If you’re looking for commentary on the president’s State of the Union address tonight, I’m afraid I have to send you elsewhere. My pain threshold limits me to a few notes. Ann Althouse has a higher threshold than I do; check out her comments here. National Journal has posted the text of the speech here.
Obama’s domestic policy is big on “investments” — not yours, the government’s. That is, spending. It’s a throwback to the vocabulary of the Clinton era. “The kids” must not be far behind. And there they are. They need more of your dough for their education.
“We do big things,” Obama says. I think when he says “we,” he means big government. The speech is long on domestic policy cloaked in the characteristically disingenuous rhetoric designed to conceal the substance. Obama advocates some kind of a freeze in federal spending. I’m not sure how that squares with the call for more “investments.”
Obama acknowledges the tumult in Tunisia thusly: “We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” Where does the United States of America stand tonight with respect to the people of Iran? We’re still waiting to hear from Obama on that one, but I guess we can infer he supports their aspirations as well. The people of Iran are included in “all people.”
The speech does have several good lines. Here is one of them: “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC.” It’s a pity that Obama has to gild it with the usual gay rights boilerplate. This line also deserves a nod: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Unlike most of the rest of the speech, it has the advantage, as Henry Kissinger might say, of being true.
Obama’s advent gets the usual iteration tonight: “That [American] dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.” And he includes Biden: “That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me.” But Biden’s rise too is a tribute to the advent of Obama.” And he includes an uncharacteristically gracious salute to Speaker Boehner: “That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”
It’s a pity that Obama hasn’t found previous occasions to articulate American exceptionalism. Indeed, he has essentially denied it. Maybe he didn’t think it was true before the advent of the Age of Obama, or maybe he chooses not to share his innermost thoughts on the subject with his fellow citizens tonight.
UPDATE: How could I have missed the high speed rail, the electric cars, the green jobs, the expansion of the Internet, the misstatement of the American creed, the class warfare, or commendable parts of the speech such as the tribute to our military and to the Center Rock company that I overlooked above? My pain threshold has hampered my ability to stick with it.
Obama has been well served by his relative absence from the podium over the past few months. When he addresses the issues, we are reminded why he must be resisted with with every ounce of our being.
ONE MORE NOTE: Jennifer Rubin does a great job translating the speech.
THIS JUST IN: At the Guardian, Dan Kennedy rounds up reactions to the speech, including my own. Kennedy finds my remarks heated and speculates that I “have a pet salmon or something.” I think it’s fair to say that Kennedy is just about as funny as Obama. It’s not the salmon, Dan, it’s the smoke.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell