|What I Hope To Hear in the SOTU Tomorrow Night|
My Fellow Americans:
Article 2, Section 3 of the United States Constitution mandates that the President, from time to time, report to Congress on the state of the union. Tonight, I am troubled to report that the state of that Union is not that strong.
Yes, even though we have ridden out the volitility of the energy sector to see gasoline prices return to very normal levels; and even though unemployment in this country now stands at 4.6%--well below historical averages; and even though the average wage taken home by a working man or woman in the last year has increased by over 4%, while inflation remains below 3%; and even though our economy continues to grow by over 2-1/2 %; and even though our budget deficit has been cut in half three years ahead of schedule, I am still troubled.
Over the course of the last couple years, we in Washington have allowed policy disagreements to metastasize into shameful, foolish, and dangerous behaviors.
Newspapers that disagree with American policy have revealed the details of top secret national security programs. People--elected officials, some--who do not believe in the course of action we have undertaken, but who have yet to propose a better idea, regularly dismiss the ideas and plans of those they disagree with in the most derogatory tones. Former top officials of government have been prosecuted for removing and destroying important historical documents in a fashion described as "reminiscent of a Cold War-era dead drop. " Generations-old traditions, such as "politics ends at the water's edge", have been cast aside for the naked pursuit of political power. We have watched, aghast, as scandals involving inappropriate sexual behaviors and bribery rock both sides of the political aisle. We have seen how prosecutors from around the country have regularly embarked on politically-charged but evidentially weak prosecutions for the forwarding of their own political agendas. And even our language has been degraded: we have recently witnessed the spectacle of a former President calling the actions of one of our closest allies "apartheid."
Ladies and gentlemen, if we in Washington, your elected officials, are unable to summon the civility to address each other with courtesy, and to uphold the dignity of our elected offices and the oaths taken thereto, and if we cannot find a way to agree to disagree in a way that does not give our enemy hope for their cause, than I am afraid I must report that our union is not very strong right now.
Our union has gone through troubling periods before in our history. The country was torn apart by the divisiveness of the War in Vietnam; during World War II, to our shame, we put many of our citizens in internment camps based solely on their ethnic heritage; the Great Depression left lasting marks on every person who went through it; World War I drew a reluctant country into a brutal war that was the occasion for many horrific acts; we have had six Presidents attacked, two of them murdered; and, but for the courage and steadfastness of one man, this country--this great union--would now be two countries divided north and south.
There are many lessons that can be drawn from our past. One lesson that gives me great comfort is that this great experiment, founded on the notion that all men are created equal, CAN, indeed, long survive. It seems a great destiny of this country to come through periods of divisiveness stronger and more certain of itself than it was at any time during the crisis. If America has truly become the one remaining superpower, the "indispensible nation," as some have described it, than it must be true that it has only become that way through the blessings of the Almighty and the indomitable spirit and character of its people.
This face that we put on for the rest of the world, that is subject to 24-hour news channels and constantly shows our worst and most contentious side, is not the America that I know. It is not the America that brought together billions of charitable donations for its own people devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but as importantly, brought together billions also for a tiny nation halfway around the world devastated by a tsunami. This face is not the face of leaps out onto a subway rail, seemingly oblivious to the impending danger, and saves a complete stranger from certain death. This face is not the face that runs into a burning building to pull a child out of the smoke and flames. This face is not the face that puts on a blue uniform every morning and goes and tries to stand between the forces of evil and anarchy and good people going about their business.
And this face we present to the rest of the world is, sadly, NOT indicative of the can-do, never-say-never spirit of the American farmer, and rancher, and teacher and coach and welder and entrepeneur. The face of the America I know is best seen in the quiet heroism of young men and women who volunteer for service to their country; who put on a uniform every morning and salute the stars and stripes before slogging off to do what is hard, what is tedious, what is dangerous, and also what is merciful, and compassionate, and heroic.
Many of these quiet heroes have given their lives over the course of the last five years to fight to re-shape the world as we know it into something greater, something safer, and something better than the world they were handed when they turned 18. And we know that many of them do not agree with the policy, but, nonetheless, they do their jobs because their buddies in the foxhole, or the Humvee, or the Huey, count on them. We also know that an inordinate number of them believe enough in what they are doing to sign back up to do it some more--to put their lives on the line in the hope that they can coax to life a vision of a better world.
We in Washington MUST recognize and acknowledge that the courage and sacrifice of these quiet heroes is only meaningful when the political class has the courage and patience to see the mission through to its inevitable conclusion. We in Washington have an obligation to do, and to speak, and to act in a responsible fashion that not only bolsters the faith of our fighting man and woman, but forces the enemy to calculate the hardness of our response. We in Washington have a responsibility to make certain that our REAL heroes have not just the best equipment for the fight, but are equipped with the greatest shield we can provide: a fighting spirit. When we denigrate all servicepeople as the equivalent of Saddam's torture squads, or like the brutal apparatuses under Pol Pot or Joseph Stalin, we slice away at the armor around the spirits of our soldiers.
So, tonight, I am asking the men and women of this grand Assembly, to join me in re-affirming our belief in not just the terrible prowess of our fighting men and women, but in the promise that America holds out for the whole world. Join me in sending a message to our REAL enemies abroad that America will stand in the breach and not allow them to end civilization. Join me in recognizing, and trying harder to project to the world, the real face of America--the same America that cast off tyranny, spread across a continent, held itself through a Civil War, helped end tyranny twice around the world last century, built the best economy in the world, put men on the moon, and now confronts lawless, countryless, conscience-less murderers.
Our union will survive--it is our destiny; when we in Washington remember to trust the spirit of the people, we will do much more than merely survive. But Abraham Lincoln reminded us that malice has no place when you are healing a nation; we must move forward on the principles that Lincoln espoused in 1865.
My policy initiatives for the coming year will reflect my belief in the strength of the American people. You will not hear how the government will do great things for the people; instead, you will hear how government will work to help YOU achieve great things. . . . .
And so on and so forth through the laundry list.
Of course, we'll hear no such thing. The stupidity of the White House will release a dry, passionless speech to the press four hours in advance so that they can line up all thier opposition, and the spech will fly over like a lead balloon. With all the inspiration of a . . .well, lead balloon.
But maybe, just maybe, I'm willing to hold out a glimmer of hope that the President will show just a little bit of life and confront his opposition head-on tomorrow.
Our troops deserve a little courage from their Commander in Chief.