The Widdershins

Archive for January 22nd, 2015

(Head hanging low) My post from yesterday was such a boring big fat donkey biscuit, I felt I owed everyone another post. I admit there is very little logical symmetry exhibited in this thinking: Write a boring post, say you’re sorry by writing another post. Something just doesn’t follow in that logic. Go figure.

Alternate ending

Since everyone and their dog did a response to the SOTU, here’s what I wish Obama had said in place of the red state/blue state redux from the 2004 Democratic Convention speech. The following would have come at the end of the SOTU where he reprised the passages about Congress being full of good people who want to serve — blah, blah, blah.

Here’s what I wish he had said:


Folks, I got it wrong when I started this job in 2009. It’s not that I haven’t tried my best, because I have, but I put too much stock in my ability to win over the hearts and minds through the force of my personality. I thought my ability to give a good speech, always use logic, and be “no drama Obama” would win any argument. I was wrong. Really wrong.

Because I believed people would always work from a position of good conscience, I wasted the best part of my first two years where Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. I should have listened to Nancy Pelosi since she never once lost a vote on the House floor, but I didn’t.

Because of my kowtowing to the belief I could bring along the Republican caucus by being infinitely reasonable and being a really good guy, when faced with an economy in free fall, the Economic Recovery Act was too small. Krugman and other economists told me it was too small at the time, but I didn’t want to piss off Boehner and Cantor and Paul Ryan. The Recovery Act was the right thing to do and it has finally pulled us out of the Great Recession, but had we passed a larger package with more infrastructure spending and jobs, the recovery would have been faster and more sure. I blew it there.

Because I was so sensitive to being compared to Bubba Big Dawg Clinton, I wanted to do it my way. My way didn’t work and I should have listened to Bill and Hillary — getting the housing market stabilized should have been job one and made part of the Recovery Act. That was dumb on my part.

I’ve told people we are just one big American family until I‘m sick of saying it. That’s hogwash. Families care for one another. Everyone is working toward the same goal. In families, there is an absolute hierarchical order. That’s not true in Washington and it certainly isn’t true here in Congress.

For that matter, government isn’t like a business either. In business, everything is based on stock prices and profit margins. There’s a CEO and a board from which there is no appeal. If you don’t like someone, you just fire them. If they aren’t doing their job, they hit the road. I can’t fire Congress and short of impeachment, you can’t fire me.

Truth is government and governing is as rough and tumble as a football game. Guys hitting guys so hard and for so long they can cause brain damage. So why would someone look forward to hitting someone play after play after play? It’s not money because high school and college football players aren’t paid. It is about winning.

SOTUI’ve finally learned that. Governing isn’t about being the smartest guy in the room or the most logical or even the most liked. Governing is about winning. Football players line up, they hit hard, sometimes they hit dirty if they can get away with it, they see the other team as their mortal enemy. It’s the same here in Washington because politics is about power. Power is the only thing that consistently greases the wheels of Washington. If you don’t believe that just watch an episode of House of Cards.

I’m not blaming Republicans because Democrats have been just as obstructive and obstinate in the past. Democrats just aren’t as good at it.

Politics requires Congress to work like that. As much as I wanted you Republicans to fall into line and give me the respect I dearly craved, to do that would have meant lots of you House members and Senators would have been out of a job in the next election. That wasn’t a secret, I just thought I knew better. That was stupid.

It’s like the story about the scorpion and the frog where the scorpion asked the frog for a ride across the stream. The frog was skeptical from the get go, but the scorpion promised not to sting the frog because it would mean the end to both of them. Sure enough, halfway across the stream the scorpion stung the frog. Before the frog drowned, he asked the scorpion, “Why did you sting me?” The scorpion said, “That’s my nature, that’s what I do.” Well, I’ve learned, that’s just the nature of politics and that is what both sides do.frog and scorpion

I could ask you to change. I could plead, cajole, and exhort you to reinvent yourselves, but Congress can’t change its very nature. What I have learned is this: The sort of change we need won’t be found in this building or this city. The sort of change we need can only be found at the ballot box.

So this is what I’m going to do for the next two years. I’m not going to posture and pretend to be doing stuff for the sake of appearing relevant. I’m going to stump this country from one end to another and what I’m going to talk about is making it easier to vote. I’m going to talk about registering people. I’m going to talk about voting by mail, voting over the internet, getting people to the polls. I’m going to talk about holding elections on more than one day and holding elections on weekends. If we are going to get over this obstruction and stagnation, we have to have a higher turnout than 40%.

Policy doesn’t mean squat if it’s not implemented and it will never be implemented if politics of stagnation and obstruction continues to rule Congress. If our ideas are good enough, we will win. If Republican ideas are better, then they will win. In either event, over time the ideas will get better. That should be the way it works. That should be the nature of what we do.

At least I’ve learned that much.

God bless you and God bless America.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

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