State of the Union 2010

Okay, so drinking game words for this one: family, responsibility, partisan (any variant), leadership, economy, debt, deficit, committee, small business. Oh, and every time he mentions someone out there, two drinks if they're a small business owner.

Here are my thoughts on it, cleaned up for the sake of not humiliating my love of grammar and spelling. Anything in double quotes is directly from the address, anything in single quotes is paraphrased but reasonably close, all statistics are entirely from the speech. There's a whole bunch of partial transcription in this.

As usual, President Obama (god, I love saying that) made good use of the teleprompter locations to give his attention to all sides of the room. It was terribly weird when he looked right at the camera.

He also used a ton of alliteration (especially at the beginning) and then, throughout the speech, parallel construction--drawing relationships between Main Street and Wall Street, a neverending series of steps from one event to another.... I'm trying to figure out if there was more this time around than usual. Obama definitely uses it more when he's trying to force a point, make an argument really clear, etc. It's the intellectual equivalent of a drop volley (why yes, I have been watching the Australian Open, why do you ask?): hard to hit back, and great for ramming it home.

Anyway, it's clear that Obama has shifted from trying to be so bipartisan that he supports the old administration to making it clear that these things would not have happened under his watch (perhaps even that of Gore's or Kerry's. I think 2000 is officially liberal Alamo):
* 2 wars
* economy/severe recession
* financial collapse
* debt

And he definitely took the opportunity to mention that the "worst of the storm" is gone, even if shit blows--the standard Democratic line that economic control is better than letting things ride their own course out. (I'm sorry. I genuinely don't get why Republicans keep pushing the no-interference policy. Please name a modern Republican president under which the deficit has shrunk or even burgeoned into a surplus.)

Perhaps in light of upcoming elections--and the fact that, well, America is goddamn divided these days--Obama also included an appeal to small towns & rural communities. He also extended the explanation of what's going on now, saying that some of these are "problems that America's families have had for decades...these struggles are the reason I ran for president."

Then there was a return to some campaign parlance; 'why was bad behavior on Wall Street rewarded when the good on Main Street was not.' The usual suspects: partisanship, pettiness.

Followed by, what else, a call to bipartisanship. (Yes, I do think it's important to make this, but at the same time I'm a little despairing. Dems have this tendency to play the 'good guy,' not nearly as many nasty sneak attacks or straight-up lies as the Republicans--if you don't believe me, check out FactCheck.org on the 2008 campaign, at the very least. Maybe it's time Republicans stepped up...where are you, pre-election John McCain?)

Then he mentioned the 'different beliefs' that make up America...religious or overall? I am wondering, because the former would make this more pointed at the whole thing with the Middle East and the fact that he's supposed to be bringing peace--maybe not by himself, but, once again, subtext from that Peace Prize.

And then again with the children; lots of emphasis on the future. I am not sure how much of this stems from Obama's own role as a father or from the fact that we're fucking future generations up the ass with petrochemicals.

On the American spirit: 'A stubborn resilience in the face of adversity/decency and great strength/never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight.' And then, that fear of the future--and the sloppiness of the political climate--leads to a division.

The American people need 'a government that matches their decency...embodies their strength.' What does 'strength' mean for a government: more centralization? Greater heavy-handedness, less forgiveness? Obviously, the former favors the Democrat way of thinking. But, then, he goes to the point that it needs to be done all together, left and right...if the science education didn't suck so hard in this country, a brain metaphor would have been apt.

And that's the end of the introduction. The speech proper was split into four main points.

1. Economy.

- A need to 'shore up the banks that caused this crisis,' acknowledging the ridiculousness but staying firm with the point that his decision was the right one.
- The universal hate of the bank bailout ('we all hated it/I hated it/you hated it/about as popular as a root canal,' to laughter, of course). Note that this bailout happened under the Dubya administration--and yes, he does make that point:
- It was 'not popular but necessary to prevent a meltdown;' hence the support of and collusion with Dubya's dudes. Under the new administration, things are 'more transparent and accountable'--which fits back nicely into the original campaign promises. Overall, he did a better job of going back to them than I would have expected...but then, this speech was also longer than usual--over an hour.

- Most money from the bailouts has been recovered...but not all, so
- there needs to be a fee on the biggest banks. Hey, 'if big bonuses can be afforded again, then banks should be "pay[ing] back the taxpayers who rescued them." Not shockingly, this resulted in a standing ovation--on the floor. Is it a tradition for the gallery viewers not to stand? They didn't always zoom to recognizable Republicans, but on a number of occasions only the Democrats stood or even clapped. I'm wondering if this was agreed upon by the Republicans: kind of a low move, that (although, in all fairness, I don't think the Democrats were that nice to Bush, either).

- "We cut taxes for 95% of working families, small businesses, homebuyers, parents, 8 million paying for college" through 25 different tax cuts, allowing millions having more to spend. I'm looking forward to checking the facts on all of the stuff he said about taxation, like
- income taxes not raised "by a single dime"
- 2 million working who would otherwise be unemployed, because of "the steps we took."

He also took some to mention the spread of environmental jobs, public service jobs, and an increase in educators; once again, back to campaign promises, all thanks to the Recovery Act/Stimulus bill, thanks to which "economists on the left & right say disaster has been averted." This ended in a standing ovation from the Dems, and stark silence from the Republicans.

And there were more mentions of small families/businesses/out-there locations. Where are these stories coming from? He did mention receiving letters at one point, but still. Points to small gains in the economy; especially the areas of retirement funds, small businesses, and healthcare.

Oh good, something for the cynics. "For every success story, there are other stories...that is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010."

A call for a new jobs bill, followed by another dems-only standing ovation. So what are the details on this? (Yes, Obama actually admits to failing the people a bit by not being as clear as possible later in this speech. Terrifyingly enough, he's working on addressing this failure!)
- The government can create conditions for more jobs, and should start with *small businesses*
- Banks on Wall Street are still mostly lending to bigger companies. "Tonight, I'm proposing that we take 30 billion dollars of the money that wall street banks have been repaid" and stick it in small businesses (another Dems-only standing ovation, with smattered clapping from Republicans who seem a little afraid of standing on the wrong side of the line).
- Small business tax credit for people who hire or raise wages
- Eliminate all capital gains tax on small business investment

And, moving beyond the small businesses that made America, "Put americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow." Remarkably FDResque; will nothing save us from associations with the Great Depression? Don't worry; that was rhetorical.

"Our nation has always been built to compete," specifically, against gains made in Europe and especially China. A nod to the new high speed rails projects, which have already been funded in FL. (Wired has a great spread on what the deal is with these in its latest issue.)

- Build more clean energy facilities/promote rebates for energy-efficient homes. Will LEED certification become an official thing? I hope not; it's better off away from the red tape and lobbyists.

- Encourage companies to stay here: "slash tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas." The House has already passed a bill to this effect, the call's now to the Senate to do the same. Was there booing from the Republican upper gallery on this? I'm not sure, but there was definitely some kind of less-than-thrilled clamor.

"I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay"...'but these steps won't make up for the 7 million jobs lost in the past 2 years.'

"The only way to move to full employment" is to create new foundation for economic growth, look at long term problems...no more 'economic expansion' like the one in last decade (slowest growth of jobs, decline of average income, record costs of healthcare/education, housing bubble).

The counterarguments: 'addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious/the political system too gridlocked/we should put things on hold for a while.' Obama's answer: "How long should we wait? ...How long should America put its future on hold?" And that's why we need younger people in power. Too much perspective is a dangerous thing.

'China, Germany, and India' aren't waiting around. In particular, an emphasis on on the math/science deficits in education here (and, having been to India, they are pretty freakin' obscene). More than that, though, America needs to start rebuilding its infrastructure to be cleaner. I note that he avoided using the term 'green' during this--maybe because it's overused, maybe because it's something the Republicans will cockblock, either way, I like it.

"I do not accept second place for the United States of America" -- everyone but top gallery stands for this line. Maybe it is a thing, then? I know that the gallery ceilings are kind of low (also, in fairness, the seats in the House of Representatives are really comfortable. It's a testament to the party system that anyone stood for Obama when they could enjoy that soft leather on their ass.)

And, more globally, "it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our world." Or maybe this is a subtle nod to American imperialism. Why not both?

- Serious financial reform is needed, but 'don't punish the banks; protect the economy.' Is this a have your cake and eat it too situation?
- We need to "guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy" with
- better consumer education
- no dangerous risks like the ones the banks took -- the House has passed financial reform; but lobbyists are trying to kill it (and yes, it's a theme. Add 'lobbyists' to the drinking game, 'k?)

"If the bill does not meet the rest of real reform, I will send it back until it does...we gotta get it right." For whose sake? I'm inclined to think that Obama might actually believe this is all for the people. His altruism still confuses me.

2. American innovation: largest investment in basic research funding in history last year (yaaaay...sort of. My former PI applied for one of the stimulus grants; the structuring was a disaster, and it's hard to know how many people actually got grants they deserved, considering that the reviewers weren't even always from the same discipline).
- solar cells, targeted cancer treatment...ENERGY ENERGY ENERGY.
- more small businesses mentioned (on the scale of approximately 1000 employees per company, of course in the context of job creation).
- more production/efficiency/incentives: a "new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" (THORIUM BITCHES; it's a lot cheaper, and was only not developed because uranium can go to weapons...which, if we're trying to disarm now, is all the more reason to switch back to element number 90).
- "tough decisions about new offshore areas for oil and gas" Speaker Pelosi made a face for this one.
- advanced biofuels, "clean coal" I made a face for this one. 'Clean' coal is only clean because it shoves all the carbon dioxide emissions underground. Great fucking solution!

The House has passed a "comprehensive energy & climate bill with incentives to make clean energy the profitable energy of America."

Followed by a call to bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Rebuttal time! Can we afford these changes? "There are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change"--that's right, lots of stupid motherfuckers out there; and yeah I'm not happy that scientists are adding fuel to the atrocity and sheer uneducatedness of this line of thought.

Obama's answer is sort of a catch-all. Legit, but not quite answering the question; that's my politican! 'It's good for the future - "the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy." Once again, note the parallel structuring. It's ideal for a sound-byte, isn't it?

- 'the more we make and sell, the more jobs we support.' Duh. But how, exactly, are we going to return to a pre-service-sector/white-collar/go-to-college/stay-out-of-the-workforce economy?
- A new goal: "double exports over the next five years...an increase that will support 2 mil jobs in America." Unless the entire country can stand behind on this, it's not going to happen. And that's how democracies are; things change in geological time.

Export Initiative/and a reform of export controls consistent with national security. I think this is referring to immigration more than terrorism; and it does come up later, in the short foreign affairs section.
- "We have to seek new markets aggressively;" so far, we've been "sitting on the sidelines while other nations create trade deals." America, step the fuck up! NAFTA is so '90s.
- Realizing those benefits requires enforcing those agreements "so that our trading partners play by the rules." The rules of not dumping everything into Mexico, I assume.

A quick mention of trade relations in Asia, South America - in particular South Korea, Panama, Colombia. Is anyone else intrigued by what exactly we're trading with the latter two? South Korea makes sense for electronics; but considering the U.S.'s history with Latin America....

4. Invest in the skills and innovation of "our people."

- An existing national competition to improve our schools -- "instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success." Have you heard about this 'bipartisan' attempt? I have not.
- "We only invest in reform" -- that is, it's time to excel in math and science, and get rid of failing schools. English teachers everywhere despair. But, seriously guys, after being on the receiving end of a giant liberal arts education...it's fucking useless. Unless you count being able to blog about topics I didn't major in; so where's my million dollars a day in ad revenue?!
- The "best anti poverty program around is a good education." More to the point, we must get rid of disparities based on location -- reforms for all 50 states. Comparing Naperville and the inner city...ohyeah there are giant disparities. I don't know how much of them can be changed without larger reforms and better crime control, though.

"In this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job." In this economy, a college diploma doesn't guarantee shit, either.

Dear Senate: pass a "bill to revitalize community colleges" by, first of all, 'no more tax payer subsidies to banks;' and a '$10k credit for four years of college' (for each year or as a grand total, I don't know).

And, for loan repayment: 'only 10% of income should be going to repaying student loans...all debt after 20 years forgiven; 10 if the person is working in the public sector.' Going to college shouldn't be impossible by default. I can dig that; and I'm sure his stint at UChicago made him aware of the nightmarish way tuition rises...perhaps that's one Obama-connection the University of Chicago wouldn't like to prostitute.

P.S. from Obama: Colleges and universities need to cut costs, too. Seconded!

Oh, and College Tuition PRICE. VP Biden's task force to help the middle class has managed to...double the child tax credit; cut taxes for nest funds, retirement; lift the value of homes/shore up housing market by allowing new loans, leading to an average saving of ~15% on mortgage payments. Note: my mother does taxes for H&R Block, she wasn't too thrilled about the child tax credit, but we also did move up a bracket last year or so.

HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM. You knew it was coming. Here's the given rationale:
- lift burden on middle class families

And, since this one is somehow fired up with more partisan hate than gay marriage,
"I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt...didn't choose to tackle healthcare because of good politics"

With a mention of Americans denied coverage because of preexisting conditions; "one illness away from financial ruin," etc.

"We are closer than ever to bringing more security than ever to the lives of Americans." What does he mean by this?

One, the government needs to protect Americans from bad insurance policies.

Staying alive comes into the mix, too; Michelle Obama's "national movement to tackle childhood obesity" was given a nod and some applause.

A major point of contention addressed: Americans with insurance can keep their doctor and plan. Why does he keep having to say this? Of course, the question is whether insurance companies will keep their plans around...maybe the bill needs to include a protection proviso. As if it weren't stuffed enough already.

'According to the congressional budget office (a third-party "official scorekeeper" picked by both sides), doing so will bring down the deficit by "as much as one trillion dollars over the next two decades."'

The "longer debate" increases skepticism -- and here's where he takes some blame for not explaining it more clearly in the first place.

And as for the lobbyists and pork stuffing, here mentioned as "horse trading," 'what's in it for me?' (that is, the average American). Addressing the climate of suspicion that's going to smother national healthcare faster than L.A. under a smog cloud.

People are losing health insurance; the growing deficit (because of badly managed programs); patients denied necessary care; small businesses dropping their coverage (oh there is so much about the small business here, enough to make one think he really cares about them. As a sometime-city dweller, I can sympathize--it's much more visible than it is in the 'burbs).

Take another look at the plan, dudes: "doctors, nurses, healthcare experts" consider this "a vast improvement."

And now for a little bit of I-think-justified rage. "If anyone from either party has a better approach" to strengthening Medicare, stopping insurance abuses, etc.: "Let me know, I'm eager to see it." Above all, Congress shouldn't drop it when "we're so close."

But he also admits that this alone won't dig us out of our "massive fiscal hole."

Government Spending

In 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion.

By 2009, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion, with a projected addition of $8 trillion over the next decade - a result of "not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, paying for an expensive prescription drug program" and $3 trillion more after the economic crisis..."before I walked in the door" (a clamor--definite displeasure. But, once again, Democrats are too nice; why should the current administration take all the blame when Bush oh-so-cheerfully ladled shit onto Clinton?).

Obama 'would have liked to get rid of the deficit...but there were more immediate crises.' "Absolutely convinced" it--spending more money on at least the initial emergency bailout--was the right thing to do.

And yet the 'federal government needs to cut back, just like families in America.' ("Belt-tightening." Ironically, going cheaper is more likely to mean belt-loosening; fat is cheaper.)

More specifics! To pay for the trillion used on the economy last year under Obama's watch:

Government spending will be frozen for three years starting in 2011, with the notable exceptions of national secruity, Medicare/Medicaid, and Social Security (so maybe those elder protests were effective, huh).

"If I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will." Ohsnap.

In the meantime, officials will continue to analyze the budget; they've allegedly identified "$20 billion in savings for the next year."

More middle class tax cuts, none for those making more than $250k/year -- to get rid of the deficit created on 'Obama's watch.' Note the specificity of this: immediate responsibility for his actions; not for Dubya's.

The creation of a bipartisan fiscal commission already speculated about, modeled on a bipartisan proposal (one from each side). With "no gimmicks that let us pretend we solved a problem," and a demand for solutions with a deadline. This one is being passed as an 'executive order after the Senate defeated the bill;' "I refuse to pass this problem onto another generation."

Senate should restore 'pay as you go law' -- allegedly the reason for record surplus in the '90s. Does anyone know what this is?

There's a one year deadline before the freeze takes effect so that the economy can be stronger. Also, probably, so that Democrats are mollified and so that healthcare reform can happen first. I'm suspecting a definite end to this issue by December 2011, although probably not much before then.

Debt needs to be lowered: it's jeopardizing recovery, endangering trade, etc.

Counters: the right might say--get rid of regulations, maintain status quo, tax cuts.

"That's what we did for eight years...it's what helped us into this crisis." Once again, Republicans, it hasn't worked yet.

"Rather than fight the same tired battles...let's try common sense--a novel concept." Laughter, but it's kind of telling when Obama starts getting cynical about shit. (To be fair, he's smart--smart people hit that low first. The bliss of optimism is ignorance.)

But it's more than a deficit of dollars: it's "a deficit of trust...deep and corrosive" issues about how DC works. NO more lobbyists; transparency -- for the people. My favorite part of this is when he mentions the use of the Internet for this. How awesome is it to have a modern president?!

- Lobbyists should be excluded from policymaking jobs
- Lobbyists should have to disclose each contact they make with congress, and have strict limits on campaign contributions (there was kind of some Republican face-making about this, and I do not understand that. How the hell can you not pretend, at the very least, to want the lobbyists out? They bring nothing good, for one horrifying example look at the toxicity standards versus the actual toxicity of modern plastic-making chemicals).

As for Congress, earmark reform. To Dems & Republicans alike, "you've embraced some meaningful change." I was waiting for that word all evening!
- 'Publish earmarked money online before there's a vote so that taxpayers can see how their money's being spent.' I love this idea, but I want to know how it'll be publicized--does the White House have a Twitter?
- And, too, there's a need to reform "how we work with one another." Obama's no starry-eyed idealist, though; he "never thought my election would usher in peace, harmony...some post-partisanship era."

The fundamental differences (namely, Constitutional interpretations and priorities--HA! That's one I've been saying for ages!) are acknowledged. Those aside, "what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is election day"...we need to end the belief that "if you lose, I win."

OH, AND 'neither party should obstruct every single bill just because they can'--he throws in a rebuke that he's speaking to both parties; and that the qualification of public policy individuals shouldn't be entrenched in politics. "It's such politics that has stopped either party from" enacting significant change..."worse yet," distrust from the American people.

"Trying to change the tone of our politics." More like Obama is trying to change the tone of Obama's politics. There's a ton of people in Congress who seem perfectly happy where they are. Even I know better than to think Democrats are above partisanship; they're just not as good at smear campaigns. It's like being good at washign the shit off makes you bad at throwing it.

"I know it's election week...but we still need to govern." Time for a little calling out.
To the Dems: with the largest majority in decades, "the people expect us to solve problems," not to "run to the hills."
To "Republican leadership:" "Insisting that 60 votes are required to do any business at all...a supermajority...[makes] the business to govern...your responsibility as well." Seriously? That's been pissing me off for a while. Stop bitching about it if you're not coming up with any of your own ideas! And no, sit on our asses and wait for the invisible hand to stroke things clean doesn't count.

The way things are is "not good leadership;" it's politics, not leadership.

This week: Obama is meeting with House Republicans; and is planning monthly meetings with the leaders of both sides; 'I know you're looking forward to that.' It's amazing they're still able to laugh--riveting as the speech was, as good a speaker as Obama is, it was still long.

And it's time to drop the crap from the mismanagement following 9/11 -- he's "not interested in litigating the past" (obviously, on the government side, assigning blame for intelligence failures). Put aside the "false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values." This one was a little unclear to me; it seemed like a comment on the Patriot Act and a 200-year legacy of passing alienating bills during wartime, though.

renewed focus on TERRORISTS:
- "unacceptable" gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack
- strengthened partnerships worldwide (what, so Pakistan's cool with us now? ...)
- last year: hundreds of Al Qaeda supporters were "captured and killed." And wow, it is weird hearing a Democrat say those words proudly.
- the current surge in Afghanistan is to train locals. Troops are coming home July 2011. A date!

As Team America, World Police: 'reward good governance, eliminate corruption, support men & women alike in Afghanistan.'

And, on Thursday, a London meeting with allies to 'reaffirm common purpose.' Does this translate to a hope that they'll contribute some of their own for a final surge, and maybe to stick around if the scheduled date doesn't play pretty with the fact that we're slapping democracy in the face of a people who've spent millennia mistrusting it?

I don't know, but we're allegedly "responsibly leaving Iraq to its people." I think 'responsibly' should be switched out with 'in an entirely Western, post-colonialist/Cold War, neo-imperialist' fashion. When will that stupid legacy of democracy being right for everyone go away?!

And another date: all combat troops will be out of Iraq by end of this August; we'll support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and "continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote prosperity & regional peace." So, yeah, we'll be dicking around in the Middle East for the forseeable future.

"Make no mistake: this war is ending;" everyone's coming home. In essence, a reaffirmation of the end dates.

support the troops! Not just out there, but also at home: Michelle and VP Biden's commission to support military families with a goal to create a "21st century VA," and last year had the "largest increase in investments for veterans in decades." Yeah, I have no idea what that means. Something about actually spending the money on armor and dealing with urban warfare, maybe?

Nuclear weapons: get rid of them. And secure all nuclear materials--terrorists, dude.

Sanctions on defiant, post-Communist countries like North Korea are "vigorously enforced" (because that means so very much...? Sanctions don't work, unless the goal is to starve the bottom 90%...okay, I guess that does kill their ground army). "The Islamic Republic of Iran" is more isolated than ever by the world community; they "face growing consequences." Of what, and what? Note the acknowledgment of the full title. I can't help but see this as a subtle dig as the bigamists out there.

And what's the G20 (when'd that happen?!) been up to:
- sustain global economy
- work with the Middle East
- fight against HIV/AIDS (oh good, people still care)

And it's time for a 'new initiatve to respond more effectively to bioterrorism and infectious diseases;' and to 'strengthen public health abroad.' Having recently read a book about immigration and disease, I think the latter's as important as the former.

Conclusion time!

"Our destiny is committed to those beyond our shores," but that's not the only reason to mess around abroad; also "because it is right." There's Haiti! Over ten countries are working together to help rebuild it. (Considering what it was before the earthquake, though....)

Human rights, in particular of women in Iran/Iraq. So fine, he'll acknowledge the Islamic Republic side of things, but goddamn, women are going to have rights in it.

We're always on the side of "human dignity"...Guantanamo not mentioned...

"Abroad," the greatest source of strength "is our ideas." Funny, I always thought it was our famous nuclear stockpile and insanely overdeveloped technology (which, by the way, even Gen. Petraeus wanted cutbacks on.)

"Unity in diversity"--another phrase that can appeal to both Muslims and Republicans. Although more of a public slant has been given to this; the Republicans were already called out--Obama mentions an end to racial profiling, discrimination; civil rights division prosecuting discrimination in workplace, etc. -- and stronger laws against hate crimes

This year: Congress & military to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell'--about fucking time! I cannot believe the Republicans have a problem with this one.

Violations of equal pay laws-- make sure women get paid equally; I'm surprised how many times women's rights specifically came up. I feel like it was being thrown at our allies in the Middle East.

Continue fixing the broken immigration system -- borders, economy, but...no real mention of what the plans for illegal immigrants are.

And the rest of it is pretty much real conclusion material: a rehashing. Here are my unedited notes from that. (Yes, I took notes, :P I have a terribly disappointing auditory cortex.)

ideals, values built america, forge a nation made of immigrants, bla bla

families, employers, neighbors, give back to country; labor, spirit -- nonpartisan values; 'American values'

too many citizens lost faith in biggest institutions - corporationss, media, govt. - these institutions full of honorable; but ceo rewards self for failure, banker risks us, lobbyists, politicians tear each other down, tv pundits, big issues into sound bytes


campaign promise of: 'change-change we can believe in' ; increasing doubt in possibility or his ability to deliver - 'never suggested it would be easy or that I could deliver'

big things = big controversy - either play it safe and point fingers; 'do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high and win the next election' instead of 'doing what's best for the next generation' - we're only here b/c gens. were unafraid to do what's hard, despite uncertain success

political setbacks, some deserved - nothing compared to setbacks of families - spirit of determination, optimism; fundamental decency; 'struggling' small business again/woman in recession/child in south/americans helping haiti

spirit '...lives in in you, its people'

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