The Blog

The Obama Code

What to listen for in the president's State of the Union address.

12:00 AM, Jan 25, 2011 • By FRED BARNES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

“Investment,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell noted, is a code word when uttered by President Obama and Democrats. It means, he said on Fox News Sunday, “we want to spend.” Indeed, that’s what Obama and Democrats most want to do.

The Obama Code

But “investment” isn’t the only code word you’re likely to hear from Obama in his State of the Union address tonight on Capitol Hill. He’s sure to use other words designed to mask what he and Democrats are up to. More often than not, the code words are invoked to hide one thing: more and more government intervention in the economy.

Obama’s favorite new word is “competitiveness.” This doesn’t mean he wants to enact free market reforms to increase competition in the private sector. Perish the thought. He wants to fund programs that aid or subsidize industries involved in global markets. Once again, it points to more spending, more intervention.

The president also wants to “win the future,” as he put it in a 4-minute video he sent last week to followers from his 2008 campaign. Who takes the lead in achieving this? Not the private economy unleashed by tax cuts and deregulation. Free markets and free individuals can’t be trusted with this task. The government must be in charge.

Both winning the future and competitiveness have another role. Properly understood, they’re a diversion from the present, with its weak economy and high unemployment. You’re supposed to ignore what’s happening today and look to the future, when competitiveness has kicked in a few years down the road and the American economy is victorious.

Like it or not, Obama must deal in his speech with deficits and the national debt, hardly his favorite subject. He’s for cutting spending, naturally, but he wants to do it “in a responsible way.” That’s easy to interpret. Being responsible means cutting very little from the Obama budget.

The implication here is that Republicans want to reduce spending “in an irresponsible way,” though the president isn’t likely to say that in so many words. But you’ll know what he’s getting at.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Recent Blog Posts