by: R.J. Moeller
President Barack Obama gave his first (of no more than 4) State Of The Union address Wednesday evening. Primarily because he has given more than 100 speeches in only one year, fewer people watched The One give his first SOTU than did watch the much-maligned George W. Bush give his last. Obama's speech was nearly 90 minutes, more than 7,000 words long, and full of surprises.
The biggest surprise had to be that the president sounded largely committed to forging ahead with policy initiatives such as Cap-and-Trade and health care reform that have sparked the bi-partisan back-lashes we've seen since the town hall meetings of August 2009.
I've read and re-read the transcript of the SOTU a few times now, and here are some of my thoughts on a lack-luster performance.
After dispensing with the customary pleasantries, the first thing that stood out to me was this sentence here:
It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable -- that America was always destined to succeed...And despite all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.
'Tis true, Mr. President, that many Americans take their freedom and prosperity for granted. In fact, I'd say that this ingratitude and total lack of awareness is one of the most glaring shortcomings of our modern society (and education system). But what he, and most progressive-Left politicians, almost never want to accept, let alone proclaim, is that the two primary causes of our success as a nation have been military conquests and free market economics. (Not welfare entitlements or same-sex marriage ballot initiatives.)
If you are serious about teaching the history of this nation, you must include the good with the bad. It hasn't been all racism and Jim Crowe. It hasn't been all government intervention saving the poor, huddling masses from the exploits of monopolistic fat-cats. It hasn't been a secular, "Get your Church away from my State", mentality that gave the American people their moral clarity and fortitude to win wars and overcome domestic tragedies.
This is a Judeo-Christian, free market, liberty-loving, hard-working, government-mistrusting nation. This is a God-Family-Country (and in that order) nation. This is a Center-Right nation. That doesn't mean atheistic or liberal or progressive-Left citizens are less patriotic. It simply means that the ideology that informs their view of the world hasn't been emblematic of our story. We've succeeded where others have failed because of our ideas, ideals, and values. I believe Dennis Prager explains those values best:
Moving on, the president made what I presume was an unintended critique of high tax rates:
This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades -- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.
So what is the solution to this problem, Mr. President? Is it really more government intervention? Isn't the reason people pay so much of their income to their state and federal governments that their state and federal governments tax them so much? You're solutions all involve more government intervention, which all require more tax dollars to pay for them, which means everyone has to work more than four months into the calendar year to afford those taxes.
Oh, and taxes impact everyone, not just those "rich" people who make $250,000...I mean, $200,000...I mean "whatever arbitrary number Axelrod or Gibbs blurts out in staff meeting that morning".
If Wal-Mart gets taxed because Barbara Boxer or Barney Frank or Charlie Rangel has it in for them, Wal-Mart's prices go up and their customers make up the difference. This is how business works. I know it was tough to learn about the inner-workings of a business when the closest you've ever been to one is standing outside with a bull-horn demanding free stuff for the community you were currently organizing, but this is how the rest of us "little people" you insist you are helping live.
Continuing with the speech, Obama then added:
For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.
This entire paragraph is, how shall I say - claptrap. The "change" we need (and want) is away from reckless spending, higher taxes, and looming inflation...and towards fiscal responsibility, political accountability, and legislative transparency.
Anyone want to make the case that any of those three increased this past year?
I'd also like to take this moment to officially declare the "Wall Street to Main Street" metaphor the most trite, over-used, brain-dead phrase in the English language. Both sides of the political aisle are guilty of indulging in its usage. Stop. Please. Seriously. We get it. Some people look and live like the Monopoly guy, monocle and all, while others are hobos with nothing to wear for clothes but a barrel with two straps holding it in place.
Also, the call to stop with all the "partisanship" from the most partisan, polarizing figure in the country rings deaf on any sane ear. His administration has been defiant in their implementation of Chicago-style intimidation tactics. The leaders in both houses of congress have blocked GOP participation in any of the meetings about health care reform. Democrats have had overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate all year and could have done whatever they wanted without a single Republican.
Scott Brown didn't win Barney Frank's district in Massachusetts because voters wanted to send a message to Republicans that they better start making nice with President Obama. Spare me. Elections have consequences, remember?
The GOP certainly doesn't have to say "no" to everything Democrats want to do. Just all the bad ideas.
When I ran for president, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -- I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.
First off, President Bush was the one to sign TARP in to law. There is still disagreement, even among conservatives, as to whether or not TARP was a good thing, but everyone knows Bush deserves the credit or blame for it. What President Obama did was allocate another nearly $800 billion for what became known as the Stimulus Package. This is an entirely different animal altogether.
The Stimulus was Keynesian Economics at its "finest." Obama believes that the government can spend its way out of a recession. Math and numbers and history all have something to say about that, but where as TARP funds are almost all required to be paid back (as many already have been...with interest), the Stimulus funds will never be recouped by the financier of them (see: you, the taxpayer).
The White House continues to make its case that it saved 2 million (or was it 3 million) jobs and that things would have been worse had Obama not acted and saved the economy. How do you prove a job was saved? What is the standard used to decide that? How do we trust an administration that got caught manipulating the figures of jobs created by the Stimulus?
The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. That's right -- the Recovery Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill. Economists on the left and the right say that this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for it.
Translation: I don't have any sources (outside of New York Times columnists) to corroborate my claim that everyone thinks the Stimulus was a smashing success...so just trust me on this one, guys.
That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight. Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.
On second thought, I take that back. The conditions the government can create to help businesses flourish are ones in which they are nowhere to be found. Protect us abroad. Enforce the laws at home. Keep out of things you don't understand and have no Constitutional authority to involve yourself with.
From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious -- that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile. For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?
You spent an entire year essentially on one issue (health care). No one wanted it, and people showed up to vote in liberal states to prove it to you.
How long are you going to wait to start cutting out the waste and fraud you said could pay for your ambitious plans? How long until REAL spending freezes are enacted? How long did it take you to make a decision on sending troops to Afghanistan? How long are the lines at the airport going to have to get before we start focusing the profiling done on Muslim males between the ages of 18-35, and not Grandma Mema?
After droning on about other various issues, the president finally addressed his disastrous attempts to bring socialized medicine to this country.
This is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering "what's in it for me?"
So you see, the real reason Obamacare isn't the law of the land right now is that you dolts didn't understand his 100+ speeches explaining health care reform. Plus those lobbyists (a.k.a. people who came out for town hall meetings and Tea Party rallies) obstructed the majestic view of government-run health care for the rest of us.
Obama takes no responsibility for proposing something no one wanted or wants, rather, he feels bad he wasn't seen and heard more. Yeesh!
Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust -- deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.
It's more than a "credibility gap", Mr. President. We absolutely need the government for certain, specific duties to be discharged. (See: Constitution). You promised a "new kind of politics" during your 2008 campaign. Where is any of that? Why didn't you make Pelosi and Reid put ALL of the health care debates on C-SPAN? Why didn't you see to it that bills be placed on-line for at least 5 days before being voted on so the public can scour them?
Excuse me if I don't believe that anything is going to actually change. I hope and pray it does, but enough talk. Do it. Change things. How can we trust our government with big things when they can't even follow through on these little promises.
To quote someone both of us respect, Mr. President:
His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. (Matthew 25:23)
There were parts that I appreciated in the SOTU Address. I give President Obama all the credit in the world for even just suggesting that nuclear power and drilling at home are legitimate options to help bring costs of energy down.
I enjoyed hearing a liberal Democrat talk about American values being great, but as I said earlier, the key questions are "What are those values?" and "Where did they come from?" He was spot-on in identifying the cyncicism and angst people have towards government, but he is incapable of accepting the notion that people don't just dislike the pony-tails Big Sister has given them; they want the federal government out of their hair altogether.
There's much more that could, and perhaps, should, be said about the so-so speech President Obama gave Wednesday evening, but I'll leave it at this for now. Go read George Will or Peggy Noonan or Jonah Goldberg for more commentary.
I'd love to hear your reflections and thoughts, so please join in the conversation by clicking on the "Comments" link below.
It's going to be a fun year, so get informed and get involved.