The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

The full video is at C-Span and it is a must see.

After seeing the Republicans and the chattering class go on extended run scoring points left and but mostly right about tax cuts this and tax cuts that, the President brought his A-game to Williamsburg, Virginia delivering a fiery and often partisan  speech to the House Democratic caucus reminding his audience of the urgency of the hour noting that this "is the moment for leadership that matches the great test of our time." The President painted the grim economic picture with the starkest of brushes.

If we do not move swiftly to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is in crisis will be faced with catastrophe. Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Home will be lost. Families will go without health care. Our crippling dependence on foreign oil will continue. That is the price of inaction.

This isn't some abstract debate.  Last week, we learned that many of America's largest corporations are planning to layoff tens off tens of thousands of workers. Today, we learned that last week, the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. And tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report on top of the 2.6 million jobs we lost last year.

But his brilliance tonight was his embrace of the partisan. He attacked the Republicans for the "gift" of the ten trillion dollar debt that doubled on their watch. And he warned of the same old "false theories of the past."

The American people are watching. They did not send us here to get bogged down with the same old delay and distractions. They did not vote for the false theories of the past. They did not vote for the status quo - they sent us here to bring change, and we owe it to them to act.

The President warned his opponents pointblank not to "come to table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped create this crisis." But he also implored members of Congress "not make the perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary," asking them to "set aside the gameship" in order to get something done. Frankly, this was the speech that we have been awaiting with growing anxiety. Tonight he delivered a slam dunk.

The transcript as provided by the White House.

Remarks of President Barack Obama - AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

House Democratic Caucus

Williamsburg, Virginia

February 5, 2009

It's great to be here with so many friends. I'm glad to see the House Democratic Caucus is getting by just fine without my Chief of Staff. I want to thank John Larson for inviting me here tonight. This is John's first conference as Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, so we're both new at this.

I want to acknowledge the great Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who has proven to be an extraordinary leader for the American people. I want to thank Nancy, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn and the entire caucus for your hard work in passing an economic recovery plan that is so desperately needed for our country.  

You acted with a discipline that matches the urgency and gravity of the crisis we face. Because you know what's at stake. Every weekend you go home to your districts and you see factories that are closing and small businesses shutting their doors. You hear from families losing their homes; students that can't pay tuition; seniors who worry about whether they can retire with dignity, or see their kids and grandkids lead the better life that must be America's promise.

So you went to work, and you did your job. For that, you have my appreciation and admiration. As we meet here tonight, we know there is more work to be done. The Senate is still acting. And after it has its final vote, we will still need to resolve differences between the House and Senate bills. I urge you to complete that work without delay.

Look, I value the constructive criticism and healthy debate that is a foundation of American democracy.  I don't think any of us have cornered the market on wisdom, or that good ideas are the province of any party. The American people know that our challenges are great. They're not expecting Democratic solutions or Republican solutions - they want American solutions. And I have said that to those who have criticized the plan.

But what I have also said is - don't come to table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped create this crisis.

We're not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that in eight short years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin.  We can't embrace the losing formula that offers more tax cuts as the only answer to every problem we face, while ignoring critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, the soaring cost of health care, failing schools and crumbling bridges, roads and levees. I don't care whether you're driving a hybrid or an SUV - if you're headed for a cliff, you have to change direction.

The American people are watching. They did not send us here to get bogged down with the same old delay and distractions. They did not vote for the false theories of the past. They did not vote for the status quo - they sent us here to bring change, and we owe it to them to act. This is the moment for leadership that matches the great test of our time.

If we do not move swiftly to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is in crisis will be faced with catastrophe. Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Home will be lost. Families will go without health care. Our crippling dependence on foreign oil will continue. That is the price of inaction.

This isn't some abstract debate.  Last week, we learned that many of America's largest corporations are planning to layoff tens off tens of thousands of workers. Today, we learned that last week, the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. And tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report on top of the 2.6 million jobs we lost last year.

For you, those aren't statistics. They are constituents you know and families that you care about.  Now, I believe that legislation of such magnitude deserves the scrutiny that it's received, and you will get another chance to vote for this bill in the days to come. But I urge all of us to not make the perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary. The scale and scope of this plan is right.

So just as past generations of Americans have done in trying times, we can and must turn this moment of challenge into one of opportunity.  The plan that you've passed has at its core a simple idea:  let's put Americans to work doing the work that America needs done.

This plan will save or create over three million jobs - almost all of them in the private sector.

This plan will put people to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges; our dangerously  deficient dams and levees.

This plan will put people to work modernizing our health care system, not only saving us billions of dollars, but countless lives.

This plan will put people to work renovating more than 10,000 schools, giving millions of children the chance to learn in 21st century classrooms, libraries, and labs - and to all the scientists in the room today, you know what that means for America's future.

This plan will provide sensible tax relief for the struggling middle-class, unemployment insurance and continued health care coverage for those who've lost their jobs, and it will help prevent our states and local communities from laying off firefighters, teachers, and police.

Finally, this plan will begin to end the tyranny of oil in our time. It doubles our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels in three years.  It saves taxpayers billions of dollars by making federal buildings more energy efficient, and it saves the average working family hundreds on their energy bills. After decades of empty rhetoric, that is the down payment that we need on energy independence.

You know, there's a lot about running for President that is difficult - I don't miss sleeping in a different bed every night, or not seeing my kids as much as I'd like. But the best thing about being a candidate is that you get to see the country, and you get to know the character of the American people.

Over the last two years, I visited almost all fifty states. I've been in so many of your districts. I've passed through towns and cities, farms and factories. I know that people are hurting. I've heard their stories, and I've sensed their deep frustration. But I also know that these struggles have not diminished the strength and decency of the American people.

We hold within our hands the capacity to do great things on their behalf. It starts with this economic recovery plan. And soon, we will take on big issues like addressing the foreclosure issue, passing a budget, tackling our fiscal problems, fixing financial regulation and securing our country. We must not approach these challenges as Democrats - we must overcome them as Americans. That is why we must work in a serious, substantive, and civil way to build bipartisan support for action.

I promise you that my door is open, and my Administration will consult closely with you - the peoples' representatives - as we take on pressing priorities like energy and health care; education and infrastructure.

Already, you have made a difference. I'm pleased that in my very first days in office, I signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to make sure that all of our daughters have the same opportunity as our sons. I signed the Children's Health Insurance Program to provide coverage to 11 million children, and to make a down payment on comprehensive health care reform. I know it wasn't easy - it was a long time coming, and I appreciate your hard work over several years on behalf of America's children.

Tonight, I am confident that if we continue to work together, we can fulfill the promise of health care that is affordable for all Americans. We can create that new energy economy. We can provide a world-class education for our kids. We can unleash the talent, and innovation of the American people to compete in the 21st century. We can do all of that.

Now, we have a choice to make. Future generations will look back, and they will ask what we did when we confronted this crisis. What will they say?

Will they say that - once again - we failed to make the tough choices that lead to progress? Or will they say that this was the time that we came together, that we found our stake in one another as Americans, and that we voted for bold and aggressive action?

Together, we hold in our hands enormous responsibility. We also have an enormous opportunity.

We can write that next great chapter in American history. If we stay focused on the big picture; if we never forget the people who we are fighting for; if we represent the strength and dignity of the American people, then I know we can answer's history's call and renew America's promise.

Thank you.


I will note that compared with the solid but lacking passion speech that the President gave earlier in the day at the Department of Energy, this speech truly demonstrated the enormous talents of the President. This was the Obama that spoke from the heart, not the cool, calm, collected one we often see and hear. This speech had cadence, it had fire in the belly, it had soul. He spoke to me as an American and as a Democrat. This is the real deal. This is how politics is played. To win by getting things accomplished. More on this story from Politico.

Tags: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Fiscal Stimulus, President Obama, Williamsburg Democratic Retreat (all tags)

Comments

21 Comments

An excellent performance

Nice to see Obama come out guns blazing.

by Pravin 2009-02-05 10:22PM | 0 recs
hmm

yeah, but who is gonna be shot?

by Zapata 2009-02-06 05:55AM | 0 recs
thanks for this post

That is very welcome news.

It makes me angry to see so-called "centrist" Dems trying to take spending out of the stimulus and add tax cuts like fixing the alternative minimum tax. I know people who get hit by the AMT, and I assure you that if this problem is fixed they are mainly going to save more--they will not go out and spend all the money they get.

The chief economist for Moody's calculated that fixing the AMT only increases GDP by 49 cents for every dollar it costs the federal government--a lot less bang for the buck than many kinds of government spending:

http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?dia ryId=11354

by desmoinesdem 2009-02-06 12:33AM | 0 recs
Filibuster

Can someone please explain to me: Realistically, what would happen if Harry Reid called the Republicans' bluff and actually forced them to go through with a real "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" filibuster?  Would it be easy to pull off?  Would they spend the whole time talking about contraceptives?  Would the public see them as obstructionist?  And when was the last time an actual, real filibuster happened?

I'm trying to understand, what is Harry Reid afraid of exactly?  There must be some reason why he thinks forcing Republicans to actually filibuster will backfire.

by Will Graham 2009-02-06 01:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Filibuster

I think Reid was being sensitive to Obama's call for bipartisanship.

But now that it appears the Republicans aren't dancing, Obama is shifting gears and going on a partisan offensive.  I would expect Reid to take Obama's lead, and threaten to call the bluff.

Wouldn't it be great to see a Republican filibuster?

by Sieglinde 2009-02-06 03:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Good Work, Everybody!

 Just goes to show how wrong I've been all along. The efforts of the Progressive Blogosphere are much more effective than I thought. Kudos to all. And my sincerest apologies.

by QTG 2009-02-06 03:33AM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

Obama is coming out strong, and it is good to see that the old Republican ways that "have created this crisis" are being discarded as utter failures instead of taken into consideration to hammer out a compromise.  In the absence of Franken the reality is that we need all Democrats and Independents to be on board and TWO Republicans to come over to get to 60 votes, but it can be done with moderate tweaking to get the wavering Democrats plus Collins and Snowe on board.  

We can't lose sight of the fact that the Senate bill, as it stands now, is for around $930 Billion while the House bill came in at $819 Billion.
Given the fact that the Senate is a more moderate body it wasn't realistic to expect the House bill to be adjusted upwards by over $100 Billion in conference to align with the Senate version of the bill, but that the Senate bill would see a revision downwards to come closer to the House bill.  The estimates are that the "Gang of 17" is intent on cutting between $50 to $90 Billion out of the Senate bill.   That would bring it to $870 Billion on the high end or towards $840 Billion on the low end.  I think most can live with the adjustments to get the package passed.  

What has some spooked was yesterday's Rasmussen poll that showed that a majority of the American people now opposes the stimulus bill by a 6% margin, 37% for and 43% against. Republicans have been using the poll all day to point out that the public has turned against the bill.  However, what they don't mention is that a CBS poll taken during the same time period showed majority approval for the stimulus bill to the tune of 51% to 39%, a +12% margin favoring passage of the bill.  That is down from earlier polling, but still provides a healthy pro-stimulus package margin, nonetheless.     With the multi-layered offensive from Obama and Democratic leaders support for the bill should go up again markedly.

The thing that makes this phase of political theater so intriguing is the fact that the Democrats are attacking the failed economic theories of the Republicans as the very reason we are in the economic mess we are in, giving no opening whatsoever to repeat the same mistakes again, instead reminding the American people of the failures of the past perpetuated by the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress.

I also think that the Senate bill was deliberately bloated to over $900 Billion to give the few Republicans needed to pass the bill as well as concerned moderate Republicans the opportunity to feel involved in trimming it down by "tens of Billions."   If it works in the end, this is a good example of how this should be done, given the reality in the Senate.  

by devilrays 2009-02-06 04:00AM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

I wonder how many people oppose the stimulus because they think it isn't ambitious enough.  Presumably even if those people are disappointed they're not going to turn around and vote Republican because of it.

by Steve M 2009-02-06 04:23AM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

Good point.  On balance the need for the stimulus package is understood, some just feel it goes too far, others feel it does not go far enough. Republicans are trying to sell the notion that Americans are now in opposition to this particular stimulus package, which is simply untrue.  Even if it were true, we don't know how many of those opposed are on the opposite side of the Republicans, want more spending and less tax-cuts.

Today's Gallup poll shows that nothing has changed in terms of public support for the stimulus package, it has remained stable, despite all the posturing:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/114184/Public -Support-Stimulus-Package-Unchanged.aspx

by devilrays 2009-02-06 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

 "If we do not move swiftly to sign the American      Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is in crisis will be faced with catastrophe" -

This not A Game material.  

It sounds like a childish threat.  Bill Clinton would NEVER have used such a statement.  His econ advisor gene Sperling once said that the Bush admin talked our nation into the 2001 economy by their grandstanding and woe is us talk about the economy -

I find it to be quite reckless for our new President to use such words.

Quite reckless.

by Zapata 2009-02-06 05:54AM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

His econ advisor gene Sperling must have not seen Bill Clinton campaign in 1992 then.

Anyway there's no comparison - Bill Clinton inherited an economy on the upswing of a business cycle and Barack Obama has inherited the worst economy since the 1930's.  Just because he says it doesn't automatically make it untrue.

But I know that makes little difference to the Clinton Fetishists.

by Jess81 2009-02-06 04:52PM | 0 recs
talking our economy down further

is the dumbest idea ever.

It seems that the Obama team is following the Bushies on this one.

Bill NEVER in 1993 went all doom and gloom -

EVER!

Thats the point and the difference.

Bill kept Hope Alive -

Dubya and Obama both said that the sky is falling.

Which attitude builds consumer confidence levels and gets people in a buying mood?

I think Obama's message team ought talk to Gene.

by Zapata 2009-02-06 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re:

 difficult to argue with your logic... from my side of the elevator.

by QTG 2009-02-06 08:13AM | 0 recs
Re: talking our economy down further

You are out of your mind.

The economy IS in the tank.

We just had 8 years of a President that denied reality...thankfully now we have a President that looks at reality, sees it for what it is and actually tries to improve the situation.

As to whether or not this is A-game level stuff, it clearly is.

He declared the problem, declared the solution, placed the blame where it belongs and dared them to be part of fixing it. My only regret is that it was not on national TV.

by JDF 2009-02-06 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: talking our economy down further

saying the sky will fall if...

is not FDR like.

Sorry.

by Zapata 2009-02-06 06:09PM | 0 recs
Re: talking our economy down further

Didn't realize that FDR, who is a wonderful model for the Presidency, gave us the ONLY way to accomplish what needs be done.

This is not the 30's and 40's friend, you might have noticed by the existence of things such as the internet...and we are not practicing the politics of the 30s or 40's. We have an opposition party that is more interested in power than in fixing our problems. We have what might be the weakest ever majority party and a President who needs to get things done YESTERDAY. A little bit of urgency is not out of order.

by JDF 2009-02-07 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: talking our economy down further

In fairness, Obama did not declare the solution, Pelosi did.  The House devised the stmulus bill.  Also, Obama has not placed blame effectively, especially since his bipartisan desires are at least in part responsible for the debacle going on in the senate.  Hopefully, he will take off the gloves next week and start swinging.

by orestes 2009-02-07 10:23AM | 0 recs
Re: talking our economy down further

The difference between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is that Bill Clinton was a messiah, the greatest president ever who so compassionately and with mercy dismantled the social safety net and with great genius made being pro-death penalty mandatory for all Democrats seeking higher office.

Obama?  He's just arrogant.

by Jess81 2009-02-06 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: talking our economy down further

youve got a serious case of C.D.S.

I bet you get over it in the next few months -

as long as you keep your eyes open and put down the pom-poms.

btw Obamas pro death penalty too.

by Zapata 2009-02-06 06:15PM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

I believe it works the other way around - the number of votes you have to invoke cloture and stop the fillibuster is all that matters and that is based on the number of Senators in the body (99 today).  I don't think the number voting not to invoke cloture matters which is why Gregg's decision to recuse himself on the stimulus is a problem.

by jmnyc 2009-02-06 07:23AM | 0 recs
Re: The President Takes His A-Game to Williamsburg

You are, sadly, correct.

Of course Harry Reid could just actually force them to filibuster... but that would require him to, you know, actually be a Democrat.

by JDF 2009-02-06 08:47AM | 0 recs

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