Thursday, January 28, 2010

Critiquing The State Of The Union Address

I just finished watching the State of the Union Address and I jotted down a few thoughts. First of all, President Obama was eloquent, no surprise there. There was a lot less rancor than I expected. The President certainly took his shots at Republicans, but it wasn’t anywhere near as contententious as I had thought it might be. The speech moved well, even at over an hour in length. Overall, I thought the president did a fine job from a technical standpoint (for lack of a better term).

As for the substance of the speech, I was mildly surprised to find that my notes reflected more positives than negatives. I’m still not convinced this president is the one that will successfully lead this country out of recession. But on balance, he said a lot of the right things. He also said some not so right things. But let’s stay on this positive vibe a bit longer.

The President cited “tough decisions” that will have to be made about offshore drilling in the near future. I read that to mean, “we’ll have to drill for more oil”. That was an unexpected admission, and a welcome one. Granted, I don’t expect that idea to make it to his desk alive, but still, it was good to hear.

He also announced his intention to double exports within the next five years. While not specific enough for my taste, he alluded to loosening export restrictions and strengthening trade agreements to better allow free trade. Again, very good to hear.

His call to require all contact between lobbyists and members of Congress is a great way of shining a light on how laws really get made in this country. I’m all for it. I did notice however that this was the one proposal that was met with stone silence; not one person could be heard to applaud it. Well, you tried Mr. President.

Another call to Congress, this time to publish all earmarks online at a single, publicly accessible website is also a great idea long overdue. This one got a warmer response from the room. Let’s get started on this one right away.

The President also spoke of America’s support for freedom, citing North Korea and Iran specifically. His talk of “growing consequences” for Iran’s continued muzzling of opposition voices was nice, but far too vague.

Finally, the item that was hinted at earlier today, his call for Congress to draft a law to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It’s long overdue. It was a bad idea to begin with and it’s time the mistake was corrected. This is also an easy way for the President to throw a bone to an increasingly restless gay community, one that has begun to question their loyalty to a party that keeps ignoring them.

As for the other side of the ledger, the early part of the speech rehashed some of the same rhetoric the American people have largely rejected; the recession is all the fault of George Bush and evil bankers. It seems almost like reflex at this point, without a lot of conviction behind the words. But it grates just the same. No mention of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s rather large role in the housing bubble. No mention of out of control spending on entitlements. Just Bush and banks, forever and ever, amen.

The President also took credit for making the stimulus program transparent after taking over office. I don’t know where that came from, but with money going to nonexistent Congressional districts and zip codes and an oversight committee that complains to this day that they don’t know where the money is going, it was just a bizarre claim.

You can keep calling it a “fee on banks”, but everybody knows it’s really a tax.

As much as I liked hearing about opening up offshore drilling, I disliked the talk of subsidies for “clean” energy. Subsidies are a way of rigging a market. Rigging markets is how economies collapse. And no, I’m not saying “clean” energy subsidies will singlehandedly destroy the economy; I’m saying it’s bad policy.

I’ll just say this about healthcare reform: you’re not listening to the people on this one, Mr. President.

(Crossposted from Say Anything)


  1. "...publish all earmarks online at a single, publicly accessible website..."
    For a guy who campaigned to eliminate them, it's awfully limp wristed now just to say he wants them more visible and in one place!

  2. That's very true. Good point. Of course, promising that in the first place was incredibly naive. Maybe he's just bowing to reality. Nah.