Obama's speech was scheduled for New Hampshire. First off, he connects the vital importance of good governance to solving the great challenges of our society such as health care and poverty:
As factories multiplied and profits grew, the winnings of the new economy became more and more concentrated in the hands of a few robber barons, railroad tycoons and oil magnates.
It was known as the Gilded Age, and it was made possible by a government that played along. From the politicians in Washington to the big city machines, a vast system of payoffs and patronage, scandal and corruption kept power in the hands of the few while the workers who streamed into the new factories found it harder and harder to earn a decent wage or work in a safe environment or get a day off once in awhile.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. Preventing and even discouraging partipation in the political system are important tools of the entrenched interests in society. If people can't or won't change the system, the system becomes a tool for preserving injustice instead of eradicating it.
He shows how the Republicans and their culture of corruption have exploited this to hurt ordinary Americans:
And once again, we are faced with a politics that makes all of this possible. In the last six years, our leaders have thrown open the doors of Congress and the White House to an army of Washington lobbyists who have turned our government into a game only they can afford to play – a game played on a field that's no longer level, but rigged to always favor their own narrow agendas.
From Jack Abramoff to Tom Delay, from briberies to indictments, the scandals that have plagued Washington over the last few years have been too numerous to recall.
But their most troubling aspect goes far beyond the headlines that focus on the culprits and their crimes. It's an entire culture in Washington – some of it legal, some of it not – that allows this to happen. Because what's most outrageous is not the morally offensive conduct on behalf of these lobbyists and legislators, but the morally offensive laws and decisions that get made as a result.
The oil companies were allowed to craft energy policy with Dick Cheney in secret while every other voice was silenced – including the NASA scientists who tried to warn us about the dangers of climate change. The industry got everything it wanted, and it even got one of its top lobbyists a job at the White House as an environmental watchdog – a job he used to fix reports that showed a link between carbon emissions and global warming.
Sadly, his speech has many more examples from the Bush administration.
He then proceeds to discuss what he would do as President. Note well: These are actions he would take as President, so these are a separate issue and consideration from his legislative efforts.
The policy proposals:
REFORMING WASHINGTON: TAKING BACK OUR GOVERNMENT
The Bush Administration has turned our government into a game only the lobbyists andspecial interests can afford to play. The evidence of the Bush Administration and its cronies manipulating public policy for private gain is staggering. Oil and gas executives met in secret with Vice President Cheney to write our energy laws with the goal of increasing their profits and saddling the public with their environmental and public health costs. An industry executive was appointed by the White House to the position of czar on global warming while some of the nation's top climate scientists at federal agencies were silenced. In every case, and at every turn, the special interests won and the public lost. Barack Obama has led efforts to reform government both in the Illinois State Senate and in the United States Senate. He will bring this commitment to making government work for the people, not the special interests, to the White House. On the first day he takes office Obama will begin implementing his plan to make Washington work for the people, not the special interests.
CLOSING THE REVOLVING DOOR
(1) CLOSING THE REVOLVING DOOR ON FORMER EMPLOYERS: Obama will eliminate incentives that could be provided to newly-hired public employees to favor their former employers. No political appointees in an Obama Administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.
(2) CLOSING THE REVOLVING DOOR FOR FUTURE EMPLOYERS: Obama will also shut the revolving door on appointees who would leave his Administration to become lobbyists. In an Obama Administration no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch during the remainder of the Administration.
FIGHT WASTEFUL SPENDING BY ENDING ABUSE OF NO-BID CONTRACTS
The current Administration has abused its power by handing out contracts without competition to its politically connected friends and supporters. These abuses cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Obama will end abuse of no-bid contracts.
RESTORING OBJECTIVITY TO THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
(1) BAN GIFTS TO EXECUTIVE BRANCH EMPLOYEES: As president, Barack Obama will issue an executive order banning registered lobbyists or lobbying firms from giving gifts in any amount or any form to executive branch employees.
(2) FREE CAREER OFFICIALS FROM THE INFLUENCE OF POLITICS: Obama will issue an Executive Order asking all new hires at the agencies to sign a form affirming that no political appointee offered them the job solely on the basis of political affiliation or contribution. The Executive Order will also require that all employees engaged in and making hiring decisions also certify that they will not take political affiliation into account as they make hiring decisions for career positions.
(3) REMOVE THE USE OF PUBLIC OFFICE FOR PARTISAN ADVANTAGE: As president, Obama will issue an Executive Order banning the use of public office to further partisan advantage in political elections. Obama's Executive Order will create an additional and effective enforcement mechanism of the Hatch Act's prohibitions on ideological litmus tests for non-political hires and other political appointee abuses.
INCREASING PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION
(1) SUNLIGHT BEFORE SIGNING: As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days. And Obama will sign legislation in the light of day without attaching signing statements that undermine the legislative intent.
(2) 21ST CENTURY FIRESIDE CHATS: Obama will bring democracy and policy directly to the people by requiring his Cabinet officials to have periodic national broadband town hall meetings to discuss issues before their agencies.
(3) RESTORE MEANING TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT: As president, Obama will restore the tradition of free information by issuing an Executive Order that information should be released unless an agency reasonably foresees harm to a protected interest.
(4) CONDUCT REGULATORY AGENCY BUSINESS IN PUBLIC: Obama will require his appointees who lead the Executive Branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet as the agencies debate and deliberate the issues that affect American society. Videos of meetings will be archived on the web, and the transcript will be available to the public. Obama will also require his nominees to commit to employ all the technological tools available to allow average citizens not just to observe, but to participate and be heard on the issues that affect their daily lives.
(5) MAKING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS PUBLIC: Obama will ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. The Obama White House would invoke its executive privilege to protect the confidentiality of communications concerning national security and similar traditionally sensitive matters, not to withhold information about private interests' communication on regulatory policy.
(6) EXPOSING TAX BREAKS AND EARMARKS TO PUBLIC SCRUTINY: Building on his "Google for government" bill, which was signed into law and allows every American to do a simple search and see exactly how federal money is being spent, Obama will ensure that any tax breaks to special interests, or tax earmarks, are also publicly available by directing the Office of Management and Budget to post them on its website.
(7) POLITICAL APPOINTEE REFORM: In an Obama Administration, every official will have to rise to the standard of proven excellence in the agency's mission. Obama will issue an Executive Order requiring that political appointees possess relevant professional qualifications and experience related to the core mission of the agency for which they are nominated, and will restore integrity and competence to the executive branch.
Aside from the obvious merit to these proposals to reform our political system, these proposals have the added benefit of making a fool out of Ralph Nader by having his own organization--Public Citizen--implicity repudiate the rationale for his candidacy.
As Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo put it:
Top Official At Nader's Old Group Sees Obama As Most Reliable Good-Government Ally
Craig Holman, the ethics lobbyist for Public Citizen, tells us the group endorses all the principles in Obama's speech. "These are all things we've been advocating for several years now," he says. "Obama has been working on many of these reforms for the last year."
Asked if this meant Obama was really better than the other Dems on good-government issues, Holman said: "Certainly in terms of his active roles. I would expect many of the Democratic candidates to endorse similar proposals. But Senator Obama has been actively working on these since even before he considered running for President."
So much for Ralph "No Difference" Nader's entire purported rationale for running for President.
Even his own organization recognizes that there's a GIGANTIC difference between the Barack Obama's and the Fred "Dick Cheney" Thompson's.
Screw you, Ralph. Step aside and let real leaders lead.
Here's the video of the speech:
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