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Obama’s First State of the Union—Full Remarks

Posted on Jan 27, 2010
White House / Pete Souza

(Page 4)

Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission.  So I’ll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.  (Applause.)  And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.  (Applause.)

Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can’t address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting.  And I agree—which is why this freeze won’t take effect until next year—(laughter)—when the economy is stronger.  That’s how budgeting works.  (Laughter and applause.)  But understand—understand if we don’t take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery—all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.

From some on the right, I expect we’ll hear a different argument—that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away.  The problem is that’s what we did for eight years.  (Applause.)  That’s what helped us into this crisis.  It’s what helped lead to these deficits.  We can’t do it again.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new.  Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt.  Let’s meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here.  Let’s try common sense.  (Laughter.)  A novel concept.

To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now.  We face a deficit of trust—deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.  To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue—to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.  (Applause.)


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That’s what I came to Washington to do.  That’s why—for the first time in history—my administration posts on our White House visitors online.  That’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions.

But we can’t stop there.  It’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress.  It’s time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.  (Applause.)  I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.  (Applause.)  They should be decided by the American people.  And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform.  Applause.)  Democrats and Republicans.  (Applause.)  Democrats and Republicans.  You’ve trimmed some of this spending, you’ve embraced some meaningful change.  But restoring the public trust demands more.  For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online.  (Applause.)  Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there’s a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent. (Applause.)

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another.  Now, I’m not naïve.  I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony—(laughter)—and some post-partisan era.  I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched.  And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years.  They’re the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day.  We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side—a belief that if you lose, I win.  Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.  The confirmation of—(applause)—I’m speaking to both parties now.  The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.  (Applause.)

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game.  But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people.  Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics.  I know it’s an election year.  And after last week, it’s clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual.  But we still need to govern.

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.  (Applause.)  And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town—a supermajority—then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well.  (Applause.)  Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.  We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.  (Applause.)  So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.  (Applause.)

This week, I’ll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans.  I’d like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership.  I know you can’t wait.  (Laughter.)

Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security.  Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated.  We can argue all we want about who’s to blame for this, but I’m not interested in re-litigating the past. I know that all of us love this country.  All of us are committed to its defense.  So let’s put aside the schoolyard taunts about who’s tough.  Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values.  Let’s leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future—for America and for the world.  (Applause.)

That’s the work we began last year.  Since the day I took office, we’ve renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation.  We’ve made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives.  We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security and swifter action on our intelligence.  We’ve prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula.  And in the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed—far more than in 2008.

And in Afghanistan, we’re increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home.  (Applause.)  We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans—men and women alike.  (Applause.)  We’re joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose.  There will be difficult days ahead.  But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people.  As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President.  We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August.  (Applause.)  We will support the Iraqi government—we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and we will continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity.  But make no mistake:  This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.  (Applause.) 

Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform—in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world—they have to know that we—that they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support.  And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home.  (Applause.)  That’s why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades—last year.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re building a 21st century VA.  And that’s why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.  (Applause.)

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By Leila, February 11, 2010 at 12:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He promises to veto spending except on social and health care programs… And
national security. Why can we not let go of our stupid let’s make more weapons

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By TAO Walker, January 29, 2010 at 11:23 am Link to this comment

JDmysticDJ is right about theamericanpeople and nativeamericanpeople being in pretty much the same desparate straits, depending on the deree of “individual”-ization they’re stuck in.  Us surviving free wild Turtle Island Natives, however, have stayed out of that trap….which is why we might offer some help to our more-or-less tame Sisters and Brothers who will do the Ceremonies needed to get out of it.

“Off-the-grid” is good as far as it goes, but screamingpalm will need to get together with others of the same persuasion if s/he hopes to stay there.

Good luck, All.


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By screamingpalm, January 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

Super Lou, Hammond Eggs:

Boy did I get the wrong idea, I retract my wish that he upholds that promise! Thanks for the link- clearly the purpose is not to ensure solvency and get rid of fraud like I had thought.

Wise words a usual TAO Walker, though I don’t pretend that the Tiyoshpaye Way would ever be realistically possible (for me). A dream perhaps. I think you had said previously that the way to do this is [simply] gather one’s neighbors and just do it? I try to remain as “off the grid” as possible though.

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By JDmysticDJ, January 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

Tao Walker

There is more than a “simulacrum” between theamericanpeople and nativeamericanpeople, we’re all in this together. Doom is no respecter of peoples.

Thanks for the trip to the dictionary; are your semantics a CONstruction?

The Tiyoshpaye way looks better, and better, every day.


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By TAO Walker, January 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

Barack Obama sure does give good talking-head, alright.  Funny, though, it seems to be only those among theamericanpeople who elected him to office (NOT, CONtrary to all the media misrepresentation, “power”), who have yet to catch-on that he’s filling the reality (as distinguished from the textbook idealized simulacrum) of the post about as well as can be.

Your doom, as “individuals,” is sealed, tame Sisters and Brothers.  Your ‘options’ now are limited to resignation or escape.

For the latter, go The Tiyoshpaye Way.


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By Hammond Eggs, January 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

By screamingpalm, January 28 at 3:23 am #

The strongest language in the speech was the threat to veto spending and promise to issue an executive order to create a commission to look at Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. A promise I hope he actually keeps.

This so-called an ominously named “bipartisan” commission will actually exist to destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Knowing Obama to be the reactionary Democrat that he is, it is a promise he will most assuredly keep.

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By rico, suave, January 28, 2010 at 11:40 am Link to this comment

“He may be the most popular politician in the U.S.”

That’s like saying herpes is the most popular venerial disease.

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By Blackspeare, January 28, 2010 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Obama may be able to get a law passed that overturns the recent SCOTUS ruling on business/union politicking, but with the present make-up of SCOTUS it would eventually be ruled unconstitutional, but it would momentarily stop such political contributions.

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By gerard, January 28, 2010 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

“American Exceptonalism” is killing us.  Because of such silly national conceit we cannot even admit our mistakes, let alone learn from them. 
  My heart sunk to the pit last night when (in view of all the lack of creativity and courage, came the sudden change to sanctimonious tone and the trite pandering to our national glory.  Enough to make you cry—especially in times like these when we desperately need a bold vision and action for the future of our children and the world.

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By JDmysticDJ, January 28, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

I like Obama. I have since the early days of the primary, but I wonder why? Maybe it’s because of his ground breaking election, seeing as how I considered myself a member of the rainbow coalition back in the 80’s. There is something about the guy that is likable; his popularity exceeds that of Congressional Democrats and Republicans. He may be the most popular politician in the U.S.

Obama may not be the best President we’ve ever had, but clearly he is one of the best motivational speakers we’ve had as a President. His “State of the Union” address was nothing more than a glorified “Pep Rally.” His belief in American exceptionalism seems to be very appealing to Americans, “Rah rah, zis boom bah, be true to your school.” Since when are Jingoism and extreme Nationalism not considered to be vices? Apparently they’re not vices, when they are American Jingoism and extreme Nationalism.

Somehow being 2nd doesn’t seem all that bad to me; it beats 39th, or last. We are 1st in several categories though. Need I list them? Our military spending equals that of every other nation on this planet combined, for starters. Oh well, sometimes perceptions are more important than reality.

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By Super Lou, January 28, 2010 at 9:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The “Commission” to look at Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is a tool designed to deflect blame from Obama instituting Right Wing “reforms.”  Once again, going after the weakest and most politically defenseless members of society.

Read this, and you might change your opinion about the “Commish” being a promise you hope he actually keeps:

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By rico, suave, January 28, 2010 at 6:58 am Link to this comment


I’m not sure you can compare czarist Russia with the US.

Of course, most of the Russian proletariat agreed with Tolstoy and overthrew the Czar. And we all know what a great improvement that turned out to be.

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By Not One More!, January 28, 2010 at 12:11 am Link to this comment

I remember last year he said in a speech that Guantanamo would be shut down in a year. Lot’s of ‘liberals’ bought that and great cheer and hope. It is now a year and on to new promises and hope.

Support Republicans
Vote for a Democrat

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By thebeerdoctor, January 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm Link to this comment

“The greater the state, the more wrong and cruel its patriotism, and the greater is the sum of suffering upon which its power is founded.”

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By Rob, January 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here’s a tag cloud of Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address:

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By screamingpalm, January 27, 2010 at 11:23 pm Link to this comment

Well, I think there can be little doubt that the President is abandoning progressives. As David Brooks said on the “News Hour”, this was a very moderate speech and contained many things you’d expect to hear from Republicans.

On one hand he talks about job creation, and then on the other he wants to extend the reach of the WTO with Doha. The strongest language in the speech was the threat to veto spending and promise to issue an executive order to create a commission to look at Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. A promise I hope he actually keeps.

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