Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama's Speech Earns A 'D'

Apologies for being tardy commenting on President Obama's first State of the Union address. I had slept 36 hours as a result of some viral. I awakened for a bit of nourishment and watched the speech, followed by the Republican response, and went back to bed for another 12 hours.

If I were a political science professor, I would grade Obama's speech a D.

Before even reading the reviews other pundits quickly posted, my reaction hearing contents of the speech is that he hasn't learned a damn thing his first year in office.

He urged Congress to salvage the health care reform legislation on their own with himself sitting on the sidelines as designated cheerleader. If ever there was a time for the president to arm-twist and kick some butt,. this was it. He declined.

He urged a spending freeze beginning 2011 for three years on all programs not national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran Affairs. I haven't seen the numbers, but this seems a pitiful feeble attempt at cutting the deficit at a critical time the economy still requires some pump priming.

He wants a jobs bill that smacks of extending the stimulus without any additional funding except what's left in the original $787 billion package.

I expected the president to turn to the center, a path President Clinton chose when the Republicans regained a majority in Congress after the 1994 midterms. He didn't. To borrow a phrase from George W. Bush, he's staying the course.

That's a major mistake. To govern, he must cut his umbilical cord with his liberal base and seek a right-of-center course where most American voters now reside.

I thought it was beneath the president to scold the Supreme Court for its ruling allowing unlimited corporate spending for federal election campaigns. Rather than fight the court, he should be demanding complete transparency in campaign finance disclosures which would allow voters to determine the efficacy of each issue.

I gave him a passing grade only on his admonition of both political parties in the Senate to assume responsibility when using the 60-vote supermajority rule to defeat, delay or diminish all major legislation.

Earlier today I began reviewing the reviews. Nothing changed my mind. He still gets a D.

John Dickerson, writing for the liberal Slate:

The State of the Union speech was intended, at least in part, to remind voters that the president is the same guy they elected 14 months ago.

That's the problem. He is still Everyman espousing hope when substance and leadership is required.

Ron Fournier, the respected bureau chief for the Associated Press:

The president used his prime-time address to essentially concede that he had failed to communicate his empathy for hard-luck Americans.

But copying the Clintonian "I feel the pain" bromide does not get legislation passed. The AP writer then nailed a  problem, no matter how undeniable it is:

"I know the anxieties that are out there right now," (Obama) said. "They are not new." The last phrase was a reference to economic woes he inherited from Republican President George W. Bush. Obama pointed back at Bush — a subtle passing of the buck — at least a half-dozen times.

The Washington Post's veteran colunist Dan Balz:

He needed to stiffen the spines of Democrats, who are now justifiably worried about surviving the wrath of a disgruntled electorate in November. He wanted to challenge Republicans by warning that voters may hold them as responsible as Democrats for the breakdown of functioning government in Washington. And he needed to reconnect with the voters after a year in which he became a virtual prisoner of the unseemly machinations on Capitol Hill.

Unless the president turns bully, these are shallow promises. Continues Balz:

His proposals spanned the ideological spectrum as his radar sought to lock in on disparate groups of voters: more tax cuts for small business; more nuclear power plants and offshore drilling for conservatives; more education spending for suburban families; a spending freeze for deficit hawks; a renewed pledge to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for the left. And, for anyone willing to listen, there was the promise to keep fighting for health care.

Here, Obama the Everyman is throwing crumbs to Everyone. Don't hold your breath.

Gail Collins, New York Times columnist, on the angry tone in Washington:

The House hates the Senate. The liberal Democrats hate the moderate Democrats. The normal conservative Republicans hate the hyper Tea Party-types. The Tea Party-ists are having so many internal fights that there’s a definite danger of broken crockery. And, of course, everybody hates the bankers, except the Republicans who sat on their hands when the president called for taxing them.

No wonder nothing gets done, especially with a president too cool to become combative ala Teddy Roosevelt. More Collins:

Obama does not really do angry. Peeved, yes.

During his speech, Obama outlined a litany of successes including tax breaks for earners up to $250,000 which failed to budge Republicans from their seats to applaud. The president even quipped that he thought that would draw a similar response as the faithful Democrats in the House Chamber.

The New York Times article on the speech explained why, referring to Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnel's State of the Union rebuttal:

“Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much,” Mr. McDonnell said.
 Today's editorial in the Los Angeles Times was surprising luke warm to the president's speech:

It also lived up (or down) to the modern expectation that such speeches will be extravagant exercises in high rhetoric and political theater. What it seems unlikely to do, however, is galvanize support in Congress and the country for what until very recently was the president's most prized priority.

I would be surprised if Obama's speech receives much of an uptick in his job performance polls. Of course, as Everyman he remains personally popular.

The problem is presidents who win Mr. Congeniality contests must also learn to govern.

1 comment:

Christian Prophet said...

Obama's speech was classic Benito Mussolini. The similarity is canny. Hopefully Obama will suffer a better fate. See:
"Obama Creates Poverty, Not Jobs!"