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Thursday, March 11, 2010

"GIVE 'EM HELL, BARRY!"

In recent weeks, President Obama has been barnstorming the country to gin up support for his health care reform plan. That is a very good thing, as Presidents from Reagan to LBJ to Truman have successfully gone over the heads of Congress to appeal directly to the people to get their sometimes controversial agendas passed by both houses of the legislative branch. As one of my favorite Republicans, President Theodore Roosevelt, once observed, the presidency is a unique "bully pulpit" from which a President can plead his case to stir up mass support behind him, a privilege no member of Congress can match.

The success of our current President's efforts are yet to be determined. He has had the "pulpit" all right, but he hasn't been much of a "bully." Presidents have always had opposition in Congress, but none have been faced with the degree of downright uncivil and wholly uncooperative obstructionist tactics that President Obama has endured from his current ultra-conservative Republican Party opposition over the past year. To his credit, Obama has maintained his civility and repeatedly reached out to his opponents. Each and every time, they have rejected his overtures and have attacked him repeatedly with lies and distortion. The time has come for Obama to drop the "Mr. Nice Guy" demeanor and start a robust strategic counterattack on those who are dead set of making him a failure and destroying his presidency. He needs to attack these Republicans on their philosophy, lack of practical policy ideas, and even on their very method of campaigning. To date, the Obama pulpit has resembled that of Ronald Reagan to a degree: friendly, smiley, with an occasional mild zinger. But Obama's time is far different than the Reagan era. Unlike Reagan, he is faced with an opposition party who rabidly hates him and a public who has heard so many vicious lies about him they are starting to wonder about him.



















In 1948, then-President Harry S Truman faced a similar situation. At that time, two years before, Republicans had recaptured contol of the House and Senate for the first time in 14 years; they appeared to be on the rise; and Truman was in political trouble. Inflation was being felt and there was a housing shortage. Soviet Russia was appearing to be on an expansionist kick, and many people were getting nervous about foreign affairs. It was doubtful Truman would retain office the next year. The Republicans jeered at him and mocked him, and, then as now, tried to pass legislation beneficial to the rich but harmful to everybody else. Things looked bleak for Truman and his Democratic Party.

Then Truman hit the road, traveling more than 30,000 miles in 10 months. He lambasted the uncooperative, "do nothing" Republicans at every stop. In a speech delivered in West Virginia, ol' Harry really let it rip. A voice from the assembled crowd called out, "Give 'em hell, Harry!" To which Truman wittily replied, "I just tell the truth, and the Republicans think it's hell."

Here is a slightly abridged version of that speech:


"The Republicans wrote part of their record from 1921 to 1933. They led the
country to depression, poverty, and despair...

In 1932, after 12 years of Republican bungling, more than 12 million men and
women were unemployed.

In 1932 the average worker in manufacturing industries was making 45 cents an
hour -- if he was lucky enough to have a job. In coal mining, the most hazardous
of all occupations, miners were making 52 cents an hour -- if they were lucky
enough to have jobs.

The working men and women in this country could not do much to help themselves,
because the strength of their unions had been broken by the reactionary labor
policies of the Republican administration.

The Republican bubble burst in 1929, and when it burst:

-- There was no minimum wage to cushion the blow.

-- There was no unemployment compensation to carry the working man's family
along.

-- There was no work relief program to help people through the crisis.

-- But the party of privilege was ready to carry big business through the
crisis. It created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for that purpose. The
banks, the railways, the insurance companies -- they got relief, but not the
American people.

-- For the unemployed, it was Hoovervilles and soup kitchens. Veterans were
encouraged to go into business for themselves -- selling apples.

That is the Republican record. Most of us well remember it. The Democratic part
of the record begins in 1933, when the Democratic Party began to build
prosperity for business, labor, and agriculture.


We wrote into law the right of the working men and women to organize in unions
of their own choice, and to bargain collectively.

We put a floor under wages.

We outlawed child labor.

We created a great insurance system to protect working men and women against the
hazards of unemployment and old age.

We wrote into law a system of price supports for farm products, so that the
bottom would not drop from under the farmer's income the way it did in the
1920's.

We put a curb on Wall Street speculation, and stopped the money changers from
gambling with people's savings.


With these reforms and many others, the Democratic Party brought the country to
the greatest period of prosperity ever known in the history of the world.

Things are far different now from what they were in 1932.

The average farm income of the farmer in 1947 was $725 per person, nearly ten
times as great. In 1932 it was $74 per person.

The coal miner who got 52 cents an hour in 1932, gets $1.94 an hour in 1948. He
deserves every cent of it, too; and I'm glad to see him get it.

And business hasn't suffered too much under the New Deal! Corporations had a
loss of $4 billion in 1932. But in 1947 they had a profit of $17 billion, after
taxes.

These same corporations -- these same corporations now claim the Democrats are
hostile to business. If I were in their shoes, I would want some more of that
kind of hostility.

Today, signs of prosperity are all over the country. I have been all over the
country, and I know what I am talking about!

Farm production is greater than it ever was. Industrial production is greater
than it ever was. Everybody who wants a job can get one.

That's the way America is today. The real question facing us in this election is
whether or not we are going to keep it that way.

For all this did not come about by accident. Some people would like to make you
think it did. The leaders of the Republican Party would like you to believe that
the country just drifted into the great depression, and that it just drifted out
again into prosperity. They would like you to believe that the Democratic New
Deal had nothing to do with recovery -- and that the Republicans had nothing to
do with the Hoover panic.

That is not true and the people know it is not true.

The country was driven into depression by the policies of a Republican
administration and a Republican Congress that served the selfish interests of
the rich and powerful business groups.

The country was brought out of the depression by the intelligent foresight and
planning of the Democratic Party -- and above all by following the fundamental
belief of the Democratic Party that the true road to prosperity begins with
looking after the little fellow. The Republicans believe in taking care of big
business first and letting the little fellow take care of himself.

The Republicans would like you to forget these fundamental differences between
the two parties. But during the past 2 years we have been given a sharp warning
that these differences still exist, and these differences are wide and deep.
That has been made completely clear by the record of this Republican
'do-nothing' 80th Congress.

No matter what the Republicans do or say, the Republicans cannot escape
responsibility for that black record.

I know, of course, that there are many fine people throughout the United States,
who from habit or choice are members of the Republican Party. To them I say that
the national leadership of their party has failed them miserably.

I know, too, that among the Republicans of the 80th Congress there were a few
liberal men who joined the battle against special privilege. You can pick these
men out by their votes. They voted with the Democrats in the Congress more often
than they did with their own Republican leadership. When these men went to their
party caucuses they must have felt very lonesome.

The record of the 80th Congress was made by the forces that dominate the
Republican Party... on domestic issues...the Republican leadership
started out to follow the same policies that nearly wrecked the country under
Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.

Some people have accused me of failing to cooperate with the Republican
leadership in carrying out those policies. Now, I must confess to you that I am
going to plead guilty to that charge. Of course, I did not cooperate in carrying
out policies that I knew would bring disaster on the American people.

But I will tell you how you can get some cooperation in carrying out those
policies -- if that's what you want. I will tell l you how you can achieve unity
in a headlong dash toward another depression. Just elect a Republican President
to go along with a Republican Congress.

Just elect a man who said -- and I quote: 'I am proud of the record of my party
and of the 80th Congress.'

Just elect a man who said: 'The 80th Congress delivered as no other Congress
ever did for the future of our country.'

Apparently he will be glad to help deliver a lot more of the same kind of blows
you got from the 80th Congress. But bigger blows -- and faster and more of them.

What did this Republican Congress deliver for the future of the country?

For one thing, it delivered a body blow at labor in the form of the Taft-Hartley
Act.

The fundamental purpose of the Taft-Hartley Act is to weaken organized labor.
Its supporters want management to have the upper hand in collective bargaining.
Do you know why? They want management to have the upper hand so that wages can
be driven down.

What else did the Republican Congress deliver for the future of our country?

It delivered a body blow at nearly a million workers by taking away their social
security rights.

It delivered a body blow at millions of our veterans by refusing to provide a
decent housing program.

It delivered a blow at every family in the Nation by failing to act on high
prices.

What else did the Republican Congress deliver for the future of our country? It
delivered a whole long list of blows at every foundation of our present
prosperity and at our hopes for progress in the future. I can't cover them all
tonight, but I will tell you about just one more.

That is the rich man's tax relief bill.

The Republican Congress passed a tax bill that reduced the revenues of the
Government by more than $5 billion. That Congress passed it three times and I
vetoed it every time. But on the third try, they passed it over my veto.

I believed that the safety of our national finances required that we make large
payments on the public debt in times of prosperity. I still think so.

But the Republican rich man's tax relief bill has brought us face to face with
the prospect of going into the red again.

I believed that when the wartime taxes were reduced, the poor man should be
relieved first and most. I still think so. But the Republican tax bill doesn't
work that way.

I warned that the tax reduction bill would add to the inflationary pressures and
make prices go even higher. And it did.

For most of you, the tax bill hasn't helped a bit. If you make $60 a week, your
taxes were reduced about $1.50 a week. But since May, when that $1.50 began to
show up in your pay envelope, prices have gone up so much that the $1.50 is
already wiped out.

The rich man fared much better under the tax bill. A married couple with an
income of $100,000 a year got a tax cut of $16,725 a year -- $16,725 a year!
That's about $12,000 more than my net salary as President of the United States.

Of course, prices haven't gone up for them any more than they have for you. So I
would say that they came out pretty well.

Is it any wonder that we call this a rich man's tax relief bill?

That's typical of the way the Republican 80th Congress delivered for the future
of the country. Some time later, I am going to elaborate on just exactly what
they did with the budget this year. And it fits in with this rich man's tax
relief bill. It's outrageous what they did to the country on that.

That Congress delivered for the interests that had their lobbyists swarming all
over the Capital. It delivered for special privilege groups that put up the big
money at election time.

They are doing that right now in this election. That same bunch of lobbyists and
people whom they represent are paying for the Republican campaign right this
minute.

Now, they passed a great many bills, which I vetoed. There is only one President
who has a greater veto record than I have, in the short time that I have been
President, and that is Grover Cleveland; and I am proud of that veto record,
because I was standing there working for the people, when I was signing those
vetoes.

But they passed a great many -- not a great many, but several -- among them this
tax relief bill and the Taft-Hartley bill. They passed those bills over my veto.

But when a bill becomes the law of the land, the President of the United States
has sworn to enforce the law, and as President of the United States, I have
lived up to that oath which I took to support the Constitution and the laws of
the United States.

But if you want these bad things remedied, you had better give me a Congress for
the next 4 years that is working for the people and not for the special
interests.

Now, if you want unity and harmony and sweetness and light in getting more
deliveries of the kind I have been describing, just shut your eyes and vote
Republican.

But if you want something delivered for labor, if you want something delivered
for the farmers, and if you want something delivered for the small businessmen,
and for the white-collar worker -- there is just one way you can make your vote
count. Vote the Democratic ticket.

Today, the Democratic Party is the party of the American people. It was the
party of the people under Jefferson and Jackson. It was the party of the people
under Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Today, we of the Democratic Party express the will of the American people to
move forward, under liberty, yielding neither to communism nor to reaction.

Today, the Democratic Party stands before the country a living force for peace
and freedom.

Today, we are rallying our forces for the greatest struggle in our history. In
that struggle, I ask your support.

Just give us the votes on election day, and we will do the job."
----------------------------------------------

In this remarkable speech, Truman brilliantly and truthfully framed the Republicans as exactly what they are: a party for the rich, completely out of touch with the wants and needs of the rest of the country. He did so with specific and easy-to-understand examples. He clearly outlined their failures and hoisted them on their own petard.

Barack Obama must now do exactly the same thing. Republican obstinance and unproductivity must be spotlighted and hammered upon. Republican policies favoring the rich but harming everyone else must be clearly presented. The President needs to drop his foolish obsession with bipartisanship. In today's political climate, that is an impossible dream. He must instead attack and expose the Republicans for the liars and obstructionists they are. That is the only way he will stave off electoral defeat for his party this year, and for himself AND his party in 2012. It worked fabulously well for Truman in 1948, and will do so again in 2010 and 2012. He, like Truman before him, must make Republicans the issue, not himself.

Now "GIVE 'EM HELL, BARRY!"

16 comments:

mud_rake said...

One still wonders, Jack, why the hell it took him so long to get passionate about this issue. I worry that his timidity is caused by continually looking to 2012 and doing what is 'right' for his re-election.

Jack Jodell said...

mud_rake,
You may be on to something there. But in light of Republican non-productive behavior since 1/20/09, they are very vulnerable, but only if he and other progressives press the issue as Truman did. If Obama and the Dems fail to do this, they are needlessly passing the upper hand in the next 2 elections to the Republicans. That would be a very stupid strategic blunder! Aren't the similarities between the GOP of 1948 and today's model striking? Bad things never change...

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Dear JACK!
What an illuminating and inspirational comparison! Been sick and last nite when to my iphone rss reader and caught up on my SAP...

as usual you have made some difference in my awareness and in my own ideas of it all. Thank you Jack, Professor, for putting it out here!

Jack Jodell said...

Hey, thanks, Gwendolyn, and sorry to hear you've been sick. (Don't let your insurance company find out or they may cut off your health insurance).

Reading Truman's fabulous speech inspired this post. He really pinned those nasty 1948 Republicans down so they couldn't get away, and he was not only re-elected himself, but managed to restore substantial Democratic majorities in both houses. There are so many parallels between 1948 and today...but I think today's completely unproductive Republicans are even more vulnerable now than they were back then. It's up to Obama and the progressive caucus to Trumanize 'em!

TomCat said...

Jack, I loved it.

Truman had one advantage that Obama lacks. A solid 12 year record of Democratic achievement to point to. Obama does not. When you come down to it, Clinton was a lousy President. He failed to get HCR. He allowed the GOP Congress to repeal Glass-Steagall. He conducted his personal life in such a way as to allow the GOP to use it as a distraction to consume much of his presidency. We must remember that he seems a water-walker, from our perspective, only because we compare his administration with the disastrous Bush/GOP Regime, a mess that makes even Hoover look good.

However, Truman's speech clearly shows that the GOP has changed only in the magnitude of their crimes, the degree of their obstruction, and the audacity of their lies.

Holte Ender said...

Jack if Obama only ever reads one blog, The Saturday Afternoon Post should be the one. Tremendous stuff.

Jack Jodell said...

TomCat, you point out a fundamental truth and difference between Barry and Harry. I share your summation of Clinton, but I would add that he resisted strong pressure to privatize Social Security and he did succeed in building a budget surplus, largely by SLIGHTLY increasing taxes on the highest incomes.

But Obama has a huge war chest of GOP miscues directly damaging to the overwhelming majority of citizens. If he spells each of these out as well as Truman did, he should enjoy much the same result. Let's hope!
-------------
Holte Ender,thank you for that humbling remark. I may write an amended speech for Obama and every progressive running for Congress this year, and this speech will be based on Truman's masterpiece but will be updated with more currently relevant data. Watch for it down the line. The Republicans are sitting ducks. All the progressives and Obama have to do is pick up the proper campaign rifle and blow them away! And I will arm them...

TRUTH 101 said...

Jack: I most certainly share many of your frustrations. My frustration is tempered with a good dose of pragmatism though.


Of the many things I learned from working campaigns is that you don't want to peak too early. Of course Obama could go on a tear around the country whipping us up and whipping republican ass. It's too early though. Obama and his team are damn smart political operatives. Come October I forsee good things happening. It sucks we may well end up with a watered down health insurance reform bill but we have to keep Congree to keep building and improving what we can get this year.


If we lose Congress the republicans will have even more power to obstruct. They have shown they don't care about jobs or defense or anything but the wealthy. They can obstruct and drive our economy further in the hole and blame Obama in 2012 and probably take back the presidency.

TomCat said...

Let's hope indeed.

Jack Jodell said...

Truth101,
You raise an excellent point about not starting too early. But a seed needs to be planted becfore a flower can grow, so this is the seed I have planted now, so that come September or October, we will see a nice garden of progressivism in bloom. These Republican weeds and sticker patches have got to GO! As for 2012, if Obama and the Dems start throwing knockout punches instead of cowering in the corner, they will be in far better shape in 2 years.
---------------
TomCat,
Amen, brother! Meanwhile, I'm going to do all I can to see that the obstructionist, time-wasting GOP gets exactly what it deserves for its hypocrisy and time-wasting!

Beach Bum said...

...GOP of 1948 and today's model striking?

This is slightly off subject but I think important, my first line supervisor is a hardcore Teabagger but we have apparently worked out a unspoken agreement that we both keep quiet about our political beliefs around each other.

Last night I had to go into his office to find a form and I discovered an ancient paperback left out in the open from the early 1960's written by some guy who picture on the back makes him look like a constipated Rod Sterling.

The books spouts serious hardcore John Birch/McCarthy stuff that the US government back then was still riddled with commies out to corrupt and overthrow the republic. The bookmark in the middle suggest that it is not some relic and that he is actually reading the material.

Close by was a couple of Glenn Beck's stuff so if this is the degree of opposition the president is up against Barry better up his A-game several more levels.

Manifesto Joe said...

Problem is: This time, the "do-nothing Congress" has a Democratic majority. Well, at least they were supposed to be Democrats.

amadmike1 said...

The president did a helluva job in Ohio yesterday Jack. It is the first time I really understood how valuable the health care bill will be even without the public option. Great read.

TomCat said...

Me too, Jack. That a political party would go out of its way to damage a country in the hope of using that damage to gain power is unprecedented. If such behavior does not identify them as traitors, what could?

Jack Jodell said...

Beach Bum,
What you say IS important because it illustrates perfectly the profile of today's Teabaggers and ultra-conservative Republican Party. These are frightened, nervous, cynical paranoids who are unsure of and condemn anything and everything not just like they are. People like this do not learn; they oppose knowledge, if it threatens their misguided and deeply held beliefs.They lash out at and attack everybody they reject and cause much discord and injury in the process. Liz Cheney and her crowd are the modern Joseph McCarthy, and, as such, are to be discredited and kept from governing. They will do this country far more harm than any group of terrorists. Watch out for that fellow you work with: he sounds as though he is very unstable.
---------------
Good point, Manifesto Joe. But even more accurately, it is the Republican Lite Blue Dogs like Ben Nelson and Joe LIEberman who are to blame. That's why rather than calling it a "do nothing" Congress, Obama and progressives must frame them as the "Say No Bloc" of conservatives and Republicans who are constantly saying no to you, me, and all but the very wealthy and very privileged.
---------------
amadmike1,
The President is just starting to gain his stride on this. It is the 11th hour, to be sure, but better late than never.
---------------
TomCat,
It is inconceivable what this "Say No Bloc" has been up to, but it typifies today's modern conservative Republican. Traitors? Absolutely. Now if we were as extreme and intolerant as they are, we would round them all up for a one-way ticket to Gitmo. But, being far more civilized and intelligent, our aim instead is to keep the reins of power out of their unstable hands.

TomCat said...

Amen, Pope Jack.