Another fantastic joint-session address by an “adult” president delivered to petulant children (half of them at least).
Naturally, there were aspects I abundantly agreed with and several things that made me cringe. But the big picture is a president who’s making an effort to dismantle Reaganomics during an era of unprecedented divisiveness and obstruction from the opposition party.
He pitched government as a great equalizer, as an engine to both strengthen the American economy but to also force the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share, while also urging corporate responsibility. The Justice Department, for example, has been tasked with investigating the mortgage lenders who helped to cause the crash.
The address was so completely opposite of the Reagan mantra “government is the problem” and a reversal of the Clinton proclamation “the era of big government is over.” At long last, a return to the values that gave us our robust middle class and a solid manufacturing base in the post-war era.
What didn’t I like? An “all of the above” energy policy which ostensibly would include “drill baby drill” offshore exploration. I didn’t like the “any means necessary” approach to Iran. And I winced at the stupid milk joke, which was stupid even by politician standards.
But overall, this was a speech that underscored his willingness to serve all of America while concurrently accusing the Republicans of obstruction for the sake of bring down his administration, rather than any sort of substantive beef.
And the ending was, as Lawrence O’Donnell observed, spectacular.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates — a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary — and Hillary Clinton — a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job — the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other — because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
O’Donnell said he should have saved this for the convention. I think it was perfectly timed.