Obama goes back on the campaign trail

In a speech to the House Democratic Caucus, the president made his most aggressive arguments in favor of the stimulus yet.


Alex Koppelman
February 6, 2009 8:00PM (UTC)

It took a while, but President Obama finally let himself off the leash a bit in a speech to House Democrats Thursday night -- to borrow a phrase, he let Obama be Obama, dropping the bipartisan rhetoric and getting back to some of the language that won him the presidency in the first place. In a speech that strayed far from his prepared text, the president exhorted his fellow Democrats to support the stimulus, and directed some sharp criticism at those on the other side of the aisle.

Here's the meat of his address, from a transcript sent out by the White House. Video follows.

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[D]on't come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped to create this crisis. You know, all of us here -- [we're] imperfect. And everything we do and everything I do is subject to improvement. Michelle reminds me every day how imperfect I am.  So I welcome this debate. But come on, we're not -- we are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin.

We can't embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face; that ignores critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, or the soaring cost of health care, or falling schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees. I don't care whether you're driving a hybrid or an SUV -- if you're headed for a cliff, you've got to change direction. That's what the American people called for in November, and that's what we intend to deliver.

So the American people are watching. They did not send us here to get bogged down with the same old delay, the same old distractions, the same talking points, the same cable chatter. You know, aren't you all tired of that stuff?

They did not vote for the false theories of the past, and they didn't vote for phony arguments and petty politics. They didn't vote for the status quo -- they sent us here to bring change. We owe it to them to deliver. This is the moment for leadership that matches the great test of our times. And I know you want to work with me to get there...

This isn't some abstract debate. Last week, we learned that many of America's largest corporations already laid off thousands and are planning to lay off tens of thousands of more workers. Today, we learned that in the previous week, the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. Tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report, on top of the half a million jobs that were lost last month, on top of the half a million jobs that were lost the month before that, on top of the 2.6 million jobs that were lost last year.

For you, these aren't just statistics. This is not a game. This is not a contest for who's in power and who's up and who's down. These are your constituents. These are families you know and you care about. I believe that it is important for us to set aside some of the gamesmanship in this town and get something done...

Understand the scale and the scope of this plan is right. And when you start hearing arguments on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things. Number one, when they say, well, why are we spending $800 billion -- we've got this huge deficit? First of all, I found this deficit when I showed up.  Number one. I found this national debt doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.

Number two, it is expected that we are going to lose about a trillion dollars worth of demand this year, a trillion dollars of demand next year because of the contraction in the economy. So the reason that this has to be big is to try to fill some of that lost demand. And as it is, there are many who think that we should be doing even more.  So we are taking prudent steps...

So then you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill. What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point. No, seriously. That's the point.

 


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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