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GOLDBERG: My fellow Americans …
Speaking honestly to the nation is Job 1
President Obama is going to give yet another Big Speech next week. Who among us can contain his excitement?
The White House insists this address will have nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with getting Americans back to work. Well, suspend your own disbelief as best you can. But one thing is certain: The president will enter the chamber “shovel ready,” as it were.
One can expect Mr. Obama to repeat certain verbal tics. He will quote himself a lot (“As I’ve said before …”). He will insist that it’s time to put aside partisan differences, by which he means everyone should agree with his ideas.
And he will insist that he’s a pragmatist who only cares about “what works.”
This has been the rhetorical theme of his presidency from the beginning. In his inaugural address, he proclaimed, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”
Well, to that end, here is the speech - or a portion of it - I would like to hear from the president:
“My fellow Americans, when I came into office, I promised to discard the tired dogmas of the past. I vowed to put partisanship aside. I made a solemn pledge to focus single-mindedly on what works. As I’ve said before, what I admired most in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was his commitment to ‘bold, persistent experimentation.’
“In May of 1932, President Roosevelt proclaimed, ‘It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.’
“Well, we have tried many things. A few, I believe, have worked, but honesty and the national crisis both compel me to admit too many have failed.
“I can blame the mistakes of my predecessor all day long, but the simple truth is that the stimulus effort did not do what I or my own economic advisers said it would.
“Worse, many of the programs and policies inherent in the stimulus were built on fictions. Indeed, much of the money we wasted - at the behest of the Democratic congressional leadership at the time - was never even intended to stimulate so much as bail out programs and local governments.
“Moreover, as I have already admitted, ‘shovel-ready jobs’ were a myth.
“Even more dismaying, much of our green-jobs program agenda has been an indefensible failure. In Seattle, we spent $20 million in the hope of creating 2,000 jobs and weatherizing 2,000 homes. We created 14 jobs and weatherized three houses. In Toledo, Kansas City and Phoenix combined, we allocated $65 million and created 72 jobs. California got $186 million and created slightly more than 500 jobs.
“I passionately believe we must transition to renewable energy, but it is clear the economy is simply not ready and government is ill-equipped to pick successful companies better than the market can.
“Taxpayers gave $58 million to Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts. It cut 800 jobs and is now bankrupt.
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