Haven’t we heard that speech before, practically every word of it? Maybe it was a year ago when President Obama first addressed Congress. Maybe it was during the campaign. Maybe it was at one of those town halls? Maybe Obama can’t help himself. His speeches just insist on sounding the same.
In any case, Obama delivered the least fresh State of the Union address I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard more than 30 of them. It was filled with old ideas, campaign cliches, and frequent use of personal pronoun, “I.” That’s the Obama pattern.
The chief takeaway from 70 minutes of presidential oratory was that Obama doesn’t intend to move to the center. Should we have been surprised? Not at all. Obama is no Bill Clinton. He’s an ideologically committed liberal.
Sure, the public has expressed strong opposition -- in the elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts -- to the liberal agenda of the president and congressional Democrats. And poll after poll has found the similar opposition all over America. But Obama is unimpressed and undeterred.
He’s sticking with his liberal policies -- on health care, global warming, gays in the military, the high speed rail boondoggle, taxing the overseas profits of American companies, the whole batch. Obama said those in Congress who might have grown skeptical of force feeding an unwilling nation a massive dose of liberalism should “not run for the hills.’’ I suspect they will anyway.
Here are several further thoughts about Obama’s first official State of the Union address:
1) In a speech as long as last night’s, it was shocking the president spent so little time on national security and foreign policy. Okay, he’s more interested in domestic policy. We knew that. But he kissed off Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran in a few words, though he took time to boast that more al Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed in his first year in office than in George W. Bush’s last.
2) Obama voiced concern about the lack of trust by Americans in their government. But he didn’t help matters by repeating discredited (or at least less than believable) claims about his policies. He said that 2 million more people would be jobless today were it not for his economic stimulus bill. Not much empirical evidence for that claim. And he said his health care legislation would actually reduce the deficit. Please! Everyone knows this is the result of transparent accounting tricks and, in truth, ObamaCare would increase the deficit by hundreds of billions.
3) The president isn’t so anxious about the deficit that he’d pass up the chance to pass another stimulus bill. Only this time it’s a “jobs bill” and Obama wants it “on my desk without delay.” From Obama’s description, it should be a lot like the first stimulus -- that is, not very stimulative. It would have small, temporary tax cuts of the sort that have never in human history provided substantial, permanent economic growth. To pay for it, he’d use bank bailout money that’s been paid back, money that otherwise could be applied to deficit reduction.
4) It was nice to hear the president praise innovation. He said his administration had spent a record amount on basic research, which is good. Then he outlined a series of steps to promote innovation. Guess what? They were all things that government would do, which is bad. Unleash the private sector? He didn’t mention that.
5) One more thing that ought to irritate folks. Obama blames the economic crisis of 2008 entirely on banks. True, they bear some blame. But there were other culprits, government ones. The trouble that started with a housing stampede prompted by the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates was compounded by the federal government’s pressure to provide loans for unworthy investors, and worsened by the packaging of these bad loans into securities marketed around the world. Banks erred, but so did government. But Obama chose to demonize banks. How can that help the economy?