Transcript of a dream, a speech that President Obama might webcast later this this morning:
"My Fellow Americans:
“I had an epiphany last night, and I want to share that with you today on Thanksgiving, that uniquely American holiday recognized by proclamations of Abraham Lincoln when he was President.
“I know most of you are cynical about your government.
“The cynicism is compounded by a national confusion over the proper role of government. On this fundamental question, we are a divided people. Many of you want the federal government to do little more than provide for the common defense. Others, however, think the federal government has a role in setting national goals, building infrastructure, even providing for the common welfare.
“We’re going to have to figure that out. What is the proper role of national government.
“But before we can do that, the government that we have, such as it is, must again become legitimate, accountable to you.
“We all agree that politicians in Washington today have lost their way.
“When I became President, I thought my job was to learn as quickly as possible the levers of power within the Executive branch and the Congress. I thought my job was to work the system, as an insider, on behalf of the people.
“As you may know, I look up to President Lincoln as a model and have thought to learn from his example. I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s ‘Team of Rivals,’ and that book influenced decisions I made about my cabinet, about working with Congress, about compromising with interest groups, because I thought that was the essence of American political leadership.
“The epiphany I have had is this. I have made a mistake. I have drawn the wrong lessons from history. I have failed to appreciate an essential, central lesson of our past that should be informing our direction today. Changes in the 21st Century yield a unique opportunity to reclaim that most American experiment, representative democracy, and, so far, I have been squandering that opportunity.
“What I’ve done wrong was put best by Dave Winer on his blog, Scripting News. ‘Communication,’ Winer wrote, ‘isn't just getting your message out. If Obama had been listening, he might . . . have had a better feel for the crisis happening with users of real estate, not just developers and financiers. It was naive of the President to think that, once elected, he could ensconce himself in the gridlock and somehow his charm would overcome Republican barriers. They weren't charmed by him, and they saw his reliance on charm as a weakness, and took advantage of it. Had Obama kept his army of discourse’ – and here Winer is talking about the grass roots methods I used to get elected – ‘Had Obama kept his army of discourse mobilized, developed it, we would be able to now tell him exactly what to do to get us out of the ditch he drove us into.’
“As hard as it is for me to read that, I know Winer is right."
"Our time is not President Lincoln’s time. When Lincoln established his team of rivals, he did so before communication between the people and the people’s elected representatives was frictionless, before information could be shared by posting a picture or a link to Twitter. President Lincoln genius was to connect with America using the means of his time, to hear the widest variety of views from the largest diversity of sources possible in the mid-19th Century. It's easy to forget, because the world has changed so much since, but President Lincoln lived at a time when citizens would still drop in, uninvited, to visit him in the White House. In a way, he was using the social networks of his day to stay connected to the people he served.
“What I failed to understand about President Lincoln’s example should have been obvious to me all along. It’s not how he built a cabinet or cajoled Congress, methods that made sense in his era. It’s the timeless, sacred aspiration he set for us as a people, as a nation, during a time of deep, national division. The powerful idea that this great nation would embody democracy. Government of the people. By the people. For the people.
“Not government of the lobbyists. By the campaign contributions. For the benefit of corporations.
“I have been listening to the wrong people. I have been sitting down and breaking bread with monied interests because they can pay my bills. I have been playing a game with insiders who have long since obscured any accountability the government may have once had to the people.
"I should have been listening to you all along.
“Deadlock persists in Washington because deadlock serves the interests of the plutocrats who have no interest in what, to them, must be the most subversive of ideas: government that cannot be bought. Government that is not for sale. Government of the people. By the people. For the people.
"As long as Washington remains in partisan deadlock, that is just fine by the oligarchy. Their taxes are as low as they've ever been. Their business interests are beyond the reach of regulators outside of their control. The only reforms they'll approve are those they write for themselves, dropping legislation in the lap of a compliant Congress.
“Time’s wasting, and here’s what I’m going to do. Effectively immediately, I am shutting down all efforts of my campaign to solicit cash contributions. All money on hand from donors that can be identified will be returned. If anyone wants to work for my campaign for re-election, I appreciate that, but they will have to work as volunteers. I am going to learn how to blog and how to make my own YouTube videos.
“Other details of how I will support my campaign for re-election will have to be worked out. If he’s willing, I will reach out to Jack Abramoff and ask if he would serve me as an unpaid advisor, helping me banish all lobbyists from access to my campaign. I know Abramoff is a convicted felon, but he has served his time, and how better to anticipate the ways of crooks than get advice from the reformed among them?
“But before I resume campaigning, I’m going to take some time to listen.
“Later today, the First Lady and I, and our two daughters, are decamping from the White House to an Occupy camp here in Washington DC. We mean to set up a tent and live with occupiers for a few days. Where are we getting a tent, you might ask? I am borrowing one from Camp David. It has the presidential seal on it. It’s a very nice tent. It should be. You paid for it.
“And you know this about me, I’m always wanting to reach out to all sides. When I can figure out how best to learn from the Tea Party movement, I will spend equal time among Americans who identify themselves that way. You’ll forgive me if I bypass the Tea Party offshoots that have been co-opted by the Republican party and the oligarchy that does not really believe in President Lincoln’s vision. I will need your help in identifying the right Tea Partiers, though I do know they are out there.
“I am going to listen. You won’t hear me spouting off or hawking any agenda, at least for the next few days. Of course, you may see me on videos people may take with their phones. I’m worried that I’m going to be caught on tape, sneaking a cigarette behind the tent. But so be it. In 21st Century America, all citizens are members of the press. And so we add to speech, assembly, and religion, one more right under the First Amendment that is equally the province of all Americans, not just those with press passes, not just those with "credentials" handed out by government.
“Several members of my cabinet are upset about my plans. Frankly, when I told the staff this morning what I am telling you now, they freaked out. To assuage these concerns, Vice President Biden has agreed to be on call at the White House, receiving the endless rounds of briefings I traditionally receive, and otherwise remaining ensconced in the Washington bubble, doing those things that seem so important and vital to do, at least when you are inside the beltway. I am not turning over the power of the office of the President to Vice President Biden under the Constitution. If I decide at any point to do that, you and Joe, but not anyone else in Washington, will be the first to know. In fact, better yet, I’ll let you tell me if I should think of doing that.
“Of the people. By the people. For the people.
"When President Lincoln first uttered those words that beat like a drum in our blood, words that require so much more of us than any other nation before us, he did so at Gettysburg. He did so in the context of telling the American people that the Civil War was testing whether government of the people, by the people, and for the people, would vanish from the earth. He wasn’t predicting that government for the people was a sure thing. He was telling us what was at stake. What we were fighting for then, at Gettysburg and Shiloh and Chickamauga. What patriots are fighting for today, in New York, and Atlanta, and UC Davis.
“The American narrative is unique like that. It may explain why our national anthem ends, not with an assertion of inevitability, but with an open question: ‘Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?’
“We are plenty brave. I should say, the patriots across America today holding us to our own ideals; the service men and women who come back from fighting our wars abroad to say, we didn’t fight to bring democracy to other countries only to fail to defend it at home; the entrepreneurs who say, we may or may not be right in thinking that software patents oppress innovation, but surely it is wrong to pass a patent reform law that cuts a special deal and exempts the banking industry, but no one else; the elected leaders – rare, but growing in number at the state and local level – who understand that the people are the bosses, even if they don’t have jobs and can’t bundle contributors to their campaigns – all these Americans are brave. And today’s patriots are telling us, our freedoms are at stake. The system is broken. The federal government is not legitimate.”
“Of the people. By the people. For the people. That is our narrative. The reason the American people today are so disgusted with their federal government is that their elected representatives have forgotten that. To use a British expression, we have ‘lost the plot.’ I have lost the plot.
“I’m leaving Washington, not to raise money, not to campaign, but to find the plot. That is the best way I know at this moment to observe my oath to defend the Constitution and to exercise this great office that has been so sullied by the corruption in Washington and my own willingness to compromise with a system that is so broken, it is no longer a representative democracy.
“Make no mistake. I will be fighting. But the power to set the agenda is not mine. It is not the super-committee’s. It is not the lobbyists in Washington. The power to set our national agenda is yours.
“Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for letting me intrude on your family holiday. God bless you. God save the United States of America.”