Obama’s Stale Political Argument

by Alec Torres

“The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward,” President Obama said in last night’s State of the Union address.

In the past five and a half years, President Obama has repeatedly tried to advance his agenda by arguing against “stale” political arguments, debates, and ideologies to the point of . . . staleness. Here’s a look at just a few of the many times President Obama took aim at supposedly stale arguments:

  • August 2008, speech at the Democratic convention: “I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters.”
  • January 2009, first inaugural address: “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.”
  • February 2009, on the nomination of Senator Judd Gregg to be secretary of commerce: “And we know the only way to solve the great challenges of our time is to put aside stale ideology and petty partisanship and embrace what works.”
  • March 2009, on the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of health and human services: “And for as long as I am president, these agencies will be led by exceptional individuals who stand on the side of the American people; who push politics aside in favor of proven science; who eschew stale ideology for sound ideas and a focus on what works.”
  • February 2010, to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: “On an issue that affects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we can’t keep on being mired in the same old stale debates between the left and the right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs.”
  • February 2010, at a fundraiser for Senator Michael F. Bennet: “We can’t continue to spin our wheels in the old education debates. The stale debates, they pit teachers against reformers, meanwhile kids are trailing their counterparts all around the world.”
  • March 2010, remarks to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: “For decades, Washington has been trapped in the same stale debates that have paralyzed progress and perpetuated our education decline.”
  • November 2010, on the federal pay freeze: “Everybody is going to have to cooperate.  We can’t afford to fall back onto the same old ideologies or the same stale sound bites.  We’re going to have to budge on some deeply held positions and compromise for the good of the country.”
  • March 2011, on education in Virginia: “And then something began to happen in states and local school districts.  Instead of getting caught up in these old, stale debates, people began to agree that, you know what, we need both more money and more reform.”
  • December 2013, on the “deficit of opportunity”: “When it comes to our budget, we should not be stuck in a stale debate from two years ago or three years ago. A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.”