A Dialogue of Givers and Takers

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Barack Obama, at his inauguration, spoke memorable words: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” He called for the unity of the country, especially its national legislators in the House and Senate.

House Budget Chair, Paul Ryan, who ran for Vice President against the winning Democratic ticket, later said these words in a television interview:

All of the statements and all of the comments lead me to believe that he’s [Obama is]thinking more of a political conquest than a political compromise…”

We must choose our battles carefully, and stay united in them to succeed. We can’t get rattled. We won’t play the villain in his [Obama’s] morality plays. We have to show that — if given the chance — we can govern. We have better ideas.

No doubt, among those better ideas is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s main priority — a national priority of the “will of the people,” he says — to “help make abortion a relic of the past… Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year.”

Neither the House Budget Chair or the Speaker of the House mentioned jobs or made jobs a top priority. Ryan seemed to forget about all those millions out of work that he mentioned at every stop during the campaign. For him, did they just go way, having served their usefulness?

The President did not mention jobs directly in his speech, but he expressed three fundamental national principles, endorsed by polls that show his focus on jobs to be “the will of the people.” The first:

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

The second:

 Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

The third:

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune. . . For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

Ted Cruz, the new Senator from Texas, didn’t have much to say about the President’s speech, but last fall he took a swipe at his party’s nominee: “I’m pretty certain Mitt Romney actually french-kissed Barack Obama,” he told the Federalist Society’s annual conference. Was he contributing to the party division Ryan alluded to? Was it an LGBT endorsement for a Tea Party kumbaya moment?

Apparently not. Cruz stood with his fellow Texas senator  in voting against confirming Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State. His reasons? He released this statement through his spokesperson:

I was compelled to vote no on Senator Kerry’s nomination because of his longstanding less-than-vigorous defense of U.S. national security issues and, in particular, his long record of supporting treaties and international tribunals that have undermined U.S. sovereignty. Now that he has been confirmed, I look forward to working with him in the years to come, hopefully, to protect our interests and preserve U.S. sovereignty.

John Cornyn’s spokesperson said he opposed Kerry’s confirmation because of his “long history of liberal positions that are not consistent with a majority of Texans.”

Meanwhile, House member Steve Stockman of Texas said in public statement, issued before the President’s directives on preventing gun violence:

I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment.”

Obama is launching an “attack on the very founding principles of this republic. The President’s actions are an existential threat to this nation.”

This guy [Obama] does not respect the Constitution, he does not abide by the Constitution, and we’ve seen it repeatedly,” Texas House Member Louie Gohmert asserts.

Texas also has the largest numbers of secessionists who want to leave the Union.

Gun violence leads to a different kind of leave-taking. This item led yesterday’s Chicago news:  Hayida Pendleton, an honor student who loved to read and who performed with her high school band  for Obama’s inaugural was shot by an unidentified shooter. She died in a park, “a quiet place,”  three blocks from her high school where she and friends had gathered under a canopy to stay dry during an afternoon rain. She was shot in the back. She was fifteen.