“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable … the art of the next best.” Otto von Bismarck
I did my yearly duty of enduring the State of the Union Address. I have done this every year when not deployed, at sea or in the field since I was in college. I have learned over the years that regardless of who the President is or what party they belong does not make the watching of this speech any less of an ordeal.
Some Presidents were marvelous orators and others not. Typically the rebuttal to any President’s State of the Union is always a critique of whatever the President said and why the opposition and its ideas or policies are better. Thus when Presidents like Ronald Reagan, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and even President Obama use lofty language and rhetoric it is hard for the opposition to sound like anything other than less than exciting. Now this says nothing about the substance of the ideas or even the truth of what is being spoken by either side especially in an election year. Bismarck so adroitly put it “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.”
Call me a cynic but I guess I am now old enough to have see that the speeches really don’t matter that much unless the leaders of both parties are willing to work together for the good of the country. There are policies and positions in both parties that I agree with and those that I disagree with. I don’t think either party has a lock on truth nor have the answers to all of the challenges that we face totally contained in their ideology or party platform.
The speech by President Obama was an excellent speech and the response by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was not bad. Again I am not going into specific details of what either said but rather the tone of both. There were differences and Daniels was pugnacious but not disrespectful and Daniels even found places of agreement with the President. Unfortunately that is rare among the rest of his party.
Maybe I have been in the military too long but some of the things done by leaders, elected leaders and pundits of both parties over the past 10 years since George W Bush was elected turn my stomach. I want the country to do well and for whoever the President is at the time to meet with success. I may not support all of their agenda but they have the job of President and I don’t. I believe in the teamwork embodied by the military and particularly that of SEAL Team 6 and the supporting units who killed Osama Bin Laden that the President emphasized so well.
When Nancy Pelosi said of President Bush “Why should we put a plan out? Our plan is to stop him. He must be stopped” I was appalled. When Mitch McConnell said that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” I was equally appalled. That is no way to help the country.
Otto Von Bismarck was was quite the pragmatist. He understood that there is an art to politics. Ronald Reagan understood the same and was able to work with the opposition as much as he could get of his agenda passed and make deals including raising taxes to get it done. Unfortunately the Unholy Trinity of Politicians Pundits and Preachers on both sides of the political chasm have somehow come to the conclusion that it is a winner take it all game. I’m glad that President Obama and Governor Daniels despite their differences did not use tonight to demonize their opponents. Maybe that is a start.
Of course this is an election year and the country is bitterly divided. We have practically been at war with each other for at least that long, probably longer. I just hope that somehow we as a people can rally around the country and whatever our politics not forget that we are all Americans and are in this boat together. As Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address at the close of the Civil War:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”