Obama Speaks

I know it’s old news by this point, but, if you haven’t yet, I’d suggest that you make some time and watch President Obama’s speech to students at the University of Illinois which is so infuriating the right today. [The hypocrites at Fox News called it “disgraceful” and “divisive”, and ridiculed President Obama for coming across as “pompous” for having the audacity to… wait for it… note his own accomplishments in office.] It was good so see an uncharastically fiery Obama coming off the sidelines, and giving voice to what many of us have been thinking about these past few years, talking about racism and corruption, and asking, among other things, “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”

While I appreciate Obama’s decision, after leaving the White House, to pull back from public life, and allow others to take center stage in the fight against Trumpism, I’m glad to see him come back. Our democracy hangs in the balance as we approach these upcoming midterm elections, and he knows it. He knows, in order to save this nation of ours, and bring Donald Trump to justice, we’re going to need everyone doing his or her part, and that includes him. And, for me, it felt really good to hear him put the niceties aside for a moment, and acknowledge the terrible reality of our current situation… which is that we’ve allowed an extremely dangerous conman to take over our government, and we’re all going to have to fight like hell to restore the rule of law, undo the damage, and regain our place in the world.

Here, if you’d like to call the family together, is the video.

The entire transcript can be found here, but here’s an little excerpt.

…Each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals: that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, the ideals that say every child should have opportunity, and every man and woman in this country who’s willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support their family and pursue their small piece of the American dream. Ideals that say we have a collective responsibility to care for the sick and the infirm. And we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bounty, the resources of this country and of this planet for future generations.

Each time we’ve gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back. The status quo pushes back. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change.

More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged, who want to keep us divided, and keep us angry and keep us cynical, because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.

It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. Rooted in our past, but also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes…

So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. That growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country. Regional, racial, religious, cultural, it made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics.

And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis, 10 years ago this week, that resulted in the worst recession in our lifetimes and caused years of hardships for the American people. For many of your parents, for many of your families.

Most of you weren’t old enough to fully focus on what was going on at the time, but when I came into office in 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. 800,000. Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second Great Depression…

And even though your generation is the most diverse in history, with a greater acceptance and celebration of our differences than ever before, those are the kinds of conditions that are ripe for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s dark history of racial and ethnic and religious division. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or don’t sound like us, or don’t pray like we do. That’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.

And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fearmongers, and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.

But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, we take our basic rights and freedom for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention, and stop engaging, and stop believing, and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.

A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex promises. No promise to fight for the little guy as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. They’ll promise to clean up corruption, and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability. And try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?

I understand this is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republican or liberals versus conservatives. At various times in our history, this kind of politics has infected both parties. Southern Democrats were the bigger defenders of slavery. It took a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to end it. Dixiecrats filibustered antilynching legislation, opposed the idea of expanding civil rights. And although it was a Democratic president and a majority Democratic Congress, spurred on by young marchers and protesters that got the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act over the finish line, those historic laws also got passed because of the leadership of Republicans like Illinois’ own Everett Dirksen…

So neither party has had a monopoly on wisdom. Neither party has been exclusively responsible for us going backwards instead of forwards, but I have to say this, because sometimes we hear ‘Oh, a plague on both your houses.’

Over the past few decades — it wasn’t true when Jim Edgar was a governor here in Illinois, or Jim Thompson was governor. Got a lot of good Republican friends here in Illinois, but over the past few decades, the politics of division, resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.

This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outside influence over our politics, systematically attacked voting rights to make it harder for young people, and minorities and the poor to vote. Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could, cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans, embraced wild conspiracy theories like those surrounding Benghazi. Or my birth certificate. Rejected science. Rejected facts on things like climate change. Embraced a rising absolutism from a willingness to default on America’s debt by not paying our bills, to a refusal to even meet, much less consider, a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court because he happened to be nominated by a Democratic president.

None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channeling Abraham Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I think, when he helped form the Republican Party. It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical.

It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country. It’s a vision who says the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and campaign finance, set the agenda. And over the past two years this vision is nearing its logical conclusion, so that with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they have provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me who I promise don’t need it. And don’t even pretend to pay for them. It’s supposed to be the party — supposedly — of fiscal conservatism. Suddenly deficits do not matter.

Even though just two years ago, when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn’t afford to help working families or seniors on Medicare, because the deficit was an existential crisis.

What changed? What changed?

They’re subsidizing corporate polluters with taxpayer dollars, allowing dishonest lenders to take advantage of veterans and students and consumers again. They have made it so that the only nation on Earth to pull out of the global climate agreement. It’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s us, the only country. There are a lot of countries in the world. We’re the only ones.

They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican Party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened? They’re sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, it’s already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance. And if they’re still in power next fall, you better believe they’re coming at it again. They have said so.

In a healthy democracy there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency, but right now there’s nothing. Republicans who know better in Congress — and they’re there — they’re quoted saying, ‘Yeah, we know this is kind of crazy,’ are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny, or accountability or consequence. They seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work…

And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out OK, because there are people inside who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check. I’m being serious here. That’s now how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and saying don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent. That’s not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal. These are extraordinary times.

And they’re dangerous times.

But here’s the good news. In two months, we have the chance — not the certainty, but the chance — to restore some semblance of some sanity to our politics. Because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and abuses of power. And that’s you. You and your vote…

I know we’ve got to win this first, and I hate to put even more pressure on Obama, but, listening to this speech, I can’t help but imagine what he might say to mark the occasion once the Trump crime family is driven from power. Maybe it’s because I was just in Gettysburg not too long ago, thinking about the historic weight of the words Lincoln spoke there, but I suspect there’s a really good chance that, when the time comes, Obama may be the one to put all of this in context and point the way forward. Let’s just hope he doesn’t make that speech from the site of an actual battleground.

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21 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 8, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Obama scares the GOP. They are out in full force talking about how unpopular he was, and how Trump’s victory was a referendum on Obama’s tenure, but they know Trump’s favorability rating, and they know Obama’s.

  2. ElsieGal
    Posted September 8, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    President Obama was stirring, passionate, measured, and eloquent (as usual), and I hope this speech is merely the first of many more to come. We need to be reminded of our better selves, and, to my mind, no one in recent history does it better–and more consistently–than he does. Thanks for this post, Mark.

  3. Posted September 8, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Today, Sarah Palin posted the following on Twitter.

    “Can You Name Them? Book Details 200 Reasons Obama Was ‘Worst President In History’”

  4. Posted September 8, 2018 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday, Fox News guest Gina Loudon:

    “My book uses science to show Trump is ‘most sound-minded’ president ever.”

    http://bit.ly/2Cps0tq

    Can one of you scientists reading this let me know what you think her methodology might have been? I’m curious as to how, using “science,” you could prove the sound-mindedness of Grover Cleveland and our other 44 presidents.

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted September 8, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I heard her book also used science to show that Goldwater was the most sound minded candidate ever after Trump.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldwater_rule

  6. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 8, 2018 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Obama is about to go down for illegal spying and trying to overthrow our elected President with false information. It’s treason. The documents will be declassified soon.

  7. YpsiLiz
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    HW: I’m assuming your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek. As for me, I love No Drama Obama. Eight blessed years of no scandals (other than the fake ones dreamed up by nut jobs), a rising economy, people getting health care, human rights being affirmed for more people. The downsides were the further expansion of the imperial presidency and the empowerment of ICE (I remember calling him the Deporter in Chief). I’m glad he’s back.

  8. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Your assumption is wrong as shit. Don’t you pay attention to current events?

  9. Ypsidoodledandy
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Wow. I’m stunned.

    Wherin Mark Maynard channels his inner Dick Cheney. Did you really say ”…regain our place in the world.”? Manifest destiny and all that?!

  10. Sad
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Ha -Ha HW! Obama is starting his collaboration with the deep state to institute his coup.

    And MM will be sharing your email.

  11. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Yeah, “starting”.

  12. Sad
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    You better watch out HW, a big storm is coming.

    Blue wave November 2018. Obama leading the charge!

    https://youtu.be/7d6-nHURnZg

  13. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Too bad The Storm is coming for your peeps on the left and the right. No Blue Wave, no more RINOs, none of that shit. FISA doc declassification = world of shit for the people you support.

    https://imgflip.com/i/1zn9g9

  14. anonymous
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro on Obama disrespecting Donald Trum: “How dare you? He is to be respected!”

    https://www.rawstory.com/?p=1348325

  15. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Trump calls her “Justice” Jeanine. Huh! Why call a judge “Justice”? Learn the comms -hahahaha.

  16. Lynne
    Posted September 10, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Obama making a speech about Trump going to prison would be so awesome. The best president of my lifetime making a speech about the downfall of the worst? I’ll have a viewing party!

  17. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 10, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Go to prison for what? Being elected? Obama has no ability to do that anymore. The President is cleaning out all Obama’s crony cling-ons in the FBI/DOJ. That had to happen before The Storm hits. 5,000 sealed indictments per month for ten months now! How are you going to manage eating everything you ever said? If you print it out it at least you will be getting plenty of fiber.

  18. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 10, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Do you think Rod Rosenstein will survive FISA declassification? As in ‘keep his job?’ Sounds like DJT is about ready to roll.

  19. Posted September 10, 2018 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    By “roll,” do you mean roll over on his children?

  20. Jcp2
    Posted September 10, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    #Crazytown.

  21. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 10, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, that’s what I mean.

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