If you wanted a menu of political options for America's political future, you got them last night. President Obama put forward a vision — not the red-beret, full-on lefty vision of which he's often accused — but of a Borg-ish, collectivist country in which the word "we" is used a lot, and "we" tirelessly meddle in the affairs of other nations, among other things, under the command of a very powerful executive. The stark contrast was provided, not by the official Republican response delivered by a parched Sen. Marco Rubio, but by Sen. Rand Paul. He laid out a full-throated defense of individualism, small government, free markets and civil liberties. Rubio … His response was cheeriness, a weak nod to capitalism, But … hooray for Medicare!
Contrast, if you will, these takes on:
Aassassination by drone, executive power and related civil liberties concerns
First, the president:
As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we're doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.
From Sen. Paul:
We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it.
We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.
We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.
We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.
From Sen. Rubio:
Seriously. How do you skip that issue the week after the revelation of a memo authorizing the president to snuff people on his own say-so?
Competing economic visions
First, the president:
A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. …
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There's no reason this can't happen in other towns. So tonight, I'm announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs …
Tonight, I propose a "Fix-It-First" program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.
From Sen Paul:
Ronald Reagan said, government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.
He described a limited government that largely did not interfere with individuals and their pursuit of happiness.
More government isn't going to create more opportunities. It's going to limit them.
And more government isn't going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It's going to create uncertainty.
Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can't afford to follow.
Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future.
We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities.
We must be the party that says, "If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you."
We can also help our economy grow if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world's best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.
In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn't agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars' worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They'd devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as "the sequester," are a really bad idea.
Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.
That idea is even worse.
It is time for a new bipartisan consensus.
It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.
Where would we cut spending; well, we could start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting death to America.
The President could begin by stopping the F-16s and Abrams tanks being given to the radical Islamic government of Egypt.
Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America's credit rating.
Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.
The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That's why we need a balanced budget amendment.
The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.
I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it. …
In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn't have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need. Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.
President Obama's speech was a clear presentation of a powerful state and collective action. Sen. Paul's speech was a defense of individualism, small government and personal liberty. Sen. Rubio tried to present a don't-scare-the-swing voters, softer defense of a smaller-ish government. Overall, to my taste, the strongest presentation, by far, was by Sen. Paul.
Paul's speech was the hardest to find, last night, So view it yourself, below.