A Road to Redemption for Senator Katie Britt (and Other Politicians Who Need It):
and how to avoid needing it in the first place
Rick Garlikov

If President Kennedy could rise above the disaster of the Bay of Pigs, Senator Katie Britt should be able to rise above the debacle of her 2024 “Republican Rebuttal” to the State of the Union Address.  One has to learn from one’s mistakes and Britt’s error should be far easier to learn from and prevent recurring than Kennedy’s.  Kennedy learned in part not to be totally trusting of other people’s assessments of the likely consequences of a military adventure he had little part in planning, though that did not help him in regard to the Vietnam War, but probably helped him immensely in resolving the Cuban missile crisis.  It is my view that Katie Britt (and all other intelligent, well-intentioned politicians, no matter what party) should learn from her fiasco to be more genuine and discerning.  And it is that I want to talk about here.  Unfortunately for Republican politicians, at the current time, Donald Trump has made that more difficult to put into practice than it even usually is, but I will address that too.


President Reagan, who had been a film and TV star, and who loved to make or reinforce points with stories, jokes, and quips, said politics was like acting in that the key to success in both endeavors is “sincerity” and so “once you learn to fake that” you had it made.  Britt’s State of the Union rebuttal failed to imply sincerity worse than most political speeches do no matter how the others lie or mislead people, even intentionally.  The setting of her very nice kitchen was inappropriate because it implied to many people who don’t believe it that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and that it is mainly a woman’s job to raise children, etc. instead of the reasonably and fairly shared responsibility of both parents — particularly when the wife and mother is a woman of intelligence and much career accomplishment, as Senator Britt is reported to be.  It had a “return with us to the days of Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet vibe” that many people rightfully see as not the answer to the problems of today because the happiness of the families portrayed in those shows was, for many women of the day, as fictitious as the plots of them were — but fictitious in a way that was psychologically harmfully indiscernible or at least unnamable, with sometimes fatal tragic consequences.  While some people would be happy being a full-time spouse and parent, many people find that insufficient fulfillment and insufficient self-actualization or utilization of their talents and abilities.


Had she, as a U.S. Senator, been convincing about being happiest essentially as a wife and mother her message would have reached whatever percentage of the population truly desires that kind of role for themselves.  But she also over-dramatized her delivery to the point of its being embarrassing and easily ridiculed and mocked — as it widely was by nearly everyone.  Even Republicans were disappointed and/or embarrassed to the point of not wanting to comment on it.


It was not her finest moment, and, giving her the benefit of the doubt here, I will attribute that to those who put her in the position of giving this rebuttal speech having most likely stifled her own intelligence and ability in a way that illustrates the problem inherent with the ultra-conservative (or sexist) wing of the Republican Party’s solution to today’s ills.  By most people’s accounts, she is a very intelligent and capable person, but that did not show at all in that speech.  I would hope that she never again lets herself be put in a position where she lets other people force or convince her to hide her light under a bushel and force or convince her to propose insufficient solutions to serious and yet seriously oversimplified and insufficiently described and analyzed problems.   


While politicians frequently oversimplify, mislead, exaggerate, and for all intents and purposes basically lie to people in order to extol their own and their party’s supposed virtues and accomplishments while blaming their opponents for problems, mishaps, errors, and accidents that are not their or even anyone’s fault, Senator Britt fell victim to the even more bold and bare-faced lies, exaggerations, and hype forced on the Republican Party by Donald Trump’s success with his base in being able to lie to them with the total appearance of sincerity, though anyone with intelligence and integrity cannot as readily do that as can Trump.  Even Ron DeSantis, no paragon of virtue or intelligence, made himself look like an idiot trying to outTrump Trump in blaming Democrats or liberals and progressives for every ill under the sun, including trumped up and exaggerated ones.  Disingenuousness and outright lying, even in obviously easily provable cases, simply come easier and more naturally to Donald Trump than they do to the average politician on either side.  He lies with no discernible compunction, regret, or hesitancy.  One could imagine that if Trump ran as a Democrat after a long Republican incumbency had left many people restless or unhappy, his oversimplifications, exaggerations, and outright lies that found traction with enough people about how he alone could solve all ills of the era, that would have put moderate Democrats in the same bind that moderate Republicans are today, where they have to argue against the positions they had publicly taken shortly before, let alone being hypocritical in less easily discernible, memorable, or typically (“normal”) political ways. 


But Trump can appear sincere in ways other people cannot for a number of reasons.  Lying and bragging are second nature to him because he is practiced at it and because he is an unabashed ethical egoist — a person whose primary ethical principle is that it is right to do whatever is in one’s own best interest and that it is reasonable to do whatever one perceives to be in one's own best interest, even if that means lying and cheating — at everything and anything.  He sees nothing wrong with doing whatever he thinks will benefit him, and so far has been successful (and has gotten away with) doing that.  He may or may not believe his own lies but even if not, he thinks they all are ok to tell if they benefit him.  But normally intelligent people with any sense of honor and integrity either won't lie or won't do it as unhesitatingly or as evidently sincerely.  Who, for example, claims to be an expert at something because their uncle was, especially when they never studied it and clearly know very little about basic facts in the field.


While ethical egoism is preached against in team sports, generally with the aphorism “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’", it has a foundation in two things that many people do believe: 1) the common, but clearly false belief, that everyone acts in their own perceived best interest and cannot help doing that and cannot do otherwise1 and 2) the often, but not always, true belief that everyone’s doing what is best for themselves actually will lead to the best outcome for everyone — at least within certain bounds or limitations (such as being fair and just to others and not unnecessarily harming others, etc.).  It is in part an essential feature of democracy where each person gets an equal vote, often falsely said to be based on what they consider to be in their own best interest and then the majority vote determines what is supposedly then best for everyone as a group because best for the most people. But while democracy often does follow majority rule within certain bounds or limitations, nothing in majority rules says everyone will or should vote only in their own self-interest.  Many people will vote to do what they believe is best for society even if it is not necessarily what will give them the most profit directly.  They will vote to be fair and helpful in important ways to others, even at some cost to themselves.  And ethical egoism, again within certain bounds, is an essential part of free market economics, holding that if each person does what is in his/her own best economic interest, that will produce the best economic system for all.  Unfortunately, perception is not always reality, and one can be mistaken about what will be best for him/herself.  Moreover, any kind of ethics based on just achieving the best ends, whether individually, or even collectively, doesn’t properly take into account other ethical values and elements, such as other people’s rights, one’s own specially incurred obligations, fairness, justice, or fair and reasonable sacrifice for the benefit of others.

And clearly in things like team sports, doing what is perceived to be best for oneself can be detrimental to the team’s success if one puts one’s own gains above that of the team’s victories while avoiding the appearance of selfishness in doing so and thus being the cause of the team’s losses. For example, scoring the most points of any individual in games does not benefit one’s team if passing off to others would have helped the team score more points than you scored on your own, no matter how many points you scored on your own that were fewer than the other team scored. But crowds may be excited by individual high scoring players without realizing those player’s stats come at a price the team and fans of the team have to pay.  Similarly in economics where wealthy people may be extolled for how much good their businesses have contributed to society without most people realizing that if their wealth was better or more fairly shared among their employees or if they charged their customers less for their goods or services, society would have been even far better off.

But Republicans shouldn't need to lie to make their case to so many people who think there is something wrong with Democrats' ideas. They need to analyze and articulate truths better -- as do Democrats who also often lie or exaggerate in ways they should not need to in order to in order to help the country have the best and most reasonable policies. With that in mind, I want to do a “close reading” or analysis of Senator Britt’s speech here for what is wrong with it and how it would have been better — more honest and more helpful to the country.  The following is a transcript of her speech as found at https://rollcall.com/2024/03/08/transcript-sen-katie-britt-delivers-republican-response-to-state-of-the-union-address/.  My comments will be in red font in the relevant places.

Good evening, America. My name is Katie Britt, and I have the honor of serving the people of the great state of Alabama in the United States Senate. However that's not the job that matters most. I am a proud wife and mom of two school age kids. My daughter Bennett [Sp] and my son Ridgeway [Sp] are why I ran for the Senate.  Im worried about their future and the future of children in every corner of our nation, and thats why I invited you into our home tonight.  While being a good husband or wife and a good parent are extremely important, they are not exactly “jobs”, although one needs to balance the work of one’s job or career with the acts needed to be a good spouse and parent.  That is not easy in some cases, but it seems that it should be easier for a wealthy Senator with a full time staff than for most people. 

But the kitchen is an odd place to invite people to, although sometimes people do end up congregating in a kitchen, and one doesn’t need to be invited to an elegant home to talk about serious matters.  If one is a Senator, perhaps one’s office is a more appropriate place.  Plus, she and her husband have a reported net worth of between 2 and 5 million dollars, so it is clearly a pretense to be average ‘folks’ who understand everyone’s needs because of being ‘one of you’.  And surely she must know that. 

And, as President Kennedy said “We all cherish our children’s future.”  Caring about one’s child’s future is not the sole province of the members of only one political party.  And given the standard Republican positions on trying to prevent climate change, school shootings and other gun killings of children (the number one cause of children’s deaths in America), and the prevention of desperate immigrant refugee families seeking better futures for their own children, and given that being a disingenuous politician seems hardly the best way to raise children to have a good life and future, her words are hardly convincing here.  And even many suburban wives took her to task on social media for claiming to be one of them and for making it seem like a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

Like so many families across America, my husband Wesley and I just watched President Bidens State of the Union address from our living room. And what we saw was the performance of a permanent politician who has actually been in office for longer than Ive been alive.  And yet, she had no trouble working for Senator Richard Shelby who was in Congress from 1979 to 2023 — forty four years, which is also longer than she had been alive when she gave that speech.  She was Senator Shelby’s deputy campaign manager, communications director, and eventually his chief of staff.  Length of political career was not a problem for her when it gave her a job and potential career, maybe even a permanent one, as a politician herself.  Plus, it is not the length of a politician’s career, but the quality of his/her accomplishments and knowledge that determine fitness for office.  And is she saying she will not serve in an elected office longer than the lifespan of any young opponent?  I doubt it.

One thing was quite clear, though. President Biden just doesnt get it. Hes out of touch. But Donald Trump, who drives his golf cart on the green, who grew up rich in New York City is in touch?  I think it was Dave Barry who once sarcastically characterized the U.S. Senate as “100 rich old white men working for you”.  You may be younger and female, but are still a rich white person, and don’t seem to be all that “in touch” to me.   Under his [i.e., Biden's] administration, families are worse off, our communities are less safe, and our country is less secure.  This is playing to the fear of crime, which is a real individual concern even with crime statistics decreasing in general, but not enough to make the streets feel safe enough.  But wanting to prevent crime is hardly only a Republican concern, and she knows that.  My children are your age, and they grew up in a good neighborhood, but even then I would not let them go to the park or walk to school by themselves in the way I was able to do as a child.  The fear of crime in America long precedes Biden, and has persisted through Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses.  It is disingenuous on your part to claim Donald Trump and Republicans can prevent crime.  There may be differences about how to do that most justly, but that is different from saying Democrats or Joe Biden in particular, don’t know or don’t care about crime.        I just wish he understood what real families are facing around kitchen tables just like this one.  First, he is concerned about what families are facing in homes of families far less affluent than yours, as well as those who are like yours.   It is disingenuous of you to say he doesn’t care.   You know, this is where our family has tough conversations.  Its where we make hard decisions. Like what?  What to wear to school or on a date, whether to get the newest iPhone or not, what kind of car to get the children when they get their license, whether to give the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union Address given that such rebuttals from either party tend to be a thankless job and seldom turn out well for the person giving them, etc.?

Its where we share the good, the bad, and the ugly of our days. Its where we laugh together, and its where we hold each others hands and pray for Gods guidance — and you think Donald Trump and Republicans like Matt Gates, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and dozens of others of their ilk are God’s answers to your prayers.  Have you prayed to God for guidance in your being honest with the American people or even the citizens of Alabama.    And many nights, to be honest, its where Wesley and I worry   though not about money, of course.   I know were not alone. And so tonight, the American family needs to have a tough conversation, — but instead I am going to give this speech — because the truth is were all worried about the future of our nation — except, of course, Joe Biden and the other Democrats.

The country we know and love seems to be slipping away, and it feels like the next generation will have fewer opportunities and less freedoms than we as wealthy white Americans  did relative to other people from less educated, less wealth, less socially privileged backgrounds.     I worry my own children may not even get a shot at living their American dreams.  Seriously?  Why, is there something particularly wrong with them that, given the privileged beginning advantages they have while growing up that they will squander those and not be able to thrive or even get by reasonably well?   My American dream allowed me, the daughter of two small business owners from rural Enterprise, Alabama, to be elected to the United States Senate at the age of 40.  Yes, they were business owners!  And yes, it is good that you studied and worked to become successful, but that doesn’t mean everyone has that opportunity in a realistic way or that working hard always leads to success.  Plenty of poor people work very hard.  When successful people attribute their success to things they did, that is like the ninety nine year old WWII veteran the other day on the news who attributes his longevity to "eating ice cream every day and plenty of it” or to centenarians who attribute their longevity to having whiskey every day.  Correlation is not necessarily causation.  Growing up sweeping the floor at my dads hardware store and cleaning the bathroom at my moms dance studio (bless your heart, you poor soul -- such hard labor!), I never could have imagined what my story would entail.  — just as you seem unable to imagine what your children’s future will entail as the children of a U.S. Senator and a successful athlete and businessman in the top 5% of wealth in the country.

To think about what the American Dream can do across just one generation in just one lifetime, its truly breathtaking.  Just as it is truly breathtaking to think about winning the Powerball lottery when it is over a billion dollars.   And yes, everyone has the opportunity to do that when the prize gets that high, but you can’t base the fairness of a system on only its successful people, if the real likelihood of success for everyone, not just for a few, are not as good as they could and should be.  It is just not true that if you successful then everyone who does what you did will be.   There are what are called “the working poor” and plenty of hard working people are poor, even working two jobs.   But right now, the American dream has turned into a nightmare for so many families.   First, it already was a nightmare for many who were poor to start with, and yes, the changes in technology (such as Internet shopping) and increases in world trade, and various other things have caused problems that need to be solved, but simplistic solutions to return to the ways of the past when conditions were different, are not going to be sufficient or in many cases work at all.  With increased productivity and monopolistic enterprises growing, fairness of distribution of work, money, and leisure are becoming increasingly important to resolve.   The true unvarnished state of our union begins and ends with this. Our families are hurting. Our country can do better.  And that is true, we can and should always be looking for ways to do better and to improve conditions for everyone, especially when there are the radical kinds of trade and technological changes that have occurred over the past few decades.

And you dont have to look any further than the crisis at our southern border to see it. President Biden inherited the most secure border of all time. But minutes after taking office, he suspended all deportations, he halted construction of the border wall which was fairly easily climbed past though it cost a lot of money to build, and he announced a plan to give amnesty to millions.  A massive influx of refugees desperate to escape dangerous and awful conditions in their own countries is a serious problem, but just denying them entrance to the United States, insofar as they could be accommodated and be beneficial to the future of the country, as immigrants of the past have been, is not a reasonable or fair solution. 

We know that President Biden didnt just create this border crisis. He invited it with 94 executive actions in his first 100 days — for specific reasons for them.  And without your giving at least fair representative examples of these 94 executive actions, you make it sound like he enacted them just to figure out how to make the immigration problem as difficult for the U.S. as he could, instead of, what seems more likely -- trying to undo and prevent disgraceful, inhumane, possibly even illegal, but enforced, practices from being perpetrated on people desperate to flee indiscriminate violent, terrible circumstances in their native countries.  This is reminiscent of the 1939 M.S. St. Louis case in which the U.S. would not allow the more than 900 passengers fleeing Nazi horrific persecution to disembark when they reached Florida, but sent them back to Europe where more than a third of them ended up murdered by the Nazis.  This was done in the name of a legal technicality that Florida was not listed on the original itinerary of the ship, but was sailed to after the ship's being rejected by the countries that were on that itinerary.  We all know that the Trump administration took children away from parents and didn't even keep records sufficient to reunite them later.  Adults and children were kept in cages without sufficient medical attention.  Are these the kinds of policies and practices you are saying Biden wrongly ordered stopped that he should not have?  Texas Governor Abbott's solution to refugees risking their lives to come here for safety, willing to work hard and start their lives all over, is to make them likely to drown in the Rio Grande and have themselves and their children scarfed up by razor wire in their desperation to get here.  Would you allow him to mine the border or set up machine gun nests to prevent crossings if those were more effective?  When I took office, I took a different approach. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas. Thats where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me. She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at the age of 12. She told me not just that she was raped every day, but how many times a day she was raped.  And this “approach” worked out to solve the border crisis how?

The cartels put her on a mattress in a shoebox of a room, and they sent men through that door over and over again for hours and hours on end. We wouldnt be ok with this happening in a third world country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it. President Bidens border policies are a disgrace.  And that is solely Biden’s and the Democrats’ fault?

This crisis is despicable, and the truth is it is almost entirely preventable. From fentanyl poisonings to horrific murders — many with legally obtained guns because conservatives won’t make guns more difficult for people to get or for problematic people to keep — there are empty chairs tonight at kitchen tables just like this one because of President Bidens senseless border policies. Just think about Laken Riley. In my neighboring state of Georgia, this beautiful 22 year old nursing student went out on a jog one morning, but she never got the opportunity to return home.   As many social media commentators pointed out, so are gun deaths a problem, and yet conservatives will not do much to prevent them, nor pollution of the environment that also kills people, though more slowly and, to many of you, apparently less obviously.   And it is not like there is no crime, and no vicious crimes, when Republicans hold the White House and/or the Congress.   Plus, Georgia had a Republican governor and legislature at the time of the murder you are talking about, and yet you say it is the fault of Joe Biden and Democrats.  Why haven’t the last 20 years of Republican governors and legislative majorities in Alabama put an end to crime.  Did Joe Biden prevent that?  If you think so, maybe you are not as bright or reasonable as I am trying to give you credit for.  And if you don’t believe it, then what does that say about your honesty or sincerity?

She was brutally murdered by one of the millions of illegal border crossers President Biden chose to release into our homeland.  Yall, as a mom, I cant quit thinking about this.  Really? Or just when giving political speeches?  Of course terrible crimes and harms weigh on our minds at the time they happen, but for most people they take a back seat to closer, more personal and more immediate problems and obligations, except for the occasional reminder.  I mean, this could have been my daughter which would have made it worse?  And what about Republican laws passed to make all abortions illegal, even for children molested or raped who become pregnant?  What if that were your daughter, as Larry King once asked Dan Quayle?  Or do you just have selective empathy?   This could have been yours.  But it was terrible it happened to anyone!  You shouldn't have to imagine something happening to you or your loved ones in order to know it is wrong, especially if it is horrific!  You and your family are not the measure of all things.  And tonight, President Biden finally said her name, but he refused to take responsibility for his own actions.  He didn’t kill her or cause the killer to do it; nor did the Athens police who had previously arrested him for theft and knew he was undocumented or illegal or whichever term applies.  And immigrants commit fewer crimes per person than U.S. citizens do.  Is Senator Britt going to accept “her responsibility” for the heinous crimes committed by Americans in this country — like Alex Murdaugh, a fellow lawyer, who was convicted of killing his wife and one of his sons.  Does that trouble you?  What if it were your husband, or you yourself doing it to your children, or to anyone else’s children?  

Mr. President, enough is enough. Innocent Americans are dying, and you only have yourself to blame.  Seriously?  Biden alone is to blame for all heinous crime in America?   Plus, some of the needed reforms takes Congressional actions and some of it involves the terrible things going on in those people’s countries.  Plus, we could let them in and give them jobs and train them, etc.  They can be, and generally are, a boon to the economy, not a drag on it.  They can help make everyone better off, not poorer.  Fulfill your oath of office, reverse your policies, end this crisis, and stop the suffering.  Yes, change your policies and all crime will end, just like it all ended under Donald Trump! 

Sadly, we know that President Bidens failures dont stop there. His reckless spending dug our economy into a hole and sent the cost of living through the roof.  COVID messed up the economy but it is true that the COVID relief funds caused some problems by being indiscriminately distributed to people who didn’t need it and also allowing some businesses to raise prices to increase or worsen the inflationary cycle, etc.

We have the worst inflation in 40 years and the highest credit card debt in our nations history. Let that sink in. Hard working families are struggling to make ends meet today. And with soaring mortgage rates and sky high childcare costs, theyre also struggling to how to plan for tomorrow. The American people are scraping by while President Biden proudly proclaims that Bidenomics is working.  Because it is about shoring up the economy over time, not immediately.  Good economics doesn’t necessarily work immediately.  Our economy is recovering from the economic effects of the pandemic and other economic ills better than the other economies of the world.  She does mention serious problems, but not serious solutions to them.  As fictional President Andrew Shepherd pointed out in Aaron Sorkin’s “The American President”:

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Goodness, yall. Bless his heart.  Good old gratuitous Southern passive aggressive crap; this ought to be beneath her.  We know better. Ill never forget stopping at a gas station in Hilton County one evening. The gentleman working the counter   told me that after retiring he had to pick up a job in his 70s so that he didnt have to choose between going hungry or going without his medication.  Maybe the ‘great state of Alabama’ should expand Medicaid….  Maybe Alabama's Republican governors and legislatures for the past 20 years have something to do with poor economics in the state, do ya think?

He said I did everything right. I did everything I was told to do. I worked hard. I saved. I was responsible. Hes not alone. I hear similar concerns from fellow parents, whether I am walking with my friends or whether Im at my kids games. But lets be honest, its been a minute since Joe Biden pumped gas, ran a carpool, or even pushed a grocery cart — and what, Donald Trump does those things now?  And you are going to be pumping gas, running carpools, and pushing a grocery cart when you are 80.  Do you even do those things yourself now?  And which of your friends and fellow parents at your kids’ games are people who had to pick up a job in their 70’s working at a gas station after retiring from their career.  Really?  That is a common complaint in your circle of acquaintances and people with whom you hang out?  

Meanwhile, the rest of us see our dollar, and we know it doesnt go as far but you have more of dollars than you used to and more than most people; and everyone would like more than they have, no matter how much they have; rich people are greedy too, maybe even greedier; they keep the money their employees work hard to earn for them. We see it every day. And despite what he tells you, our communities are not safer.  Crime is less, but still not low enough, but can’t Alabama do things about crime in Alabama?  Why does the President have to do it all?  For years, the left has coddled criminals and defunded the police, — the left has not been in charge of Alabama in 20 years at least, and it has never been that left a state even when Dixiecrats ran it  all while letting repeat offenders walk free. The result is tragic but foreseeable.

From our small towns to Americas most iconic city streets, life is getting more and more dangerous. And unfortunately, President Bidens weakness isnt just hurting families here at home. He is making us a punchline on the world stage. Look, where Im from, your word is your bond. But for three years, the president has demonstrated that Americas word doesnt mean what it used to. From abandoning our allies in his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan engineered by Trump that Biden inherited to desperately pushing another dangerous deal with Iran, President Biden has failed.  Trump pulled out of the deal with Iran that kept them from enriching enough uranium to build atomic weapons.  How was that not dangerous?

Weve become a nation in retreat.  Trump wants to let NATO dissolve or weaken to the point of impotence; you’re for that?   And the enemies of freedom, they see an opportunity. Putins brutal aggression in Europe has put our allies on the brink and, at Trump’s insistence, Republicans block legislation for military assistance to help.  So, come on, Senator; get real! Irans terrorist proxies have slaughtered Israeli Jews and American citizens. Theyve targeted commercial shipping and theyve attacked our troops nearly 200 times since October, killing three US soldiers and two Navy Seals.  — again, clearly all Biden’s and Democrats’ fault, of course.   Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is undercutting Americas workers. China is buying up our farmland because people are selling it to them in the spirit of free enterprise Republicans seem to love; anything that makes money and helps the economy (even when people are dying from COVID by having to work near each other in tight spaces), spying on our military installations — which, of course, they wouldn’t do if Republicans were in power — and spreading propaganda through the likes of TikTok — again the use of free enterprise, but suddenly free enterprise you oppose. You see, the CCP knows that if it conquers the minds of our next generation, it conquers America.  Republicans know that too or at least think it.  They don’t want history fully taught or science or math in most schools taught right.  Look at Florida, or look at Alabama, Governor Ivey in the following video who says Alabama has the solutions to the problems of education, even though the state is clearly not very good at providing it:

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And what does President Biden do? Well, he bans TikTok for government employees, but creates an account for his own campaign. Yall. “Y’all” again? , you cant make this stuff up. Look, we all recall when presidents faced national security threats with strength and resolve — especially when unwise, as in Vietnam and Afghanistan, even Iraq; strength and resolve and military force are not always the right answer.  Being from the South, you perhaps ought to know that; that seems like ancient history. Right now, our commander in chief is not in command — he is, but not in the way you want or claim to want or even think you want.

The free world deserves better than a dithering and diminished leader — which he isn’t either of those things; and Trump is far, far more dithering and diminished. America deserves leaders who recognize that secure borders, stable prices, safe streets, and a strong defense are actually the cornerstones of a great nation. Just ask yourself, are you better off now than you were three years ago?  — well, as people have pointed out all over social media in response to your asking this, three years ago you couldn’t buy toilet paper and they were stacking up dead bodies in refrigerated trucks used as temporary morgues. Theres no doubt were at a crossroads and it doesnt have to be this way.  It could be even worse, and was under Trump.  And we are always at crossroads where we could do better.

We all feel it. But heres the good news. We the people are still in the drivers seat. We get to decide whether our future will grow brighter or whether well settle for an America in decline. Well, I know which choice our children deserve and I know the choice the Republican Party is fighting for — the white choice; the rich people’s choice; the men’s choice; and being elected to power. We claim with a straight face that we are the party of hard working parents and families and we want to give you and your children the opportunities to thrive and we want families to grow.  — whether they want to grow or not, since we would prohibit all abortions and possibly even birth control again, which we did before a liberal Supreme Court, in 1965, ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects the liberty of married couples to use contraceptives without government restriction (in their Griswold v. Connecticut decision).

Its why we strongly support continued nationwide access to in-vitro fertilization. We want to help loving moms and dads bring precious life into this world. Wesley and I believe there is no greater blessing in life than our children (as long as they are not Hispanic immigrant children or other non-white or non-Christian children. And thats why tonight I want to make a direct appeal to the parents out there and in particular to my fellow moms, many of whom I know will be up tossing and turning at 2:00 am wondering how youre going to be in three places at once and then somehow still get dinner on the table?  A sexist idea of parenthood, with the woman doing all the work for the family.  And it is not clear how having more children makes life less hectic.

First of all, we see you, we hear you, and we stand with you. I know youre frustrated. I know youre probably disgusted by most of what you see going on in Washington. And Ill be really honest with you, youre not wrong for feeling that way. Look, I get it. The task in front of us isnt an easy one, but I can promise you one thing.  It is worth it. So I am asking you for the sake of your kids and your grandkids, get into the arena. Every generation has been called to do hard things. American greatness rests in the fact that we always answer that call. Its who we are. Never forget we are steeped in the blood of patriots who overthrew the most powerful empire in the world.  And therefore what does that have to do with draft-dodging Donald “Bone-Spurs” Trump or you or what you want?  Or are you just calling on others to do hard things?

We walk in the footsteps of pioneers who tamed the wild. We now carry forward the same flame of freedom as the liberators of an oppressed Europe — not the Republicans since Trump said not to — and the particular crazies in the far right of your party are calling for the removal of Mike Johnson as House Speaker for even bringing a vote to the floor on military aid for Ukraine to protect that country from Putin’s brutality. We continue to draw courage from those who bent the moral arc of the universe — against “y’all” conservatives who opposed civil rights and now oppose voting rights, bless your hearts. And when we gaze upon the heavens, never forget that our DNA contains the same ingenuity that put man on the moon — not the same DNA in most of Alabama apart  from Space and Rocket related portions of Huntsville or in a few miscellaneous other parts. 

America has been tested before and every single time weve emerged unbowed and unbroken. Our history has been written with the grit of men and women who got knocked down, but we know their stories because they did not stay down — unless they were black and their stories can’t be told or unless they were killed or broken so badly they couldn’t get back up.… We are here because they stood back up.  But those are not here whose ancestors couldn’t get back up. So now its our turn our moment to stand up and prove ourselves worthy of protecting the American Dream.

Together, we can reawaken the heroic spirit of a great nation because America, we dont just have a rendezvous with destiny, we take destinys hand and we lead it. Our future starts around kitchen tables just like this, with moms and dads just like you. And you are why I believe with every fiber of my being that despite the current state of our union, our best days are still ahead.  But what specifically are you proposing, other than deciding to take charge around our kitchen tables?  What is the hard work we all need to do?  Have more babies?  Pay less taxes?  Own more businesses?  Burn more fossil fuels, pollute more water and soil?  Teach white-washed history?  Teach fewer reasoning skills, even in math.  Replace science in the curriculum with religion?  Have more guns and fewer hard-working immigrants?  What exactly are your plans and proposals? 

May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

This sort of “close reading” and critical analysis, with or without acerbic commentary, can be done on many political speeches and campaign papers given by Democrats and by Republicans.  False and exaggerated claims and bad logic are not the province of either party alone.  But Donald Trump has taken it to new, often even ludicrous, depths and is dragging people like you along with him.   You shouldn’t be going along with him; resist the allure of making deals with devils.  There can be honest and intelligent conservatism that would help shape better policies for America, but it will not come from hypocrisy, exaggeration, disingenuousness, and outright lies.   Surely you can do better than giving speeches and making claims like these.  You ought to decide at your kitchen table to do the hard work and stand up against the crazies of your party and say and do what is right, honest, fair, just, true, and actually helpful.  Examine issues more carefully and look for the merit and correctable flaws in current law and future proposals.  Don't make sweeping generalizations and don't ignore the good points of the opposition while being blind to the mistaken and bad ideas of your party.  Be more analytic and more careful, and then, again, be honest and forthright.

While it would be foolish and wrong for people to be unnecessarily self-sacrificing at great cost to themselves in order to benefit others very little, most normally decent people are helpful to others and to the common good when it brings about great benefit to others at relatively little cost to themselves.  As the risk or cost to oneself increases and/or the benefits to others decrease, there is less and less obligation to sacrifice for others.  At some point then, such sacrifice is rightfully considered saintly, or even heroic, rather than obligatory; but past that, when the risk or cost is so great for oneself and the benefit for others so little, any such act would be pointless self-sacrifice and wrongful martyrdom, and would be wrong to do.  It is not that we require gains for ourselves or even what we call "win/win" situations for ourselves and others, although "win/win" situations are often best, but that we seek "win/not terribly lose" situations so that any benefits for one person or group do not cost others unfair or unnecessary losses.  [Return to text.]