Byline: Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow High: President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress.
Spec: Politics; Government; Barack Obama
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: This is MSNBC‘s live coverage of President Barack Obama‘s first address to a joint session of Congress. As you see, Captain Sullenberger of the U.S. Airways flight being introduced to this, the virtual State of the Union on just his 35
Keith Olbermann with Rachel Maddow in New York, Chris Matthews in Washington.
The president is expected to give a frank, but he hopes, hopeful view of the imperiled economy. Chris, briefly, how on earth does he do both?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: I think he has to show he has a sure grip on the economic problem facing the country and a pretty clear idea of how to fix it.
OLBERMANN: And, by the way, such is the seriousness of this entire process, as we watch the Supreme Court let in by justice—I‘m sorry, it‘s the diplomatic corps, I just heard, I didn‘t know that was not a justice of the Supreme Court—that in fact was the ambassador from Djibouti.
The seriousness of the joint session theme is such that President Obama, when he is introduced, will be introduced by two different people. When you hear that cry of “Madam Speaker,” that will be made by the House majority floor services chief; the rest of it, “The president of the United States” part, will be made by the House sergeant at arms.
And as we await that, still several minutes hence—Rachel, how does this new president wisely spend or even accrue some interest on what the polls say is an enormous opening balance, if you will, in his political capital account?
RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST: Well, just thinking about that sort of almost absurd representation of that split in power in Washington that you just described, “Madam Speaker” by one person, “The president of the United States” by another person, it‘s such an important emblem of where power is based in our government. And right now, for Barack Obama, the power of the executive branch, his political capital is based on his connection with the American people, his direct appeal with the American people.
And I think he will—he can grow his political capital in this speech if he reminds Congress that he is the one who‘s so popular, and that the American people are keyed into him in a way that they are not keyed into anybody else in our government.
ANNOUNCER: Madam Speaker, the chief justice and the associate justices of the Supreme Court.
OLBERMANN: And you should bear with me, so, here comes the Supreme Court.
Chris, we were talking earlier about the president‘s early—and again, early, 35 days on the job, early reluctance (ph) to bring that hammer down. It‘s got to be—as you said earlier—it‘s got to be one or the other. You‘re going to be always compromising or perhaps you‘re going to have to, as the British would say, “Show some stick now and again.”
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that he has commitments that only he has made. The Republican Party doesn‘t have a commitment to national health care. He does. And his party does generally.
He‘s going to have to take the lead on that and really bring them in. The Chamber of Commerce, the pharmaceutical companies, whoever he can bring aboard, but it‘s got to be his ship and he‘s got to be captain of it. But, clearly, on health care, I think that‘s the one we‘re going to remember. Can he get it done this year? I still think that‘s the standard for his first year of his presidency.
OLBERMANN: And, Chris, we would be remiss if we did not underscore what we are seeing right now. That‘s Justice Ginsburg coming into repeated waves of applause from the House and the Senate. Clearly overjoyed by—she‘s beaming with if not good health then certainly improved health. What a great sight to see, a great start for you there.
MATTHEWS: Yes, and unfortunately, Senator Jim Bunning, who I loved as a baseball pitcher and liked as a guy, made a very unfortunate statement about her ill health. You got to be so careful about talking about other people‘s health. It‘s just a rule of life, I think, in this case.
MADDOW: And she, of course .
MATTHEWS: She‘s had—she‘s had some medical problems.
MADDOW: She, of course, showed everybody up by coming back after that pancreatic cancer surgery and being incredibly aggressive in court in the oral arguments, of which she did not miss a single day, despite her treatment for pancreatic cancer.
OLBERMANN: And we just note as we watch the first lady enter to, again, a great applause. Michelle Obama and another, I guess, there are several of these tonight, Rachael, another milestone moment in American history, as she kisses the first lady—the wife of the vice president. Another milestone—we keep forgetting the history. We have been so wrapped up in the policy, we forget the history.
OLBERMAN: The next announcement will be of the members of the cabinet. We should note that referring to Senator Bunning‘s faux pas regarding Justice Ginsburg, he did after some prompting at least, apologize for those remarks after the fact. So at least he did a little housework of his own cleaning that up. But, again, back to this idea of what the president does now to balance—
ANNOUNCER: Madam Speaker, the president‘s cabinet.
OLBERMANN: What the president and his cabinet—which, of course, you can see just arrived—what they do now to balance this idea between being realistic with the American people—and here‘s another sight we did not—could not have predicted a year ago.
OLBERMANN: A member of the president‘s cabinet, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chris. Again, just a bit of moment.
MATTHEWS: It‘s just a rich—we‘re going to have so many faces to watch tonight, Keith and Rachel. But the secretary of state, of course, there she is—just back from a big trip to Asia. What a formidable position she‘s in right now as a cabinet member, formidable. And then we‘re going to see John McCain, who‘s been a bit grumpy lately.
OLBERMANN: Well, look who‘s behind Secretary Clinton, it‘s Secretary Geithner.
MATTHEWS: Oh, there‘s Geithner.
OLBERMANN: We‘re talking about people who are in important positions. And behind him, Secretary Gates, who‘s in the news today because of this apparent switch to a 19-month withdrawal strategy from Iraq.
So, again, we forget all of the milestones because we have had such a heavy news load, Chris, in the last month or so. There has been so much back-and-forth about the stimulus and other economic issues. We forget about the change in power that this non-State of the Union, State of the Union, if you will, really represent. These are all—these are the people on the sidelines two months ago.
MATTHEWS: Right. And there‘s Tom Vilsack, who was an early candidate for president in this cycle now secretary of agriculture. Ken Salazar, who was a senator until very recently from Colorado, now aboard the team. I guess we‘re going to realize tonight how many people we‘ve really gotten to know in the last couple of weeks. A lot of public personalities on display tonight, and, of course, we‘ll be watching how their faces react to the words in his speech.
MADDOW: Just beyond Tom Vilsack there, of course, is the newest member of President Obama‘s cabinet, Hilda Solis, just confirmed today by the United States Senate with 80 votes. Hilda Solis, her nomination held up for two months by Republicans in the Senate who eventually today relented and allowed her to be confirmed. There‘s also Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, of course, a Nobel laureate in physics, just like us three, you guys.
OLBERMANN: Speak for yourself.
MATTHEWS: And that was Ray LaHood walking by, shaking hands on the Republican side, because, of course, he‘s a Republican member of Congress until recently.
OLBERMANN: There will be no—we don‘t expect with this president, we don‘t expect any—as the chief of staff, Mr. Emanuel comes into view here—we don‘t expect any long, lingering embraces with any of the congresswomen, as we see Secretary Clinton greeting the justices and Justice Ginsburg. And again, just a marvelous thing to see her there and looking as good as she can under the circumstances and probably better than anybody expected.
Without trying to drawn out the pomp and the ceremony here with too much policy, how, again, Chris, how, again, do you come out and be realistic about this economic situation and yet be optimistic enough so that people can‘t hit you over the head with an idea that you‘re a drag, that you‘re—forgive my use of this phrase—that you‘re “Jimmy Cartering” the economy?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that you can‘t talk it down and you can‘t talk it up too much because it‘s not the right time. I think we must remember, I guess, a bit of Winston Churchill now. When you‘re in the beginning of a war, don‘t talk about the end of the war. Talk about perhaps the beginning and ending, getting into it, the fact that they‘re now joining the fight.
I think what he‘ll do tonight, and I can‘t give away the embargoed copy, but what I know he‘s going to do tonight is try to separate himself from the past—what he inherited from what he‘s going to do. And really draw the line between the situation he‘s confronted, and he‘s confronted with still today and what his policies are, and how those policies are going to be dramatically different. And they‘re going to subscribe to the promises he made in the campaign.
One great bit of number I think you missed in the numbers you have gone through from “The Times” and the “Washington Post” polling today, that people really do believe he‘s delivering on change, that whatever we do in terms of Iraq, it‘s a dramatic change of what we‘ve gotten into over there. We were stuck in the sand over there. And he clearly would not have taken us there in the first place.
That‘s what I keep reminding myself of. However, I might disagree with points of policy. He would have never taken us into that—into that sandpit in the fist place.
OLBERMANN: About the economy, not the end, not the beginning of the end, but maybe the end of the beginning.
MATTHEWS: End of the beginning. I think you‘re going to see something of that threshold displayed tonight. Well, I know it.
OLBERMANN: We‘re told that—
MATTHEWS: I can‘t say it.
OLBERMANN: We can say this—we know the president has left the holding room and is making his way towards the House chamber to be introduced as we said in dual fashion in a matter of moments. I guess it‘s good that we‘re only running eight minutes behind. It is his first formal address to Congress.
We know, Rachel, that he is going to use a reference to this being a time of reckoning for the economy, that‘s a strong word. Is it a dangerous word, do you think?
MADDOW: Well, I think that to a certain extent, you have to recognize that everybody reads the news. Everybody has heard how bad the economy is. And everybody understands how dire the warnings are.
What we don‘t necessarily understand is what to think of it and what to hope for and what would be good news and what would be bad news from our government. I think it‘s time for context. It‘s time for putting it in context for what the government is capable of, what this government will do that the last government did not. I think it‘s a time to make it real.
OLBERMANN: Forgive me. Here we are. The next voices you hear will introduce the president of the United States.
ANNOUNCER: Madam Speaker, the president of the United States.
OLBERMANN: Announced by the majority floor services chief and the House sergeant at arms, proceeded by a small group of phalanx of photographers moving out like deer coming out of the woods during some sort of thunderstorm.
The president of the United States, the 44
And, again, Rachel, another—they‘re going to fall off here like ripened fruit—another moment of history, but not only awaiting us but this one right here.
MADDOW: Yes. You know, we—you forget that you have seen sort of the same cast of characters over the last eight years. Between seven State of the Unions and one sort of State of the Union from George W. Bush, his cabinet changed a little bit over time. Congressional leadership changed a little bit over time.
But this is—you see the captain come in and we see this president walk in and, boy, Washington is a different place than it was just a few months ago. And, boy, this country is a different place than it has ever been before. We‘re living this history. Sometimes we‘re too close to it, I think, to appreciate it. And then, you have moments like this and it all seems like—it all seems really simple and really big again.
OLBERMANN: Chris, when you asked for that—as we see that moment there, shared histories there with John Lewis embracing the president, Congressman Lewis—when you asked, well, 35 days, where is that change we can believe in? This event is—would be change enough in almost any other set of circumstances. If there were not an economic crisis, we would be sitting here just jaws agape just at this sight.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, I was thinking the other day that however well this new president does, and we always wish he does well, he will do well, that for everybody, that the fact of his background, his ethnicity, his race, if you will, will not be a factor in the way he‘s judged. It‘s so fascinating how quickly you get past something like race in this particular case.
I am so impressed by the fact we‘re going to be judging this fellow on the basis of his policies, how well he, you know, reconciles his policies with what he promised and how well he delivers. And nobody‘s really going to say—oh, it‘s because he‘s black or you know. I think we really already have gone through something here, and it‘s—I do watch the members of the Black Caucus here .
OLBERMANN: Look at that, Chris.
OLBERMANN: Look at the look at the embrace of Justice Ginsburg. That followed by two seconds .
MATTHEWS: And Clarence Thomas, too. It‘s followed next with Clyburn.
OLBERMANN: And it‘s followed with Congressman Clyburn behind him. But that embrace followed by about 30 seconds, a kiss from the secretary of state. If we could have guessed who the secretary of state would be or that she would give this president a kiss a year ago today, you and I could have made all of the money we could ever want in Vegas doing so.
MATTHEWS: The politics is phenomenal—phenomenal. And we are seeing it again here.
OLBERMANN: The president has made his way to the podium with great affability (ph), given the number of hands to shake and embraces to give. As he moves up there, the roar will continue. They have to try to silence this joint session. But they won‘t do it too quickly.
MADDOW: There are these moments when it comes into the British Parliament, and they actually start hooting. It doesn‘t happen too often in Congress, but we actually have some hooting.
OLBERMANN: The copies of the speech. And there‘s a proud American, Michelle Obama, of course.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The president, as you heard, jumping the gun a little bit, with a bit of a “thank you” to the assembled senators and congressmen.
OBAMA: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And another one.
Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow. We thank you both right here and we will gather again when President Obama‘s address is complete. Let‘s enjoy a little of the natural ambience coming from that House chamber right now.
OBAMA: Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and the first lady of the United States... (APPLAUSE)
... who‘s around here somewhere...
... I have come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.
I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others, and rightly so. If you haven‘t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your family.
You don‘t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It‘s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It‘s the job you thought you‘d retire from but now have lost, the business you built your dreams upon that‘s now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.
The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.
OBAMA: But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don‘t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories, in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.
Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
OBAMA: Now, if we‘re honest with ourselves, we‘ll admit that for too long we have not always met these responsibilities, as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or to look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we‘ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.
The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank.
We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy, yet we import more oil today than ever before.
The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform.
Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for.
And though all of these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.
In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity, where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election.
A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations...
Regulations—regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn‘t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.
Well, that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.
Now is the time to act boldly and wisely, to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.
Now is the time to jump-start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I‘d like to talk to you about tonight.
It‘s an agenda that begins with jobs. As soon...
As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by Presidents Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets, not because I believe in bigger government—I don‘t—not because I‘m not mindful of the massive debt we‘ve inherited—I am.
I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. And that‘s why I pushed for quick action.
And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.
Over—over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, laying broadband and expanding mass transit.
Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.
Because of this plan, 95 percent of working households in America will receive a tax cut, a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1
Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college.
And Americans—and Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm. Now...
... I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work, and I understand that skepticism.
OBAMA: Here in Washington, we‘ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.
And that‘s why I‘ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.
I have told each of my cabinet, as well as mayors and governors across the country, that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend.
I‘ve appointed a proven and aggressive inspector general to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud.
And we have created a new Web site called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.
So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track, but it is just the first step, because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.
I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family‘s well-being. You should also know that the money you‘ve deposited in banks across the country is safe, your insurance is secure. You can rely on the continued operation of our financial system; that‘s not the source of concern.
The concern is that, if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins. You see...
You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education, how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.
But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. And with so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or even to each other.
When there‘s no lending, families can‘t afford to buy homes or cars, so businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.
That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, to restore confidence, and restart lending.
And we will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small-business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.
Second—second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages.
It‘s a plan that won‘t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values, Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped to bring about. In fact, the average family who refinances today can save nearly $2,000 per year on their mortgage.
Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.
OBAMA: Now, I understand that, on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives bank bailouts with no strings attached and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions, but such an approach won‘t solve the problem.
And our goal is to quicken the day when we restart lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all. And I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer.
This time—this time, CEOs won‘t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks, or buy fancy drapes, or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.
Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government and, yes, probably more than we‘ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade.
That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.
Now, I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and the results that followed. So were the American taxpayers; so was I.
So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you: I get it.
But I also know that, in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger or yield to the politics of the moment.
(APPLAUSE) My job—our job—is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility.
I will not send—I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can‘t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can‘t get a mortgage.
That‘s what this is about. It‘s not about helping banks; it‘s about helping people.
It‘s not about helping banks; it‘s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend. And if they can get a loan, too, maybe they‘ll finally buy that car or open their own business.
Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.
So—so I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary, because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system.
It is time. It is time.
It is time to put in place tough, new commonsense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation and punishes shortcuts and abuse.
OBAMA: The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we‘re taking to revive our economy in the short term, but the only way to fully restore America‘s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world.
The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care, the schools that aren‘t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.
In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we‘ve come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or a laundry list of programs.
I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America, as a blueprint for our future.
My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we‘ve inherited: a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.
Given these realities, everyone in this chamber—Democrats and Republicans—will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars, and that includes me.
But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges.
I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves, that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity, for history tells a different story.
History reminds us that, at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas.
In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry.
From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.
In the wake of war and depression, the G.I. Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history.
And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.
In each case, government didn‘t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.
We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again.
That is why, even as it cuts back on programs we don‘t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.
It begins with energy.
We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21
Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders, and I know you don‘t, either. It is time for America to lead again.
Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation‘s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We‘ve also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history, an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, in science and technology.
We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.
OBAMA: But to truly transform our economy, to protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.
So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. That‘s what we need.
And to support—to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.
Speaking of our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not and will not protect them from their own bad practices.
But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it; scores of communities depend on it; and I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.
Now, none of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don‘t do what‘s easy. We do what‘s necessary to move this country forward.
And for that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.
This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, 1 million more Americans have lost their health insurance.
It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it is one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget. Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold. We can‘t afford to do it.
Already, we‘ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we‘ve done in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American children whose parents work full-time.
Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives.
It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American, including me, by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.
And—and it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that‘s one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.
This budget builds on these reforms. It includes a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform, a down payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It‘s a commitment...
It‘s a commitment that‘s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue, and it‘s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.
Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform. That‘s why I‘m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.
I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. Once again, it will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and our conscience long enough.
So let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.
OBAMA: The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.
In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity. It is a pre-requisite.
Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma, and yet just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish.
This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education, from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have to make to the children of America.
Already, we‘ve made a historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We‘ve dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life.
We‘ve made college affordable for nearly 7 million more students, 7 million...
... and we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children‘s progress.
But we know that our schools don‘t just need more resources; they need more reform. And that is why...
That is why this budget creates new teachers—new incentives for teacher performance, pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We‘ll invest—we‘ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools. It is...
It is our responsibility as lawmakers and as educators to make this system work, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.
So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.
And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It‘s not just quitting on yourself; it‘s quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American.
That‘s why—that‘s why we will support—we will provide the support necessary for all young Americans to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. That is a goal we can meet.
That‘s a goal we can meet.
Now—now, I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why, if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage...
And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch, as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country, Senator Edward Kennedy.
OBAMA: These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children, but it is up to us to ensure they walk through them.
In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent, for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences, or help with homework, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to their child.
I speak to you not just as a president, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children‘s education must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That‘s an American issue.
And there is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children, and that‘s the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. That is critical.
I agree, absolutely.
See, I know we can get some consensus in here.
With the deficit we inherited, the cost...
... the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that, as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down. That is critical.
Now, I‘m proud that we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.
And yesterday, I—I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs.
As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time, but we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade. In this budget...
In this budget, we will end education programs that don‘t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don‘t need them. We‘ll eliminate...
We‘ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq...
... and—and reform...
... and—and reform our defense budget so that we‘re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don‘t use. We will...
We will root out—we will root out the waste and fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn‘t make our seniors any healthier. We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.
In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
Now, let me be clear. Let me be absolutely clear, because I know you‘ll end up hearing some of the same claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people. If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, a quarter million dollars a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.
OBAMA: In fact—not a dime.
In fact—in fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut—that‘s right, a tax cut—for 95 percent of working families. And, by the way, these checks are on the way.
Now, to preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing cost in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come, and we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.
Finally, because we‘re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead 10 years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules and, for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For seven years, we‘ve been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.
Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.
And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.
(APPLAUSE) As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: We honor your service; we are inspired by your sacrifice; and you have our unyielding support.
To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.
OBAMA: To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend, because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. And that is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists...
... because living our values doesn‘t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger.
And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment here tonight.
In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun, for we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America.
We cannot shun the negotiating table nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.
To seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and
her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet
the challenges of the 21
proliferation, from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty -
we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.
And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe, for the world depends on us having a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world‘s.
As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us, watching to see what we do with this moment, waiting for us to lead.
Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege, one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans, for in our hands lies the ability to shape our world, for good or for ill.
I know that it‘s easy to lose sight of this truth, to become cynical and doubtful, consumed with the petty and the trivial.
But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places, that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Americans who are anything but ordinary.
I think of Leonard Abess, a bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn‘t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, “I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn‘t feel right getting the money myself.”
I think about...
I think about—I think about Greensburg—Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community, how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.
“The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”
OBAMA: I think about Ty‘Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina, a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.
She had been told that her school is hopeless. But the other day after class, she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this chamber. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp.
The letter asks us for help and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself, and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina, but also the world. We are not quitters.”
That‘s what she said: “We are not quitters.” These words...
These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that, even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres, a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.
Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.
I know that we haven‘t agreed on every issue thus far.
There are surely times in the future where we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.
I know that.
That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.
And if we do, if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then some day, years from now, our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.”
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Forceful, energized, repeatedly inspiring members of both parties to rise to their feet in the House chamber, the 44
This crossroads of history, as he put it, has a chance to reshape the country into something better, a cross perhaps, not necessarily to compare the three men—an invocation, perhaps, is the better words, of Presidents Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, as President Obama receives the congratulations of a fired-up Senate and a fired-up House.
Keith Olbermann back with you from New York, Rachel Maddow with me here in our MSNBC headquarters, and Chris Matthews in Washington.
And, Rachel, let me start with you.
This idea of crisis as opportunity, rather a deft way to begin, I thought.
MADDOW: And it gives you the opportunity, not only to define the way that you—meaning Barack Obama—wants to head—take this crisis on head-on. It also gives you the opportunity to be reconciling toward people with whom you may have political differences, but those differences in context of the crisis seem pretty small.
I thought this was a fascinating balance of combative and reconciling
the president pointedly looking towards the Republican side of the room when talking about issues like tax cuts, inspiring, almost on purpose, it seemed, dueling ovations on issues like the debt, but then ending and repeatedly returning to this idea of reconciling and about our differences being smaller than the challenges that we face together, toeing the line between those two in a way that I think will reward both sides, certainly rewarding our dial-testers on both red and blue, both of those lines staying up at the top the entire speech, essentially.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I don‘t know that that necessarily gave us great insight, since it seem to bottom out at about 9.5.
OLBERMANN: But, Chris Matthews, the—the—if you get John McCain
to stand up and applaud on the subject of ending the war in Iraq, you have
you have probably done a pretty good job of selling the concept of bipartisanship, or at least semi-bipartisanship.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they seeming—they are seeming to converge on that point.
I have to tell you, what I liked about the speech is, it had a spine to it. Sure there was some Babbittry in it, like clean coal and things like that. But I think when he—he really said when he said I‘m going to tax people more who make more than a quarter-million a year.
I think he really meant it when he said we‘re ending this war in Iraq, that we‘re closing Gitmo. We‘re not going to have torture anymore. We are going to have a health care plan now.
I mean, I think he separated himself from the middle pretty clearly. He said, I got elected. Those folks out there who voted for me, I‘m your guy. I‘m still that guy. I‘m going to be different. I‘m going to be left-of-center. Hear me now. I‘m going to cut deals, but I‘m a left-of-center president.
I think that was pretty clear tonight.
OLBERMANN: Just to clear up the traffic, we‘re awaiting, in about three minutes and change, maybe even less, the Republican response from Governor Bobby Jindal at the statehouse in Louisiana. And we will bring that to you live, obviously, when Governor Jindal responds.
One would not, just from a rhetorical point of view, perhaps want to be Governor Jindal just at the moment, after the—the forcefulness of the president‘s maiden effort in terms of speaking to Congress.
But, Rachel, on this idea of—of bipartisanship to seek in a—in a Democratic, in a left-wing, in a liberal fashion, to achieve goals on behalf of the nation, it‘s—it‘s a tough needle to thread. And, yet, when he set out the idea that the money that was spent in the stimulus was to go to a troika of health care and energy and education, he got repeated rousing support from both sides of the aisle.
The—was the needle threaded?
MADDOW: Well, also, I—I think the most enthusiastic applause line of the night, the sort of people-jumping-out-of-their-seats line, and probably the most quotable proposal of the night was when he talked about dropping out of school—dropping out of school—dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It‘s not just quitting on yourself. It‘s quitting on your country.
This call to personal responsibility, not in the abstract, but asking every American to commit to not only finishing high school, but doing at least some post-high-school education, that is very specific. There‘s no way to call that Democratic or Republican. There‘s no way to call that liberal or conservative.
That is—that‘s pure Obama in terms of finding this not-red, not-
blue, but United States of America. And I—I think that, with the punch
that he put on that line oratorically, and with that perfect nonpartisan,
almost apartisan, balance on that, I think that has got to be sort of the -
the touchstone for the night.
I hear Chris when he says that this is a “I‘m left-of-center” speech, but in terms of what was new tonight, it was very much, “I‘m—I‘m post-partisan.”
OLBERMANN: And, yet, Chris, obviously, we—we live in the real
political world. The Republicans may have, on occasion, cheered and even
laughed with President Obama. And one shouted out something about
criticism of the—of the tax-cutting as actually winding up raising, when
when President Obama said that you will hear the old straw how this will actually raise taxes on people, somebody took the moment of the silence to say, “That‘s right.”
There is still the partisanship that Washington will never get rid of, clearly. What will the—what can the Republican response be, however, to one in which there seemed to be so many themes? I mean, how do you come out against recovering the nation‘s sense of self and its optimism? How do you come out against...
MATTHEWS: I think that...
OLBERMANN: ... boldly, wisely, swiftly, and aggressively?
MATTHEWS: Keith, my friend, I think we‘re going to hear that in a few minutes.
I think we‘re going to hear a very negative speech in terms of what we just heard from Bobby Jindal. Bobby Jindal—I will say it, as I said before the speech tonight by the president—is running for the outside rail of the Republican Party, the right-wing rail. He‘s going to try to offer up a sort of Reaganite, government is bad, big spending is bad, taxes are bad, we have got to go spend more money on defense, and we have to keep fighting on as many wars on as many fronts as possible.
I think we‘re going to hear a fairly right-wing speech tonight in response to think. I think, although I will say the spine of the speech was left-of-center, it was done with such charm and good politics, that, as Rachel and yourself have pointed out, it won a hearty response tonight.
The only position left in America right now, politically, that he‘s left open is on the far right. And Bobby Jindal is headed for it. So, I think there‘s a confluence of purpose here. The people running for president on Republican side already are headed to the right. And that includes Governor Palin and Huckabee and this fellow speaking tonight. And that‘s all the room that‘s left on that side, because Barack has grabbed the center with the charm he showed tonight in his excellent rhetoric.
OLBERMANN: But, Chris, as you point out, one thing that even President Reagan‘s harshest critics at this time of year, when he would give States of the Union address, or the first, like this, the—the non-State of the Union State of the Union...
OLBERMANN: ... the—the problem and position that he put the Democrats in seems to be one similar to what Obama has put the Republicans in tonight.
To—to respond to that, you have to be Governor Buzzkill.
MATTHEWS: This was a—this was—in a time of crisis, this was a feel-good speech, wasn‘t it? How do you—how do you come out against feeling good?
MATTHEWS: Well—well, I think you have got to do some analysis of it to find some opposition to it. They are going to have an interesting time in the—as you interview those people at Statuary Hall later tonight, looking for the points of opposition.
I know the Republican Party has survived all those years by opposing taxes. I mean, it sounds a bit crude, but it‘s their basic position: taxes, bad, taxes, evil, taxes, cut. That‘s how they talk.
He said—this is, by the way, the first politician since Walter Mondale I have heard in such a setting to basically come out and say, look out if you have got a lot of money out there, because I‘m coming after you.
He basically said he‘s going to tax the well-off people in this country. By the way, congressmen and senators have one thing in common. None of them make more than $250,000 a year. So, that...
MATTHEWS: You might say that was a well-crafted position there on his part in that room.
These guys probably resent the wealthy people who contribute to their campaigns. They probably resent their former staffers who make more than $250,000 a year. They‘re never going to make that kind of money as long as they stay in that room.
And every one of them wants to stay in that room.
MATTHEWS: So, he‘s got his audience figured out pretty well.
MADDOW: ... now, you don‘t think that members of the United States Senate and members of Congress identify with the rich, even if...
MADDOW: ... legislation?
MATTHEWS: There‘s a difference between hanging out with them and identifying with them.
I think they hang out with their contributors, certainly. And that includes the Democrats, too. By the way, let me clue you in. The Democratic contributors are pretty well-off, too.
MADDOW: Oh, I‘m not saying the contributor aren‘t rich. I‘m just not
I just—I‘m not sure I would agree with you that members of Congress don‘t identify more with their contributors than with Joe Blow.
MATTHEWS: I think...
MADDOW: That‘s the great populist...
MATTHEWS: You can talk with—it depends who you‘re talking to.
Tom DeLay—there‘s a lot of sort of angry conservative populism in that crowd, I will tell you.
OLBERMANN: But this—if there‘s ever been a period of time when excessive—and the—and the threshold maybe for this, Rachel, has been lowered—what excessive income is or—or decadence might be described, if there‘s any time there‘s been at least some slight embarrassment, if not shame, connected to that, it is now.
And, if you‘re the president of the United States and you say, if you make less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not go up one dime, again, it leaves the other side very little to argue against, unless you‘re going to declare your party as the party of people who make $250,001, and more.
MADDOW: And there‘s a couple elements of context here.
One is that there is a lot of populist anger, left, right and center, in the country right now, because of the economic downturn. But the other thing is what these taxes—what the tax situation really means.
If you strip away all the rhetoric, it means that people who make more than—more than a quarter-mil a year are going back to the tax rates that they had in the Clinton era, when they did pretty well.
MATTHEWS: Right. They sure did.
MADDOW: And, beyond that, I mean, even—if you—and if you look at it in totality, the fact that 95 percent of the rest of the country is getting a tax cut, this is the largest tax cut in American history, what‘s happening right now with this Obama legislation.
MATTHEWS: You know...
MADDOW: He‘s not taking credit for it in those terms. But it is those terms.
If he were a Republican president, he would be talking about it in those terms. But he is trying to get—strip away, reframe the rhetoric, to not always say that tax cuts are good, but, rather, that tax cuts are a value judgment about we ought to structure the economy in a reasonably sound way.
I thought it was interesting tonight, Keith, that, you know, Robert Reich, the—the former labor secretary—he‘s a professor out at Berkeley now—he once taught me something very interesting about bad times, when people are in a bad mood, whatever—for whatever reason.
They blame two groups, the mob at the gate or the rot at the top. The mob at the gate, of course, we know that means: minorities, immigrants, illegal or whatever, anyone that threatens you from below. The rot at the top, however, for some reason, is now the magnetic force that people do really hate right now.
There was no shots—you‘re not going to hear many these days—against poor people. The shots are against the people at the top. It‘s the rot at the top that, for whatever reason, is villainy—is villainy incarnate right now in this country.
People are not mad at poor people right now. They‘re mad at the rich people. And that is so interesting. And why that has developed, I‘m not quite sure.
MATTHEWS: A couple of years ago, all this talk was about illegal immigration. It was getting people steamed up, like Lou Dobbs every night of the week. Maybe he‘s still steamed.
MATTHEWS: But the fact is, most people are steamed up about what you heard from the president tonight: the jet—the jet owner, or whatever, at the highest corporate level, who has abused the fiduciary responsibility that he was given or she was given to make money for people who are working for those corporations.
OLBERMANN: Lou Dobbs, by the way, just for the record, is self-steaming.
OLBERMANN: Nothing is required to set him off.
OLBERMANN: Three minutes, roughly, until Governor Jindal‘s response for the Republican side.
Let me—let me ask a question of both of you, Rachel first.
The other—another loud roar from both sides—and, again, both sides of that House chamber rising to their feet for this—“So, let there be no doubt, health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”
They must have different ideas of what that means, and, yet, they both
both sides rose to their feet on that.
MADDOW: I think—and Chris pointed this out before the speech—that the—the Republicans in Congress have the luxury of having made no commitment of any sort to health care reform, whereas this president and all presidential candidates really were forced to.
The—the—the Democratic stakes on health care reform are high, because it has become a touchstone of Democratic politics.
And—and when you look at Ted Kennedy, you think about his entire career, sure, and what he means to Congress, but you think about health care reform. When you look at Hillary Clinton, you think about her as secretary of state, her presidential ambitions, her time as a senator, but you think about health care reform.
So many of the most recognizable Democratic political careers in the country have been—have been forged on the anvil of the idea of health care reform. And I think Republicans have the luxury of cheering it in abstract. The question will be whether they actually want to make the policy happen when it comes time.
This is—it‘s not exactly Mideast peace, but it‘s almost that hard, in terms—in terms of getting there, and in terms of all of the stakeholders that need to be brought along. It will require an almost unimaginable exhaustion of political capital to go for it, but it sounds like he‘s going to.
OLBERMANN: So, Chris, how does—how does he make the Republicans either come out against it or go along with him?
MATTHEWS: Well, it could be a cold peace, like between Egypt and Israel, to continue that parallel.
I really do think there is the opportunity of the century here right
now. Big corporations need it. The chamber wants it. The pharmaceutical
companies want it. You may end up with one person out. That would be the
the—the insurance companies.
But I really do think the stakeholders, if you will, are all getting together here now. It‘s not just a liberal cause now. It‘s an economic cause. We can‘t compete in the world when we held this burden on the shoulders of major corporations and labor unions to have to deal with this problem. It has got to be a social responsibility.
It has got to be shared. It has to be everybody. I‘m with Hillary Clinton on this completely, Senator Clinton, now Secretary of Secretary Clinton, that we have to have participation by everybody, especially the young and the healthy. There‘s no other way around it.
It is in the cards. And I do think, when he said, this year, I really mean it, because I‘m not sure he can do it next year. I think this is the year.
OLBERMANN: Chris, stand by. Rachel, stand by.
We‘re getting that cue from Baton Rouge, where Governor Jindal of Louisiana is set to deliver the Republican response to President Obama. It is entitled: “Americans Can Do Anything.”
Here‘s Governor Jindal.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA: Good evening, and happy Mardi Gras.
I‘m Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.
Tonight, we‘ve witnessed a great moment in the history of our republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American president stepped forward to address the state of our union.
With his speech tonight, the president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall to Gettysburg to the lunch counter and now finally the Oval Office.
Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the president‘s personal story, the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father who grew up to become leader of the free world.
Like the president‘s father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already four-and-a-half-months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a pre-existing condition.
To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he still couldn‘t afford to pay for my delivery, so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.
As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country, and they instilled in me an immigrant‘s wonder at the greatness of America.
As I—as a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. As we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me, “Bobby, Americans can do anything.”
I still believe that to this day: Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there‘s no challenge we can‘t overcome.
As the president made clear this evening, we‘re now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs; others have seen your college and your retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. You‘re looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.
Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide these solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don‘t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation‘s capital.
All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president‘s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.
Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.
Let me tell you a story. During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walk into his makeshift office, I had never seen him so angry. He was literally yelling into the phone. “Well, I‘m the sheriff, and if you don‘t like it, you can come and arrest me.” I asked him, “Sheriff, what‘s got you so mad?” He told me that he put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up and ready to go. And then some bureaucrat showed up and told him they couldn‘t go out in the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration.
And I told him, “Sheriff, that‘s ridiculous.” Before I knew it, he was yelling in the phone.” Congressman Jindal‘s here, and he says you can come and arrest him, too.” Well, Harry just told those boaters ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.
There‘s a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens.
We‘re grateful for the support we‘ve received from across the nation for our ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes, and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.
To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes, not to just put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you, the American people, because we believe that Americans can do anything.
That‘s why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families, cutting taxes for small businesses, strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and to hire new workers, and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for homebuyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.
But Democratic leaders in Congress, they rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest.
While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called volcano monitoring.
Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.
Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who amongst us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have on things we do—we do not need?
That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It‘s irresponsible. And it‘s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.
In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. To create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times, including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities.
Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences. We worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, D.C.
To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump. And unless we act now, those prices will return.
To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation, increase energy efficiency, increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels, increase our use of nuclear power, and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home.
We believe that Americans can do anything. And if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.
To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health care coverage, period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage.
What we oppose is universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not by government bureaucrats.
We believe Americans can do anything. And if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.
To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure that every child in America gets the best possible education. After Hurricane Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system, opening dozens of new charter schools and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice.
We believe that with the proper education the children of America can do anything. And it shouldn‘t take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.
To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana was said to be half underwater and the other half under indictment.
Nobody says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation. And today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past.
We need to bring transparency to Washington, D.C., so we can rid our capital of corruption and ensure that we never see the passage of another trillion-dollar spending bill that Congress hasn‘t even read and the American people haven‘t even seen.
As we take these steps, we must remember, for all of our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years or to make deep cuts in funding for our troops.
America‘s fighting men and women can do anything. If we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive, defeat our enemies, and protect us from harm.
In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems like we look for hope in different places.
Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people.
In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the national Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.
In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear. Our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility.
Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust, and rightly so.
Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say this: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share, the principles you elected us to fight for, the principles that built this in the greatest, most prosperous country on Earth.
You know, a few weeks ago, the president warned that our country is facing a crisis that he said, in quotes, “we may not be able to reverse.” You know, our troubles are real, to be sure, but don‘t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover. Don‘t let anyone tell you that America‘s best days are behind her.
This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery, overcame the Great Depression, prevailed in two World Wars, won the struggle for civil rights, defeated the Soviet menace, and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man, and the American spirit will triumph again.
We can have confidence in our future because, amid all of today‘s challenges, we also count many blessings. We have the most innovative citizens, the most abundant resources, the most resilient economy, the most powerful military, and the freest political system in the history of the world.
My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.
Thank you for listening. God bless you. God bless Louisiana. And God bless America.
OLBERMANN: The Republican response tonight from Louisiana‘s governor, Bobby Jindal. Before MSNBC brings you a special edition live with COUNTDOWN and then “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” and then “HARDBALL.”
Let‘s check in with Rachel and Chris for some final thoughts on this.
Rachel, a Republican invoking the lessons of Hurricane Katrina seems counter intuitive. That‘s just off the top of my head.
MADDOW: I‘m—honestly the Republican response to Barack Obama‘s first State of the Union was to invoke government failure during Katrina as a model for how to move forward as a country. I know that I‘m paid to talk for a living. I am incapable of doing what I‘m paid to do right now. I‘m absolutely stunned.
OLBERMANN: Well, we‘ll give you, like, 45 minutes to repair after that.
MADDOW: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Chris, it was a—different style of speaking. Let‘s put it that way.
MATTHEWS: Let me try—let me overcome—I was surprised by the fact that somebody from Louisiana was complaining about federal spending. They‘ve done pretty well in that department lately because of the—because of the generosity of the American people toward them after Katrina.
They weren‘t complaining then and haven‘t been complaining since.
They also had to go to someone outside of Congress to make this claim
tonight. Because all the Republican leaders in Congress have their hands -
let‘s say, a bit touched by the reality of the last 8 or 20 years.
The Bush administration with Dick Cheney, two boiled patched gentlemen running the show, never proposed anything but dependence on oil. They were fossil fuel guys from day one, made fun of—Cheney himself made fun of any effort towards conservation. They have no health care plan. If somebody can point to the Republican national health care plan that was alluded to by Governor Jindal.
I‘ve never heard of them pushing a plan. Even when it controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency, they never put forward a national health care plan. Abramoff, I believe, was a Republican. Libby, I think, a felon during this administration, I think he was a Republican.
The idea of coming to clean up corruption in Washington certainly strange. And this notion that the Republicans went along with big spending the last eight years. No, the president never vetoed a spending bill in eight years and it was a Republican Congress in six of those eight years that were passing those big spending bills.
It wasn‘t that they ran along, they let it. So in every area that was touched on, they had to get an outside guy. They had to outsource the response tonight, the Republican Party. They had to outsource to someone who had nothing to do with Congress because the Republicans in Congress had nothing to do with the programs he was talking about tonight or the record he referred to.
OLBERMANN: Chris, thank you. Rachel, thank you. Rachel Maddow back with a live edition of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” just ahead. And then Chris Matthews back with a live edition of “HARDBALL” at midnight Eastern.
I‘ll let you get back to work with my thanks. And we will begin our special live edition of COUNTDOWN more or less right now.
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