A quick blast from the past

From the Moveable Type chuck-pearson.org blog, January 20, 2009.

Newt Gingrich, as cited by Washington Post op-ed type David Ignatius, circa September 2005:

Gingrich argues that the values debate that has divided America so sharply during the past decade is over. There’s a broad consensus about most issues, and anyway people realize that the country’s big problems aren’t about morality but performance. “We’re not in a values fight now but over whether the system is working,” Gingrich told me. “The issue is delivery.” And that’s true at every level — city, state and federal. Gingrich’s critique of the federal response is as devastating as that of any Democrat. “For the last week the federal government and its state and local counterparts have consistently been behind the curve,” he wrote fellow Republicans this week. “The American people overwhelmingly know that the current situation is totally unacceptable,” and for that reason, “it is a mistake to get trapped into defending the systems and processes which clearly failed.” He observes in another memo, “While the destruction was unprecedented, it was entirely predictable…”

This is the moment for the Party of Performance to take center stage. The breakdown in public life was obvious before Katrina. We have a government that can’t control its borders, can’t find a viable strategy for its war in Iraq, can’t organize the key agencies to address the terrorism problems it has been trumpeting. The yearning in the country for something different has been palpable this year.

America faces an “extreme disaster,” says Gingrich, one that will have more lasting and complex effects than any domestic event since World War II. The politicians who rise to that challenge will surge in the 2006 and 2008 elections. The ones who remain stuck in their ruts will suffer. Who’s ready to sign up for the Party of Performance?

Barack Obama’s inaugural address, 20 January 2009:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched. But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use.

…and now we know who signed on for the Party of Performance.

Congratulations, President Obama.

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