President Obama hit a home run yesterday with his speech on deficit reduction. He articulated clearly the conflict of visions that is at the heart of the battle over the budget numbers – and hopefully, the positive response to the speech will encourage him to keep talking about his values! And, while the speech was better than the policy proposals, the policy was good enough for now.
It is important for Americans to be reminded of the two intertwined ideas that constitute our national character, our rugged individualism and our sense that we are bound to each other, and the President began his speech by reminding us of both ideas. He used language similar to that he employed in his 2004 keynote to the Democratic National Convention, the speech that launched his career. Yesterday, he was actually being a bit kind to some contemporary Republicans who do not celebrate rugged individualism; they celebrate a kind of Ayn Randian “success” that is as positively creepy as it is vacuous, a view of the world that separates human beings into losers and winners, which, I submit are not categories found in Catholic social teaching.