President Barack Obama by Wikimedia Commons
In 2008, I was honored to be elected President of this great nation. As a candidate I promised to change the way politics was done inside the Beltway. This promise involved two aspects. First, I wanted to bring an end to partisan rancor and division. Second, I wanted to decrease the influence of lobbyists and special interests on the federal government.
But after twenty months in office, I have learned some difficult lessons. I now realize that the course I set during the early years of my Administration was mistaken. My efforts to bring an end to partisan rancor backfired. Instead of ending partisanship, my efforts actually increased it. Moreover, I have largely failed in my efforts to decrease the influence of money on Washington.
Let me explain.
Throughout these difficult months, I tried my utmost to treat the Republicans with respect. I chose to look forward, not backwards -- meaning that I did not initiate investigations and prosecutions into the activities of the previous Administration with regard to torture, the war in Iraq, political interference in the Justice Department, corruption of federal agencies and contracts, election irregularities, and other matters. I tried to be bipartisan. I reached out a hand to the Republicans and compromised repeatedly, in the hopes that they would reciprocate and work together with the Democrats to rebuild our nation from the terrible domestic and foreign policy problems that we face.
I realize now that the approach I took was wrong. I overestimated the good faith of my Republican colleagues.
For this error of judgement, I humbly beg your forgiveness.
Despite all my efforts to reach out, the Republicans responded only with lies and obstructionism. They accuse me of being a Muslim, of having been born overseas, and of being some sort of socialist. In Congress, they often voted in lock step to oppose the Democrats' legislative bills. Republicans in the Senate promise to filibuster any substantive Democratic proposal. They refuse to confirm my judicial appointees. Some Republicans have even promised to open investigations into the actions of the White House, with subpoenas, should the Republicans gain control of the House in November.
I now realize, in particular, that my decision not to prosecute and investigate apparent crimes of my predecessors was a mistake. I thought that prosecuting criminal acts by my predecessors would be a distraction from the substantial problems we face as a nation. Furthermore, I sincerely hoped that by overlooking the errors of the past, we could more quickly bring an end to the partisan rancor that has plagued us for so many years.
But I now realize that my choice to look forwards, not backwards, had the effect of hiding from the American people the truth about what happened. And it had the further effect of allowing the Republicans to regroup and to resume their dirty tricks, their lies, their demagoguery, their obstructionism, their bigotry, and their thoroughgoing and shameless corruption.
Starting with the Administration of President Reagan, the Republican Party turned sharply to the right. Financed by large corporations, and by individual donors such as the Koch brothers, the Republicans have built a formidable Noise Machine of think tanks, fake grassroots organizations, endowed professorships, radio personalities, and even an entire TV network -- all devoted to promoting an extreme and regressive view of the role of government in society. They have repeatedly deceived and misled the American people to vote for candidates and measure not in the peoples' interest. Their cruel tax cuts for the rich have resulted in large deficits and in nearly a trillion dollar transfer of wealth to wealthiest 2% of Americans. Their reckless deregulation led to the subprime economic crash and to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. They thoroughly corrupted and mismanaged the conduct of federal agencies. They misled the public about the science behind climate change. They exploited fear, religion, racism, and bigotry to further their political aims.
Furthermore, the Justice Department in the Bush Administration initiated partisan political investigations of Democratic office holders. They rigged elections, in Florida in 2000, in Ohio in 2005, and, possibly, in Massachusetts earlier this year. They misled the nation into an unnecessary and disastrous war that has greatly weakened us and has aided our enemies. They intentionally mismanaged and bankrupted government, in the hopes of drowning it in a bathtub, as if we don't need the Centers for Disease Control and Safety, FEMA, the FBI, the police, the EPA, the SEC, the National Science Foundation, the FDA, Social Security, and numerous other agencies and services on which our economic and physical well-being depends.
If the Republicans regain control of either house of Congress in November, I fear for the American experiment in democracy.
But I cannot blame just the Republicans for the lackluster results of the past twenty months.
Too many Democrats are beholden to corporate donors and have voted for and approved measures harmful to the interests of the majority of Americans.