like JFK once said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’
“Tonight I challenge the Republicans to do something astounding — put politics aside and work with Democrats to do the hard work in the next year, election be damned. I make the same challenge to my own party.
“Let’s put our jobs on the line and show our countrymen the kind of courage we want them to aspire to.”
“Thanks for listening.”
He won’t say that, of course. He’ll take the safe road like he always does and offer a plan that has no hope of making things better. He’ll pander to Republicans that need their asses kicked instead.
But I’m ok with all that, because in my own struggles against evil I’ve realized an important truth: My life can only be better if I decide to be the change.
Government never could have helped me get control of mental illness and addictions. Government can’t help my family stay financially sound. Only we can pull it off.
We make mistakes along the way. But the strong survive because they don’t let the mistakes destroy them.
That’s always going to be the case, no matter which party controls the government.
So screw Obama’s speech and screw all those Republican candidates. Shut the TV and go to bed. Then get up tomorrow morning and make the best of what you can control.