Transcript: Thom Hartmann's "President Obama should channel FDR" rant, 03 September 2009

Our quote for the day, from Franklin Roosevelt: “I’m neither bitter,” he says, “nor cynical but I do wish there was less immaturity in political thinking."

I want to talk about the immaturity of the political thinking of the current administration. And I think that they caught a lot of this from the Clinton Administration. There was a big whoop-de-do, falderal done when Barack Obama was first nominated and more importantly when he was elected.

Doris Kearns Goodwin was the go-to person to have on every TV show in America, all the news shows. She was the stand-up person. She’s a wonderful historian and she wrote a brilliant history of the Lincoln Administration, “Team of Rivals."

Now Abraham Lincoln, after the Civil War, well actually even before the Civil War, but particularly after the Civil War, reached across the aisle and brought into his administration people who hated him. Brought into his administration his opponents. And the big story in the media, and frankly this is a story that was just made for Republican corporate media. Think about that for a minute. The big story in the media was how Obama had read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book and he was using her characterization of Lincoln’s presidency as the basis for everything that was going on. Now, as a basis for putting together his presidency.

So for example, he reached out to Judd Gregg, who has just been trashing Obama; the Republican senator from New Hampshire, reached out to him to bring him into his cabinet, as I recall, as commerce secretary. It would have been a disaster. An absolute disaster. And we have seen a series of initiatives and in particular people from the Clinton Administration and conservatives and blue dogs and what not being brought into the Obama Administration and taking action in the Obama Administration. Initiatives that are of the Clinton type of, well not even the Clinton type. That are of what Doris Kearns Goodwin idealized as the Lincoln type of “reach across the aisle."

Now the fact of the matter is that in many ways Abraham Lincoln didn’t always reach across the aisle, he did know how to take names and kick ass. And that was a very different time in American history. I mean we had literally a Civil War. And you talk about taking on your opponents. Abraham Lincoln took on his opponents by killing a couple hundred thousand of them. Think about that for a minute. It wasn’t all peace and light during the Lincoln Administration. We had a war in this country.

But if President Obama wants to look at a time in history which is identical to now, instead of looking at the Lincoln Administration, and we’re gonna find out Wednesday whether he is making this mistake or not, instead of looking at the Lincoln Administration he needs to be looking at the Roosevelt Administration. Because Franklin Roosevelt came into office after three consecutive Republican Presidents had destroyed the economic fiber of this country by deregulating banks. After Wilson it was, uh let’s see, Coolidge, Harding and Hoover, as I recall. Maybe it was Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. But those three Presidents led, three republican presidents, came, the first one, Harding or Coolidge, whoever came into office right after Wilson, immediately dropped the top income tax rate from the 70 somethings down to the 20 somethings, just like Reagan did. Began to deregulate the banks. They’d actually been thoroughly tightly regulated during that time. Began the process of going after labor. In fact the Supreme Court ruled that minimum wage laws were unconstitutional in the 1920’s. I mean it was the exact same thing that we’ve seen over the last 30 years.

He came into office, Franklin Roosevelt, came into office after nine years, which led up to the Republican, from 1920 to 1929, led up to the Republican great depression. Nine years of disastrous economic policies that exploded in everybody’s face with the Republican Great Depression of 1929. And he was not afraid to point it out. It’s called naming names and calling, you know, taking names and kicking ass. This is Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 at Madison Square Garden. October 31, 1936. This had, he’s talking about a war. Keep in mind, 1936 was three years before Hitler had even invaded Poland. Hitler had done nothing. This had nothing to do with World War II. This was the war against the Republicans that Franklin Roosevelt is talking about. Listen to this:

FDR: "We have not come thus far without a struggle and I assure you that we cannot go further without a struggle."

Now he’s talking about, he’s five years into his, four years into his presidency here, and the struggle is against the Republicans.

FDR: "For twelve years our Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government."

"For twelve years our nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government." Twelve years of three consecutive Republicans. We had essentially four if you count Bill Clinton as an economic conservative. And Roosevelt said, you know, we’re not going to put up with that anymore. This is what Obama needs to say.

FDR: "The Nation looked to that Government but that Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge!"

It was the nine years up to 1929.

FDR: "Nine crazy years at the ticker..."

The roaring ‘20s.

FDR: "... and three long years in the bread line."

See the people get it. He’s saying, it was the Republicans that brought you this disaster.

FDR: "Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!"

Of despair.

FDR: "And, my friends, powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent to mankind."

And they’re doing it again, it’s the exact same thing. Call them out, President Obama.

FDR: "For nearly four years now..."

His administration.

FDR: "... you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves."

People rather like that when you get things done. Even without the Republicans.

FDR: "And I can assure you that we will keep our sleeves rolled up."

You get it? You know, people are, yes! They are applauding like crazy. This is the lesson that President Obama and the Democrats need to learn.

FDR: "We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. And we know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob."

Do you get it? Do you get it? I mean, “government by organized money…” I think, you know, we’ve got all these congressmen out there, obviously the Republicans and the blue dog Democrats. I think they should be forced to wear or required to wear, as a condition of office, they should be required to wear NASCAR uniforms with the logos of all the companies they’re taking money from on.

Moving forward, instead of a team of rivals, President Obama needs to take names and kick butt. He needs to do it now. That’s why we elected him. We elected him for change we can believe in not compromise we can hope for, not Clintonian triangulation. You know, the Clinton Administration was, okay, let’s see if we can triangulate this thing. Let’s see if we can get two groups of enemies fighting against each other so that we can walk through the middle like Daniel coming out of the lion’s den or out of the fiery furnace. That doesn’t work. Didn’t work for the Clinton Administration, it’s not going to work for this administration. Obama needs to be, President Obama needs to be looking at President Roosevelt to see how to take on the Republicans. Right after this.


Here’s what got me going on this thing. The story this morning on Dateline Washington, CNN: "President Obama and top aides have quietly stepped up talks with moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine on a scaled-back health care bill, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations."

This is so wrong. This is not how Newt Gingrich played anything when he was Speaker of the House. This is not how Ronald Reagan played anything when he was President of the United States. This is, I don’t have a comparison for it. This is, this is tragic. This is Barack Obama trying to live up to the ideal that was only semi-true. I mean, all history, particularly a historical era told in the single book, Doris Goodwin's book about the Lincoln Administration. I don’t mean to say that she wasn’t telling the truth in the book, but the point is that it was a very, very thin slice. This is Franklin Roosevelt, October 31, 1936, a week before the election. He’s running for his second term as President. He has had the White House for four years. He wants it for another four years, and listen to what he says and what the crowd response is and compare that to the current administration's "well, I think we can work with Republicans."

Franklin Roosevelt, one of the greatest Presidents of the United States:

FDR: "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me-and I welcome their hatred."

"And I welcome their hatred". And get this; this applause goes on for a solid minute and a half, two minutes. It just continues on and on and on. The people in the auditorium are standing and screaming, they’re saying “YES!” And this is, I’m not talking about whipping up America and dividing America into a 'we hate them'. But they’re doing it. The Republicans are doing it. Lets call them on it and say no. We are going to turn our backs on them. Not only as Franklin Roosevelt is about to say in a minute, he’s gonna say in my first term they met their match in my second term they’re going to meet their master. And they did in 1936 when he passed some of the most sweeping regulations of banks, the most revolutionary legislation in the history of America. Here he is:

FDR: "I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said, wait a minute, I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master."

Not just their match but their master. And he pulled it off, it’s what he did. This is what Franklin Roosevelt did and how did he do it? He said to the Republicans, you know if you want to play, if you want to get on board, and a few of them did, a few of them did vote for social security for example. But by and large they didn’t vote for anything. He said if you want to get on board, you’re welcome to get on board. You can hear the people still cheering for Franklin Roosevelt. If you want to get on board you can get on board. And if you don’t want to get on board to hell with you.

This is what Franklin Roosevelt said to the Republicans and this is what Barack Obama, President Barack Obama needs to be saying to the Republicans on Wednesday of next week. And if the stories that I’m seeing in the media are correct, it’s not what he’s going to say. Instead he’s going to say, “oh would you please go along, we’re willing to scale back our expectations. We can make this bipartisan." And he’s to say the same thing to the Democrats like Blanche Lincoln and Ron Wyden and Ben Nelson and I mean right across. He needs to say to any Democrat who’s not 100% on. And the good senator from Connecticut.

He needs to say to all of them, you know, get on board or get the hell out. He needs to be saying to these Senators, he needs to get together with Chuck Schumer who holds the purse strings for the Senate, for the Democrats in the Senate to get their money from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the DSCC. And he needs to get together with whoever in the House, and I’m assuming it’s Nancy Pelosi who holds the purse strings for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And say, anybody, and just lay it on the line like Franklin Roosevelt did. If you’re not with me, you’re against me. George Bush knew how to say that. And he actually got things done. I mean they were terrible things that he got done, but he got them done.

I mean come on, there is a way to get things done politically in this country and it’s not to roll over and it’s not to compromise and it’s not to be a nice guy. That might be how you become a good Senator. Although I would submit to you that by and large more often than not, Teddy Kennedy never, or very rarely rolled over. He would find areas of mutual agreement. That’s a different thing than compromising. That’s different then saying you back up halfway I’ll back up halfway. That was what Teddy Kennedy did brilliantly as he said, "you know, there are some areas where neither one of us are going to back up and so let’s just set that aside. There are some areas where we agree", which is where I’m hoping in our second hour, will be our conversation with our libertarian friend, Wayne Root. We’ll see. But moving forward, FDR is not responsible for our Higgins alert coming up next. I kid you not, he must have known Higgins’s great, great, great grandfather.


Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you. Ah yes, our Higgins alert for the day. My attack cat Higgins. I think that his great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather, actually there’s probably a lot more greats in there given how long cats live, or how short they live. Uh, must have known a cat in the White House or must have known somebody who is a big FDR fan. This clip, unfortunately the first word gets cut off in this clip, but the first word is NO. No man. Here’s FDR with our Higgins alert for the day:

FDR: "[No] Man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it."

Indeed. Our message to President Obama via my cat Higgins channeling Franklin Roosevelt. "No man can turn a tiger into a kitten by stroking it". Get your hands off the Republicans. And folks in the chat room, Kelly2218 “exactly Thom,” uh DaveM saying, “thought the same thing Thom." Uh, just etc., etc. It’s, we’ve got a bunch of folks here, thank you for the feedback, I appreciate it.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

What Do Democrats Really Want?

Thom plus logo Thomas Friedman, the confused billionaire, told us decades ago that "free trade" is what made the Lexus a successful product when, in fact, it was decades of Japanese government subsidies and explicit tariffs that did so.

Latest Headlines

Who rejected United States-North Korea peace talks?

There were conflicting reports on Sunday regarding a recent proposal for United States-North Korea peace talks which was allegedly made before North Korea"s recent nuclear test

U.K. Pound Falls As Markets Get Brexit Jitters

Bloomberg said on Monday the pound had sustained its biggest fall against the dollar in 11 months

Clinton: I'll defend Israel but push for 'two-state solution

Hillary Clinton believes both Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz "missed the mark" with their approach to the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict
From Screwed:
"I think many of us recognize that for all but the wealthiest, life in America is getting increasingly hard. Screwed explores why, showing how this is no accidental process, but rather the product of conscious political choices, choices we can change with enough courage and commitment. Like all of Thom’s great work, it helps show us the way forward."
Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen and The Impossible Will Take a Little While
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom is a national treasure. Read him, embrace him, learn from him, and follow him as we all work for social change."
Robert Greenwald, political activist and founder and president of Brave New Films
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann is a creative thinker and committed small-d democrat. He has dealt with a wide range of topics throughout his life, and this book provides an excellent cross section. The Thom Hartmann Reader will make people both angry and motivated to act."
Dean Baker, economist and author of Plunder and Blunder, False Profits, and Taking Economics Seriously