State of the Union: What are the next 10 words?
“I do not accept second-place for America . . . it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth. . . I want a job bills on my desk without delay . . . the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.”
For 71 minutes last night, President Obama rolled out punchy statements of purpose on a host of critical issues facing the country. What I waited for -- and what I don’t feel I ever got -- was the next 10 words. “The next 10 words” was immortalized by fictional president President Josiah Bartlet in the long-running television series, The West Wing. It was the end of his last presidential debate, against a challenger who possessed a knack for summing up complex issues with pithy statements, when Bartlet pounced: “There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next 10 words of your answer. . . How are we going to do it?”
How exactly is what I yearned to hear from the president last night. To be sure, there's an array of interest groups jostling to get their 10 words into the State of the Union address. But I wanted to know how is he going to win agreement on health-care reform, what will his elementary and secondary education act look like, and why should anyone think there will be a new spirit of cooperation in Washington? Even before he opened his mouth, I knew his speech would sound good and he would deliver it with mastery. But, then that’s the beauty of the first 10 words.
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