Thanks to the contest that AdLib announced yesterday, I have been happily reading ( and re-reading) the archived posts. I just finished reading AdLib’s piece The Cool Before The Storm, which contains the video of a speech President Obama made to Democrats right before the crucial vote on Health Care Reform.
Several thoughts came to mind as I listened and quite a few emotions too. My first thought was: Where did anyone get the idea that this president hasn’t been critical of Republicans?? I have seen several speeches and press conferences in which the president was very hard on them–short of calling them venal, evil asshats, that is. (I would also refer anyone so meme-afflicted to check out the all-day, televised meeting with House Republicans—the one in which Obama reminded McCain that, “John, you lost.”)
So, while my initial reaction to that inspiring speech was on the order of, “You TELL it, Mr. President!” I also found myself wondering if what he said back in March holds up to present scrutiny. And for that, I am asking any and all of you for help. I don’t particularly want to re-litigate the Bill; I am just wondering if this specific speech, with the benefit of hindsight, still rings true. I am a bit conflicted, and I welcome all comments—they really do help me figure out what I think.
Here is the video of the speech:
And here is the transcript:
These passages stand out for me:
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
I am asking—sincerely asking—how do we square this ideal with political reality? Does Obama act in a way true to this statement?
It’ll turn out that this piece of historic legislation is built on the private insurance system that we have now and runs straight down the center of American political thought.
I believe that this statement is not only factual, but represents the very most that was possible. What it leaves me wondering is, is the center of American thought good?
And that’s why the Congressional Budget Office says this will lower people’s rates for comparable plans by 14 to 20 percent.
Is this true? I have read that insurance companies have raised rates in anticipation of the law going into effect in 2014. Anyone know if that is the case?
I know this is a tough vote. And I am actually confident — I’ve talked to some of you individually — that it will end up being the smart thing to do politically because I believe that good policy is good politics. I am convinced that when you go out there and you are standing tall and you are saying I believe that this is the right thing to do for my constituents and the right thing to do for America, that ultimately the truth will out.
Virtually every House Democrat from a swing district who took a gamble by voting for the health law made a bad political bet for the Midterms. Among 22 who provided crucial yes votes from particularly risky districts, 19 ended up losing on Tuesday. That included all five members who voted against a more expensive House version last November and then changed their votes to support the final legislation in March.
But of the 30 Democrats who opposed the final bill and then stood for re-election, 17 lost anyway.
Indeed, among 49 Democratic incumbents who lost, 32 had voted for the health care law and 17 against it.
So it maybe didn’t matter in the end anyway. But I think we should consider rethinking the statement that good policy is necessarily good politics—not in the United States of Retardistan.
The President concluded with this:
And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you’ve been away from families for a long time and you’ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can’t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.
But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better.
And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.
I want to believe this, and for the most part, I still do. Yet there is now a tiny grain of worry, if not outright doubt. I am worried about Social Security. I hear the faint drumbeats building that will weaken it—and among Democrats! I am concerned that compromise on this ultimate Democratic issue will occur, in the name of deficit reduction—a canard. But I still hold onto the Hope that I am wrong.