Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech on January 27th 2010 very much resembled his first year in office; long, hard, contentious, and fully and transparently out of touch with the American electorate. The speech was predictable, aside from the fact that, unlike most of his speeches, this one was rambling, and at times, almost purposeless. Predictable, in that the president’s supposedly ‘populist’ turn he and his advisers had been talking about all week since the upset in Massachusetts was on full display. In the week leading up to the ‘State of Confusion’ address, as I like to call it, the president plastered himself all over mainstream media outlets in order to begin damage control and to spin the immense grassroots backlash that his agenda experienced in Massachusetts.
Obama and his Democrat allies, for eight years under George W. Bush, complained without end about how Bush refused to admit any mistakes he might have made. Bush’s thought was, rightly, that as president that he should not indulge the psychosis which had engulfed the press in their constant requests for Bush to point to a specific mistake his Administration had made in Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Terror, his morning Sudoku, in the economy or in his bedroom. To acknowledge that mistakes had been made but that he wouldn’t get into details was not good enough for the vampiric press.
On the other hand, Obama has taken the opposite approach, sort of. Aside from being quick to point out where his predecessor erred, Obama has been quick to point out where his Administration, not he, has screwed up. In an interview the day following the Massachusetts’ election, with George Stephanopoulos, President Obama said:
“If there’s one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are.”
In other words, his his only mistake has been that he was working so hard that he couldn’t dumb his health care agenda down enough for you peasant folk to understand in the 411 speeches he made last year. Kind of reminds me of ‘The Office’ episode in which Michael Scott is asked in an interview with his boss, David Wallace what his biggest strengths are…
Michael: Why don’t I tell you what my greatest weaknesses are? I work too hard. I care too much. And sometimes I can be too invested in my job.
David: Okay. And your strengths?
Michael: Well, my weaknesses are actually… strengths.
Get it? I guess you had to be there. But it sounds familiar, right? Unfortunately, Michael Scott is fictional and Barack Obama is quite real. Obama went on to say:
“The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
In other words, it wasn’t the fact that Democrats were shoving an unwanted health care bill down the American people’s gullets—voters in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts were mad at Bush. In Obama’s self deluded fantasy land full of hope and change and stimuli of all kinds, that might be true. In fact, Barack Obama believes that, I think. Which is the problem. Obama mistook the American people voting for his promises of tax cuts for 95% of Americans and centrism, as a mandate for turning the U.S. into Canada’s largest and least flanneled province.
Obama mirrored this disconnect in his State of the Unicorn speech (I like it). Obama firmly believes that voters are not rejecting him or his agenda. He seems to believe that all he really needs to do is to redirect conservative ire, or populism in his eyes, from spending and socialism to bankers and Wall Street. So Obama proposed more taxes on banks. In doing so, Obama ignored the fact that 65% to 25% Americans fear big government more than big business.
Instead of taking the not so subtle hints given in elections this year, Obama doubled down in his speech. The American people don’t want more failed stimuluses, yet the president called for more spending. Yeah yeah, a spending freeze that doesn’t begin till next year and budget cuts that amount to $20 billion—after he increases the debt by a few trillion. Thanks. Obama alluded to the debt the we “find ourselves in” and frequently tried to hang our current woes on president Bush. He failed to mention that the $700 billion TARP he voted for was “his idea”, and that he was the one that promoted, campaigned for and signed the now $850 billion stimulus package last year.
He lamented partisanship and polarization but ignored his own record of being the most polarizing president in American history. He topped it off with the most juvenile and un-presidential (not to mention factually inaccurate) attack on a visiting Supreme Court I’ve ever seen. If Judge Alito mouthing the words “not true” in response is the worst that Obama engenders, he should consider himself lucky. In fact, he should consider himself lucky if even three or four Justices bother to show up to the next three State of the Union speeches.
Though, that may have just been Obama trying to use ‘populism’ to appeal to the masses. After all, for some reason the Administration has thought it wise to tell everyone that they are going to pivot to a more populist message. This is kind of like a novelist sending out press releases about how his next book is going to be ‘dumbed down’ and made ‘more shallow’ to improve sales. Neglecting, of course, the fact that this looks like a political game to the American people, who are roiled because of just that—and the massive spending and disregard for the will of the people, arrogance, corruption, incompetence, lies, misrepresentations, demonization and fearmongering did I mention lies and disregarding the will of the people? Among other things.
Why, Barry, why? When Bill Clinton pivoted to appeal to heart strings and mob sentiments, he just did it. He didn’t broadcast his political scheming before hand. Obama’s 2008 campaign was nothing but populism. A return this year to what the White House calls ‘populism’ is simply a return to campaigning. Not governing. Americans have seen this song and dance once already, and are not quite as stupid as the Administration suspects. Politically expedient policy shifts will be punished in November.
Obama spent the past year campaigning in Copenhagen, once for the Olympics and once for the Sierra Club. Also, he spent much of his time accepting a Nobel Peace Prize, closing Guantanamo and bringing terrorists into U.S. courts, granting them Miranda rights, and pushing unwanted health care bills. All this while unemployment reached heights doubling that of the average rate during Bush’s presidency. In his address Wednesday, he had the audacity to call global warming fearmongering “settled science” and to push for a crippling cap and tax scheme, in the wake of devastating evidence in support of skeptics.
As further evidence of Obama’s lackluster State of the Union address, I ask just one question: If I had asked you before you read this article to name one specific thing Barack Obama said in his speech, aside from tax credits and debt relief for college loans, could you? Obama recaptured some of his Democrat base with his speech Wednesday and this is reflected handsomely in his numbers–but polling shows that Independents and Republicans were unmoved, which is bad news for Obama. Tepid applause and awkward jumping routines from Nancy Pelosi are what I will remember of this speech. And, despite the obligatory ‘now let me be clear’s that we’ve become accustomed to, Obama’s speech was anything but.
David Teesdale, rambles a bit too. But he isn’t president yet, and this isn’t a State of the Union address. Get of his back. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment here.