Obama Knocks Fox . . ‘Debate Over More Or Less Gov’t Doesn’t Fit Our Times’ . . . Says He’s Trying To Bring Civility To Politics
From Weasel Zippers:
WARNING: This speech will make blood shoot out your eyes. If you aren’t outraged after reading this sh*t he spewed today, you might need to check your pulse . . .
President Obama on Saturday urged graduates at the University of Michigan to participate in public life as the president forcefully defended an activist role for government in dealing with society’s problems.
The president used his commencement speech at Ann Arbor to explain his theory that democracy requires government to have an important role. He also called for civility in political debate as he chastised the overheated media world of Washington, which he is fond of blaming for the ongoing partisan battles that have rocked Washington on almost every major issue from healthcare to immigration.
The speech outlined Obama’s core vision: Individuals have a political responsibility to get involved in public life. Civility allows them to work together to build democracy and that allows them use the power of government to improve things for everyone.
“We can and should debate the role of government in our lives,” Obama told the graduates. “But remember, as you are asked to meet the challenges of our time, that the ability for us to adapt our government to the needs of the age has helped make our democracy work since its inception.”
Some the tropes that Obama used are part of his standard campaign-trail speech that he gives at most stops. For example, he related again how he enjoys getting away from Washington, even if just for a short time.
“I am happy to join you all today, and even happier to spend a little time away from Washington. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a beautiful city. And it sure is nice living above the store; can’t beat the commute. It’s just that sometimes, all you hear in Washington is the clamor of politics – a noise that can drown out the voices of the people who sent you there.”
Also standard was his usual dig at the media, especially poignant since Obama is scheduled to attend the White House Correspondents dinner Saturday night. Obama explained how a question from a Virginia kindergartner caused him to think. The child, in a letter, had asked: “Are people being nice?”
“Well, if you turn on the news today – particularly one of the cable channels – you can see why even a kindergartner would ask this question,” Obama said. “We’ve got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story – which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make the most outrageous comments.”
As a former community organizer, politics for Obama is something very practical but as a former college teacher, he likes to take a long view.
“Since the days of our founding, American politics has never been a particularly nice business – and it’s always been a little less gentle during times of great change,” Obama noted. He explained how newspapers have trashed politicians since the founding days of the republic. Politicians’ politics, social activities, family ties and even policies have all been fair game. Duels and physical fights in the government corridors, not unheard of.
“The point is, politics has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart, and if you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up,” Obama said. “Democracy in a nation of more than 300 million people is inherently difficult. It has always been noisy and messy; contentious and complicated.”
Obama then challenged the graduates:
“The question for your generation is this: How will you keep our democracy going? At a moment when our challenges seem so big and our politics seem so small, how will you keep our democracy alive and well in this century?”
The first step, the president said, was to ensure a proper role for government, “that, while limited, can still help us adapt to a changing world.”
There are some things that only government can do effectively, he argued, citing infrastructure worker training, coping with economic downturns and even healthcare. Not surprisingly, these have emerged as the pillars of the Obama administrations efforts: economic stimulus, financial regulation, and health insurance overhaul.”
“The truth is, the debate we’ve had for decades between more government and less government doesn’t really fit the times in which we live,” he said. “Our government shouldn’t try to guarantee results, but it should guarantee a shot at opportunity for every American who’s willing to work hard.”
The second point Obama made was the need for civility in political discourse. He derided the name-calling and frenzied tempo of denunciation.
“As I’ve found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of slash-and-burn politics isn’t easy, Obama said. “And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: Treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.
“Today’s 24-7 echo chamber amplifies the most inflammatory sound bites louder and faster than ever before. It has also, however, given us unprecedented choice. Whereas most of America used to get their news from the same three networks over dinner or a few influential papers on Sunday morning, we now have the option to get our information from any number of blogs or websites or cable news shows. This development can be both good and bad for democracy,” he said.
Lastly is participation, which, Obama said, was based on service to community and country.
“Participation in public life doesn’t mean that you all have to run for public office – though we could certainly use some fresh faces in Washington. But it does mean that you should pay attention and contribute in any way that you can. Stay informed. Write letters, or make phone calls on behalf of an issue you care about. If electoral politics isn’t your thing, continue the tradition so many of you started here at Michigan and find a way to serve your community and your country – an act that will help you stay connected to your fellow citizens and improve the lives of those around you,” he said.