I had to turn the TV off after just a couple of minutes because I was so frustrated that none of them seemed to even remotely grasp what the President said. The assumption was that the only way to achieve a better politics was for him to agree with Republicans.
Here's some of what the President actually said:
So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes...Too many pundits (and Americans in general) assume there are only two options: agree or demonize your opponent. That's the kind of politics we've been living with for far too long. It's what President Obama calls our "empathy deficit." He is saying that we can disagree strongly with each other AND still address the heart of the matter.
Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different. Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives...
If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments, but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.
I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny...This is truly President Obama's unique contribution to our politics today. Unless/until we can begin to grasp what he's saying...the poison will continue to infect our system.
So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others - all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face - war and poverty; injustice and inequality. We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.