President Obama marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and paid tribute to the first responders, those serving our nation in the military, and those who lost their lives on that tragic day.
Coming Together as One Nation to Remember:
The President honored first responders and those who serve this country, “We’re honoring the heroism of first responders who risked their lives—and gave their lives—to save others. And we’re giving thanks to all who serve on our behalf, especially our troops and military families—our extraordinary 9/11 Generation.” He added, “Today, America is stronger and al Qaeda is on the path to defeat. We’ve taken the fight to al Qaeda like never before. Over the past two and a half years, more senior al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated than at any time since 9/11. And thanks to the remarkable courage and precision of our forces, we finally delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.”
Obama noted that it’s time to end the wars and bring our troops home, and to do some nation building at home. He closed with thoughts of where we are today as a nation, “They wanted to deprive us of the unity that defines us as a people. But we will not succumb to division or suspicion. We are Americans, and we are stronger and safer when we stay true to the values, freedoms and diversity that make us unique among nations.”
Speaking of unity, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michele Obama, former President George Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush stood side by side today at the site of the former World Trade Center towers.
Much is being made in the press about today “unifying” the two families, but aside from the vast ideological differences, Bush and Obama did work together during the transition phase of the Presidency in late 2007 and early 2008. And Laura Bush did defend Michelle Obama against conservative attacks. As easy as it is to cheer for our team from the sidelines, once in a position of power and behind closed doors, pragmatism must rule the day if anything is to be done. We saw the W agenda stagnated by his inability to work with his own party due in large part to Rove’s bullying of the Republican congress in the later years. A modern day president must be willing to compromise.
While partisans see compromise as betrayal, the notion of compromise is built into our government. The very compromise we see and rail against is the system of checks and balances at play — a system meant to keep a despotic leader from abusing their power. Perhaps gridlock is inevitable when one party refuses to compromise, and has indeed signed pledges to party platforms above their allegiance to our system of government — our Constitution.
What is presidential compromise? Regentsprep.org explains that during the constitutional convention, “Nearly all of the delegates could agree on the need for a president, to serve as a central figure and executive of the new nation. The disagreement arose over the power and service of such an office. Some delegates, fearing the rise of king-like president advocated for a weak official, who would be limited to a single one-year term. Others argued the need for a powerful figure who would be elected, but serve for life. Debates also raged about how best to elect the president and what role the people of the nation should serve in his selection.”
That debate continues now, as reflected in the different approaches of the parties. Ironically, given their alleged stances on small versus big government, neo-conservative Republicans treat the presidency as a king-like figure while liberal Democrats treat the presidency more as a consensus building central figure. This is why the Republicans accuse Obama of “leading from behind” (an absurd attempt at an ad hominem, given his track record with national security versus their record), because a consensus builder is a weak leader in the eyes of the Right. The cognitive dissonance hurts.
But back to that compromise thingy. True liberal democratic (as in the foundation of our system) thought demands limited government that comes as a result of balanced powers, which are compromise. This is not the same thing as small government, as liberals believe that government has a role to play in the lives of the citizens, such as providing a social safety net. Were we sharing those powers with folks who hadn’t shifted their allegiance to their party over their country, this would look like unity and our nation would be stronger for it. That’s the way this is supposed to work.
Instead, conservatives in the House of Representatives are being allowed to run the country through obstruction. While many blame the President for this, the Senate was supposed to be a check on the possibility of tyrannical rule of the majority from the House, but now the Republican side of the Senate is no longer serving as that check. We have a Republican tyranny of the majority from the House running wild, in direct contradiction to the intentions of the founders. Setting aside our fantasy-driven dreams that a bully of a President could put an end to Republican tyranny (and oh how I would love to see it), the fact of the matter is it is up to us to do that at the ballot box.
The President has called for us to come together to remember. The ideals of unity and compromise are not failures just because they are met with war. They are, after all, the very ideals of our country. The failure isn’t having the ideals or “not getting the obstruction of the other party”, the failure is the inevitable abuse of the intentions of the system. Let’s not grade the President on the failures of others, but rather on how he is upholding his end of the deal and whether or not a unified country with limited powers for the executive held in place by checks and balances of the bicameral congress is what we want.
If it is, the thing to do is address the rules of the Senate and clean out the House of party first members. Compromise is not an ugly word; it’s the heart of our system of government. It’s whom you are given to compromise with and the integrity of the expected ideological debates that determines the quality of the result.