"What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad," the Washington Examiner catches President Obama saying in a commencement speech at the University of Michigan over the weekend. What "people" has Mr. Obama heard saying that? No one. It's a straw man -- a phony argument that Mr. Obama or his speech writers insert into the speech because it is easier to knock down fake arguments than the real arguments of Mr. Obama's critics. Here's a real argument: We don't need a federal government that is twice as expensive as it was at the end of the Clinton administration.
The whole speech is worth a read for a sense of Mr. Obama's rhetorical take on the big-government/small-government debate.
Having thrown off the tyranny of the British Empire, the first Americans were understandably skeptical of government. And ever since we've held fast to the belief that government doesn't have all the answers, and we have cherished and fiercely defended our individual freedom. That's a strand of our nation's DNA. ...They argue government intervention is usually inefficient; that it restricts individual freedom and dampens individual initiative. And in certain instances, that's been true. For many years, we had a welfare system that too often discouraged people from taking responsibility for their own upward mobility. At times, we've neglected the role of parents, rather than government, in cultivating a child's education. And sometimes regulation fails, and sometimes their benefits don't justify their costs.
Government is the police officers who are protecting our communities, and the servicemen and women who are defending us abroad. (Applause.) Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. (Applause.) Government is this extraordinary public university -– a place that's doing lifesaving research, and catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small. (Applause.)The truth is, the debate we've had for decades now between more government and less government, it doesn't really fit the times in which we live. We know that too much government can stifle competition and deprive us of choice and burden us with debt. But we've also clearly seen the dangers of too little government -– like when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly leads to the collapse of our entire economy. (Applause.)
So, class of 2010, what we should be asking is not whether we need "big government" or a "small government," but how we can create a smarter and better government.
Here's his take on the press:
if you're somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you're a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. (Applause.) It is essential for our democracy.
Notice that he doesn't ask left wingers to listen to Beck or Limbaugh, just to read the Wall Street Journal editorial page.