Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union roundup

No, I didn't watch the President's State of the Union address. I often try to watch or listen regardless of who is in the White House, but with Bookgirl's birthday tomorrow and some gift-wrapping left to do, the evening got away from me rather quickly.

But I've gotten spoiled in the past couple of years by the availability of the whole speech online. So much of what a politician does is in his delivery, and even mundane words can sound inspiring if a good speaker pronounces them. It's much easier to see beyond the hype when you just read.

This Associated Press fact check was extremely useful, too. Examples:

OBAMA: Discussing his health care initiative, he said: "Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan."

THE FACTS: The Democratic legislation now hanging in limbo on Capitol Hill aims to keep people with employer-sponsored coverage - the majority of Americans under age 65 - in the plans they already have. But Obama can't guarantee people won't see higher rates or fewer benefits in their existing plans. Because of elements such as new taxes on insurance companies, insurers could change what they offer or how much it costs. Moreover, Democrats have proposed a series of changes to the Medicare program for people 65 and older that would certainly pinch benefits enjoyed by some seniors. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted cuts for those enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.[...]

OBAMA: He called for action by the White House and Congress "to do our work openly, and to give our people the government they deserve."

THE FACTS: Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign - to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN "so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it's acted upon.

And here's an interesting viewpoint from the UK Telegraph's Nile Gardiner:

As expected, Barack Obama’s 70 minute State of the Union address focused heavily on the economy and the domestic political agenda. This was hardly surprising in the aftermath of last week’s catastrophic defeat for his party in the Massachusetts special Senate election, where the Republicans scored an historic victory. American voters are turning strongly against the president’s health care reform package as well as his big government vision for the economy, which has contributed to spiraling public debt and mounting unemployment, now standing at over 10 percent.

But the scant attention paid in the State of the Union speech to US leadership was pitiful and frankly rather pathetic. The war in Afghanistan, which will soon involve a hundred thousand American troops, merited barely a paragraph. There was no mention of victory over the enemy, just a reiteration of the president’s pledge to begin a withdrawal in July 2011. Needless to say there was nothing in the speech about the importance of international alliances, and no recognition whatsoever of the sacrifices made by Great Britain and other NATO allies alongside the United States on the battlefields of Afghanistan. For Barack Obama the Special Relationship means nothing, and tonight’s address further confirmed this.

So Obama didn't say too much about foreign affairs. What he did mention were jobs. Quite a lot, actually:

What Americans want is the simple security of knowing that tomorrow will be better than today, said the President, who cast himself as a fierce defender of the middle class.

Mentioning the word "jobs" 29 times, he asked Congress to join him and make 2010 all about putting people back to work.

"They are hurting. They need our help," he said. "And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay."


Anonymous said...

Thank you Mark Shea and Red Cardigan, for help putting Obama in office. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

freddy said...


It's a small mind who resorts to blaming others for what they didn't do, and smacks of a certain inadequacy.

So, O Brave Anonymous @ 2:20, stop ragging on Mark and Red and anyone who lives according to their prinicples and grow up.

Red Cardigan said...

You know, anonymous, I did vote for McCain/Palin, as anyone who bothered to read my blog instead of leaving drive by partisan hack postings would know.

But by all means, don't ever let yourself feel uncomfortable about the Church's teachings on torture. You might fail to celebrate next time a Republican is elected. And we can't have *that*.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I'm sure you would expect me to say I thought the President gave an excellent speech, and that is what I think, so what?

I thought he should have hit a little harder on the fact that all those "tax cuts" of the Bush years were paid for, not by reduced government spending, but by borrowing from the Bank of China. There is nothing my mother, a life-long Republican, finds more embarrassing, that the fact that since 1980 Republicans have been running up record deficits, while Democrats actually started paying down the national debt, until those borrow-and-spend Republicans got back in. There are many things Obama could be criticized for, but the Republican alternative, so far, is going back to all the policies that got us into trouble over the last ten years. The President is right, we can't go back to that, and we do need to rein in the banks, hard. In fact, we should reinstitute Glass-Steagall -- another point my mother makes, whenever her bank tries to sell her on pouring her CD's into some risky uninsured investment that banks have no business getting into in the first place.

As to gays, the biggest thing they want is gay marriage. There is no reason the President of the United States should say anything on that subject, because it lies entirely outside the authority entrusted to him by the constitution. It is a matter for the states, and I would be shocked if he offered to tip the Supreme Court on an issue not yet brought before it.

Geoff G. said...

Don't Ask Don't Tell is actually pretty high up on the list mostly because it's a codification of prejudice in statute. No-one's ever made any argument for it that wasn't predicated on bigotry (example: the whole "unit cohesion" argument is really saying "Lots of soldiers hate the queers so we have to cater to those prejudices or the unit won't function.") To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, a good soldier only has to be able to shoot straight.

I plan on writing a little bit more about why DADT is important to me personally (even though it's too late for me to personally re-enlist), why it's important even to those gays and lesbians who have no interest in serving, and why it's important for the country as a whole.

Geoff G. said...

Oh, and as for this:

Did you see it? No? It's in there. Between "hate crimes" and "equal pay." Not exactly the placement and stress on the issue that gay rights activists were hoping for, I'm sure.

The main worry that I've been seeing from the gay commentariat is that Obama only promised to "work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law" rather than making a more concrete statement.

The placement hasn't been mentioned at all. People who know how the political process works are well aware that the SOTU is a bit like the Speech From the Throne in the sense that it sets out a legislative agenda for the Congress. As such, it tends to devolve in being a bit of a laundry list.

It's not the position in the list that matters: it's the fact that it made it on in the first place. It elevates the issue and marks it as an important one for the upcoming year.

Incidentally, reading the Politico article you linked to, I don't see that Obama's campaign platform is so much the problem as the inability of the White House to manage the Senate.