We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again — so it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can,make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
President Barack Obama, statement on the death of Nelson Mandela, December 5, 2013
Obama’s speech after losing the New Hampshire primary in January 2008 was the “Yes, We Can” speech:
Thank you, New Hampshire. I love you back. Thank you. Thank you.
Well, thank you so much. I am still fired up and ready to go.
Thank you. Thank you.
Well, first of all, I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire. She did an outstanding job. Give her a big round of applause.
You know, a few weeks ago, no one imagined that we’d have accomplished what we did here tonight in New Hampshire. No one could have imagined it.
For most of this campaign, we were far behind. We always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out, and you spoke up for change.
And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment, in this election, there is something happening in America.
There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport, in Lebanon and Concord, come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.
There is something happening. There’s something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit, who’ve never participated in politics before, turn out in numbers we have never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.
There’s something happening when people vote not just for party that they belong to, but the hopes that they hold in common.
And whether we are rich or poor, black or white, Latino or Asian, whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction.
That’s what’s happening in America right now; change is what’s happening in America.
You, all of you who are here tonight, all who put so much heart and soul and work into this campaign, you can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness.
Democrats, independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington, who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable, who understand that, if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that stood in our way and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there is no problem we cannot solve, there is no destiny that we cannot fulfill.
Our new American majority can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care in our time.
We can bring doctors and patients, workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together, and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that, while they get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair, not this time, not now.
Our new majority can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it.
We can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success.
We can stop talking about how great teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness by giving them more pay and more support. We can do this with our new majority.
We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists, citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return.
And when I am president of the United States, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home.
We will end this war in Iraq. We will bring our troops home. We will finish the job — we will finish the job against Al Qaida in Afghanistan. We will care for our veterans. We will restore our moral standing in the world.
And we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election. It is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.
All of the candidates in this race share these goals. All of the candidates in this race have good ideas and all are patriots who serve this country honorably.
But the reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago is because it’s not just about what I will do as president. It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it.
That’s what this election is all about.
That’s why tonight belongs to you. It belongs to the organizers, and the volunteers, and the staff who believed in this journey and rallied so many others to join the cause.
We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.
We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come.
We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.
It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.
Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.
And so, tomorrow, as we take the campaign south and west, as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas, that the hopes of the little girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A., we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.
And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.
Thank you, New Hampshire. Thank you. Thank you.
Someone recently asked me about my favorite speeches, and I should have included this one.
I am very disappointed.
I know that a President cannot take time to honor every anniversary of everything that has happened throughout our history, but the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address is a perfect opportunity to pause and remember Lincoln, Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, the Battle of Gettysburg itself, and package all of that in a way that honors the other 150th anniversaries of Civil War-era events that take place throughout Obama’s term.
Honestly, I think it’s a a public relations decision rather than a political one. I think that President Obama doesn’t want to go to Gettysburg, make a speech, and then have it compared (likely negatively) to Lincoln’s speech. If that’s not the reason, I don’t understand what is.
(By the way, you mentioned Obama’s gifts as an orator, and he certainly has them. However, can anyone remember a truly great speech from Obama as President? There have been highlights, but when was Barack Obama’s last great speech? Both Inaugurals were disappointing. The 2008 Democratic National Convention? Maybe. Acceptance speeches at nominating conventions tend to be long and overly-clichéd. The “More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia in 2008 after the controversy with Reverend Wright? Again, it was good at times, but not his best work. Honestly, I think the last great speech that Obama gave was in New Hampshire on the night that he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton in January 2008. He hasn’t given a speech like that as President.)
I’m looking forward to reading the book. I didn’t get an advanced copy of Double Down: Game Change 2012, so I probably won’t get a chance to read it until the beginning of next week.
I’m not surprised that the Obama campaign thought about dumping Biden for Hillary — it’s politics, and while Plouffe said they never seriously considered it, I’m sure they did because there was a point where it looked like Romney could actually win the election. But as I said last year when I was asked whether they SHOULD dump Biden for Hillary, Joe Biden has been a hard-working, loyal, and incredibly influential Vice President. They only reason that they should have done the switch and made Hillary VP and Biden Secretary of State is if Biden wanted to do it. He deserved that much. Biden has been the closer on several significant pieces of legislation with Congress. Obama has needed Biden, no matter how much Biden might tend to go off page (and I think his tendency to speak his mind if both overrated and refreshing).
By the way, there’s no way Hillary Clinton would have taken the Vice Presidency in the second term of an Obama Administration. She spent most of her time as Secretary of State traveling the world, and the best possible strategy for her potential 2016 run was getting the hell out of government. If she was Vice President, whoever her opponents are in 2016 (both Democrat and Republican) could tie her to whatever goes wrong in Obama’s second term.
After 34 years of tension — a few months longer than I have been alive — all it takes is for two guys to pick up the phone and things begin to ease. Major props to President Obama and President Rouhani. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we shouldn’t disregard the fact that the President of the United States and the President of Iran just had a cordial chat via telephone. That’s history.
One other thing I want to note is that I talked to a lot of people while registering voters in 2007 and 2008 in preparation for the Democratic primaries and a lot of the black folks I talked to were actually hesitant about supporting Obama because they were so loyal to the Clintons. I talked to tons of people in Sacramento, Richmond, Vallejo, Oakland, San Francisco, and other Northern California cities, and it didn’t matter what Barack Obama looked like. What mattered was that Bill Clinton made their lives better and they were loyal to the Clintons. I was pushing Obama, but they were sticking with Hillary (and she won the California Primary in 2008). So, anyone who thinks that Obama was elected in 2008 because of the color of his skin really needs to give voters a little more credit.
I think both parties need to dump their leadership in both chambers of Congress in order for things to have a shot at turning around. We are in the midst of a strange situation — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate are abysmal, don’t have the influence or power to whip their caucuses in line, aren’t respected by junior members within their own party, can’t work together effectively with the opposition or the President, and yet they are entrenched in their respective leadership positions. It’s as if the coach of a football team was terrible at his job, couldn’t win a game, lost the respect of his players, had no chance at out-coaching the opposition, but couldn’t be fired for some reason.
The House of Representatives isn’t a legislative body; it’s a tar pit. The Senate is no better. A big part of the blame belongs to us. It is our job to toss out shitty, ineffective, inefficient members of Congress. The Senate is tougher to do that with because they have six-year-long terms and only a third or so of the Senators are up for reelection every two years. But we have the ability to make changes in the House of Representatives every two years. We could fire every single member of the House and replace them with someone new in 2014. Will we? Of course not. The voters are partly to blame.
The senior members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — are largely to blame for the day-to-day bullshit that has brought the government to the place that it has been in for the last six years or so. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer should not have jobs. They are the party leaders of the worst Congress in American history. I didn’t include the Senate whips — Dick Durbin and John Cornyn — because I think those two are the only party leaders in Congress who are worth a shit, but I wouldn’t put up a fight if they lost their jobs, too.
The party leaders in the House and the Senate should have control of their respective caucuses at all times. If not, they aren’t leading. I’m stunned at how little respect many of the junior members of Congress — even freshmen in the House of Representatives! — have for the leaders of their own party. Raul Labrador, a Republican member of the House, was elected in 2010. In 2011, as a freshman Congressman, Labrador stood up in a GOP conference told John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” That’s right, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives — one of the five most powerful positions in the country when there is someone useful in the job — implored his fellow Republicans to work together, a freshman Congressman from Idaho straight up told him no in front of every other House Republican. Speaker Boehner should have remembered that disrespect and in 2012, he should have CRUSHED Labrador. He should have withheld RNC money from Labrador. He should have built up a primary challenger against Labrador. He should have pulled together every powerful Republican that can breathe and walk, flown them to Idaho, and campaigned against Labrador. Instead? Nothing. Labrador was reelected last year. That’s just one example.
The Democrats are just as bad. They control the Senate and they have a Democrat in the White House. But Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and the Democrat from Nevada is, hands-down, the worst Majority Leader in American history. Nobody is intimidated by him, nobody is influenced by him, nobody respects him. And why should they? Why should the White House defer to him? In 2011, Vice President Biden met with Senator Reid to help pass the two-year extension to the Bush-era tax cuts. The White House wasn’t ecstatic about the deal that they made with Republicans to extend the tax cuts, but politics require compromises. Progress requires compromise.
So, when the Democratic President sent his Vice President to settle the issue with the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, how did Harry Reid decide to help out his President and Vice President? He said this to the President and Vice President of the United States:
"You guys went and did this deal. You go sell it. Not my deal, not my problem. Not telling you I’m against it, not telling you I’m for it, not yelling at you, just saying you guys made this deal. Hope you can line up the Senate Democrats behind you because I’m not going to."
Harry Reid wasn’t taking a stand because of a strong, ideological position that he was absolutely opposed to compromising on. No, Harry Reid was acting like a fucking baby because the White House closed a deal that Harry Reid simply couldn’t do on his own. If FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, or Bush 43 were President, Harry Reid would be working in a pawn shop in Las Vegas tonight. But Harry Reid is still the Senate Majority Leader.
I know that I am ranting, but the whole subject pisses me off because the problems are so clear and the solutions are so simple. The party leadership — Majority and Minority, Democrats and Republicans — from both chambers of Congress — House and Senate — NEED TO GO.
There is one more person who deserves some blame for how shitty the 112th Congress (9% approval rating, by the way) was and the 113th Congress has been, and he’s not a member of Congress: President Barack Obama. As I mentioned above, every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, would have absolutely smashed individual members of the House and Senate, specific blocs of voters, and each chamber of Congress as a whole if they had been as intransigent, disrespectful, and ineffective as these last two Congresses have been. It wouldn’t have gotten as bad with many of those Presidents because they either had a mastery of the legislative process or they used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to win the public opinion war. President Obama has done none of these things. Junior Senators and freshman House members from Obama’s own party have no problem openly criticizing the President or opposing Administration goals. That should NEVER happen. Joe Manchin should be working in a coal mine in West Virginia instead of taking shots at his own President whenever he feels like it. Manchin’s predecessor, Robert Byrd, earned the right to be independent whenever he wanted, but even after 50 years in the Senate, Byrd knew to support his President. What’s even worse is that Obama’s top Cabinet members are legendary Senators — Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Whenever a President wants something from his Democrats on the Hill, he should get it. If not, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel should be laying the "Johnson Treatment” on anyone who needs it. They have to because Obama obviously doesn’t have that weapon in his arsenal. As embarrassing as Obama’s influence with his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill has been, can you imagine how bad it would be without Joe Biden doing the dirty work with Congress over the past four years?
There’s a lot of anger in this post and I know that it is all over the place, but I am truly angry about this subject. As I said, the problems are clear and the solutions are obvious. And the past 80 years of Presidential/Congressional relations are a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t. We need new party leaders on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress. And we need a President whose approach to dealing with useless Congresses and intransigent, disrespectful Congressmen is more FDR/Eisenhower/LBJ than Carter/Obama.
No, I don’t think she would have been forced to pick him, and I don’t think she would have reached out, either. First of all, even if Hillary Clinton had defeated him and won the nomination in 2008, Barack Obama would have overshadowed her if they shared a ticket. Plus, she would have needed to balance the ticket much in the same way that Obama did. We’re doing a better job of breaking through glass ceilings, but there’s still a very cautious electorate that wasn’t ready for too much change at once, so I couldn’t envision a female Presidential nominee and a black Vice Presidential nominee (or vice versa) on the same ticket in 2008.
Enlightenment — particular when it has to do with race, gender, or sexuality — travels slow and packs lightly. So Hillary probably would have needed her own Joe Biden (if not Biden himself) as a running mate in 2008 if she had defeated Obama for the nomination. A Hillary/Obama ticket would have been newsworthy, but picking an experienced
old white guy political veteran would have been safer. And when you’re counting Electoral votes, safe is more important than sexy.
Let’s not forget that there was some real animosity between the Clinton camp and the Obama camp in 2008, too. If Hillary had won the nomination, I doubt that she would have reached out to Obama for VP or for the Cabinet because, quite frankly, she wouldn’t have needed him. After winning the nomination, Obama needed the Clintons during the campaign more than she would have needed a one-term Senator who she had just vanquished. Obama needed the stamp of approval from the Clintons because Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton and because he needed Hillary’s endorsement to vouch for him with a large percentage of women who were very disappointed that Obama had beaten Hillary and kept that particular glass ceiling intact.
As for Hillary’s Cabinet if she had won the 2008 election, I don’t really know. I imagine it wouldn’t have looked too different than Obama’s Cabinet, and we probably would have heard of a lot of familiar names from Bill Clinton’s Administration. John Kerry probably would have been Secretary of State in 2009 instead of 2013 since Hillary would have been President and he senior staff at the White House would have been filled by Clinton loyalists instead of Obama’s Chicago crew, but I don’t really know who would have gone where.