This morning, President Obama gave the speech of his lifetime, with news coverage to swoon for, all courtesy of the GOP's abortive government shutdown. Thanks to Ted Cruz, ably abetted by the Heritage Foundation and the Koch Brothers, the president had the forum to deliver the most righteous--not to mention one of the clearest and most effective--defenses of the meaning of government, to the widest possible audience, in all the years of his presidency.
Here's a section I find particularly striking. (None of it is new, of course--he's said similar things all along, beginning in the primary in 2008--but he's now speaking in the wake of hurricane Ted, after standing firm while a reckless faction of a party in disarray tried to destroy the government and the economy). These words have added power today:
[45:45] One of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out that smart effective government is important. It matters. And the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, government does that makes a difference in people's lives. Now we hear all the time about how "government is the problem." Well, it turns out that we rely on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong through our military and law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for their jobs, arming our business with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries. It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe. It helps folks rebuild after a storm. It preserves our natural resources, it finances start-ups, it helps to sell our products overseas. It provides security to our diplomats abroad.
So let's work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy, or purposefully making it work worse. That's not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government. If you don't like a particular policy, or a particular president, then argue for your position, go out there and win an election. Push to change it. Don't break it. Don't break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.
On a smaller, but equally effective, scale, he praised federal employees, including the staffers in Washington that the GOP was trying to throw under the bus in their frantic efforts to stiff somebody--anybody--before they would re-open the government or pay their bills.
[48:18] I've got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who either worked without pay or were forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff:I posted part of this as a comment in another diary, but I think this point cannot be over-stated. The Republicans tried to destroy the government. Folks generally agree that they made idiots of themselves in doing so, primarily because they caused massive damage to the country (and their party) without achieving their stated objective of stopping the ACA.
Thank you. Thanks for your service. Welcome back.
What you do is important. It matters. You defend our country overseas, you deliver benefits for our troops who've earned them when they come home, you guard our borders, you protect our civil rights, you help businesses grow and gain a foothold in overseas markets, you protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink. You push the boundaries of science and space and guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country.
Thank you. What you do is important. And don't let anybody else tell you different.
But I'd hate for us to lose sight of the fact that in the process, ironically, the TP Republicans revealed more clearly than ever before why their ideology is hollow, false and against the interests of the American people.
It may be a small consolation, in the wake of the havoc they wreaked, that they managed to put a very bright spotlight on the president, and put a very big microphone in front of him, and empowered him to champion the ideal of government as a shared trust and a precious (if imperfect) vessel of democratic values.
Thank you President Obama for holding firm against the reckless effort to destroy our shared heritage.