Back to Work is a hard book to excerpt, in the same way an informational but stylistically unexciting textbook might be. But there were a few passages that caught my eye. And since this is the season of giving, here they are! (with my de-politicianizing translations.)
“Our constitution was designed by people who were idealistic but not ideological. There’s a big difference. You can have a philosophy that tends to be liberal or conservative but still be open to evidence, experience, and argument. That enables people with honest differences to find practical, principled compromise. On the other hand, fervent insistence on ideology makes evidence, experience, and argument irrelevant: If you possess the absolute truth, those who disagree are by definition wrong, and evidence of success or failure is irrelevant. There is nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Respectful arguments are a waste of time. Compromise is weakness. And if your policies fail, you don’t abandon them; instead you double down, asserting that they would have worked if only they had been carried to their logical extreme.”
Translation: Remember what it was like when Republicans knew words other than ‘no’? Hahahah me neither.
“When the Tea Party first emerged, I admired its founders’ principles even when I disagreed with their policies. The early organizers were protesting a government that bailed out banks instead of holding them accountable for their unwise mortgage gambles and helped underwater homeowners who shouldn’t have taken on subprime, variable-rate mortgages in the first place. They also opposed the federal legislation to aid and restructure the auto industry, believing that American companies should live with the consequences of past mistakes. I disagreed with these positions, because I thought the failure of our financial system, the lingering home-mortgage debacle, and the loss of America’s ability to make cars and trucks would hurt tens of millions of hard-working, responsible citizens who had not contributed to our problems. Still, I admired the original Tea Party activists’ call for more responsibility in America from top to bottom. It was sad to see the movement morph into one that kept the rhetoric of accountability but applied it only to the middle class and the working poor. Now too many foot soldiers in the antigovernment brigade are fighting for policies that protect their financial backers, promote inequality, punish hardworking middle-class Americans, increase poverty, and prevent the restoration of a strong economy.”
Translation: Remember when the Tea Party was just obnoxious and slightly uninformed, instead of intolerably insane? Hahahah me neither.
“Success in the twenty-first century world requires Americans to be curious enough to learn from countries that are doing important things better than we are, humble enough to listen and learn from Americans who disagree with us, smart enough to realize that shared prosperity is a better formula for success and happiness than ‘you’re on your own,’ and big enough to admit we’re all going to be wrong once in a while.”
Translation: I may have boned Monica Lewinsky in the White House, but sweet Lord don’t you kind of wish I was still in office?