Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union: Not so Bad

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speech tonight and since it seems everybody's commenting on it, I thought I'd add a word: "Whew."

That's a sigh of relief, because the President didn't propose any major new expenditures; in fact, he talked about trimming government.  He began with a conciliatory message and even congratulated the new Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner.

He used plenty of sweeping platitudes, to be sure, but they were warm in tone and affirmed basic values, just as expected, and the expected was reassuring.

He even said some things that were downright conservative--like consolidating government offices, and simplifying the tax code.  And our not-so-jocular President even made a joke, decrying separate agencies "handling" salmon depending on whether the fish were in fresh or salt water: "I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked," he quipped, offering an added chuckle given his own smoking issue.

Of course, he had to defend his signature project, the health care bill, framing it as consumer protection. "That's why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients," he intoned, before insisting "I'm not willing to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition." But he didn't address how these dastardly insurance companies, the mean exploiters, were to absorb the costs of these conditions.

Also amusing was how he later tied his health care bill to lowering the deficit, saying "Repeal of the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit."  But everyone knew he'd protect his "baby."

More surprising was his proposal to lower corporate taxes, though he did rib "the wealthiest 2%" of individual taxpayers, who he said should "give up their tax break."  Why? "It's not a matter of punishing their success," Obama spun, "It's about promoting America's success."  In other words, individuals with money cannot be trusted to spend it on goods and services (that fuel the economy directly); better they should send their money to the government, a wiser source of national "success."

Still, it wasn't a liberal thing to suggest support for ROTC and military recruiters on college campuses.  Or to repeat twice that he'd veto any bill presented to him that contained earmarks for pet projects.  Or to credit entrepreneurs and business with national financial health, urging a doubling of exports by 2014.

He even included building roads in his plan to improve the infrastructure, and while he offered a goal "to give 80% of Americans access to high speed rail," the implication was that this would be a national transportation system (as opposed to ineffectual local light rail) that would be an alternative to air travel, "without the pat down."

And he packaged it all in language that was occasionally downright noble.  And Presidential, even. He mentioned the Tucson shooting and Gabby Gifford at the top, in just the right measure, and concluded with optimism and the classic plea for God's blessing.  Not so bad; he rose to the occasion.  He proposed unity and transparency; now I just hope he follows through.


  1. I only tuned in at about 9:30EST, but that's exactly what I felt from what I watched.

    Of course the media was only interested in how "subdued" it all was, with only one commentator that I recall actually discussing the content (noting that there were a lot of nice, conciliatory to all gestures stated, but no explanations of how they'd get done).

    I do hope he follows through on much of what he said, but that remains to be seen.

  2. I watched the whole speech and it was "all right" but I got a kick out of Obama constantly asking for both side to work together. Where was this question when the Dems had control of the Congress? Everything was shoved down our throats whether we wanted it or not. We were told it was good for America because they said so!!! Now hopefully we can make changes that the American people want and have asked for like more jobs, cost of living to Social Security (since Congress got a raise shouldn't Seniors also get one) and a stop to earmarks and a slowdown on all this foreign aid for people that hate us!!!!

  3. Hi Diane—thanks for another well written blog and a very balanced review of this year's SOTU, thank you. If I may say, though, I think you were characteristically generous. The impression I came away with was that deep down, he views us as pathetic fools easily bamboozled by big words. He breathlessly informed us of 20 year-old information when he told us we have an educational crisis. Duh! Yes, we've known that for quite a while, thank you. Now tell us what you're doing about the educational unions. No, I think the speech disclosed deep-seated contempt for our intelligence. And maybe he's right. After all, voters are the same people who actually think cabincrew obsessing about cell phones in airplanes will keep us safe. Or the same people who think that Islamic terrorists are now thwarted by the threat of having their privates fondled. Come to think of it, I think his speech was perfectly pitched. Obviously enough voters are ignorant, foolish and short-sighted. And for that, I know of no cure. This stuff is just depressing-I think I’m going back to read your bright and cheerful blogs on Hawaii.