The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of Denial

As I expected, President Obama said some of the right things in his State of the Union address last night. For example:
And what the American people hope – what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.

Few Americans in the Center would disagree, but Barack Obama has never sponsored or championed any truly bipartisan legislation in his brief time in the Senate or his first year as President. He said the words (with a degree of combativeness that belied their meaning), but offered no assurance that he’d do anything about them.
Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time for something new. Let’s try common sense. Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let’s meet our responsibility to the people who sent us here.

Hear, hear. But the President talked about “a mountain of debt” while earlier in the speech, he suggested that he “will not walk away” from his 800 billion dollar health care proposals which he claims will reduce the deficit. Common sense belies that claim.

The President argues that
It’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my Administration or Congress. And it’s time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.

Sure. But this comes from a man who has been in bed with lobbyists (think: big Labor, big Pharma) since his first day in office, a man who shunned public funding of his election campaign and chose instead to opt for unlimited private (and often quite dubious) campaign donations.

I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform.

Hurray! Yet he signed a pork laden stimulus bill that has done little to create the private sector jobs he so eloquently desires.

There are many more examples, but I hope you get the point. Words are cheap, it’s actions that matter.

As I watched the President, it became increasingly apparent that he and his administration continue to believe that their plummeting poll numbers and electoral defeat in Massachusetts are nothing more than a failure to communicate—a failure of words. That a Center-Right country can be pushed way to the Left, if only the President succeeds in his rhetorical magic. That us bumpkins in the Center, you know, the electoral segment that sorta ruined the President’s super majority in the Senate, will pivot and follow the smartest guys in the room as soon as it's all explained to us. Words.

In fact it appears that the smartest guys in the room refuse to accept that they messed up, even if a considerable number of centrist Democrats, the vast majority of Independents, and every Republican thinks they have. Jennifer Rubin discusses what she calls “the newest Beltway parlor game — ‘How could Obama have messed up this badly?’”
It’s remarkable we don’t have a better answer given the length of the 2008 campaign and the 24/7 coverage. Yet, in all the cooing and leg-tingling, the media’s infatuation with Obama left little time to consider the substance (or lack thereof) in his soaring oratory. And virtually no time was spent considering how it came to be that a man so celebrated for his intellect had left such a light footprint in his brief career. Why were there no major legislative initiatives or interesting deviations from liberal orthodoxy? Well, certainly the perpetual fixation with running for higher office didn’t leave much time for accomplishing anything. But perhaps he had little interest in real policy debates and even less in the nitty-gritty of putting together actual legislation.

Less rigorous in his thinking than Ronald Reagan (who, contrary to the dunce image cultivated by liberals, for decades wrote, thought hard about, and spoke on the issues of the day) and less intellectually creative than Bill Clinton (who’d been forced as governor to navigate in a conservative state), Obama got to the presidency not through the appeal of his ideas but by the idea of Him. To be blunt, maybe the reason why the administration [quoting Michael Gerson in RealClearPolitics] ”has not contributed a single innovative, bipartisan idea on a major issue” is that Obama doesn’t have any and isn’t interested in any.

Toby Harden of the U.K’s daily telegraph seems to understand the President’s problems more clearly than the smartest guys in the room:
Democrats who (unlike Obama) face re-election in November are noting that the President campaigned for candidates in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts – all of which he won comfortably in 2008 – but they still bombed.

The Obama line that Massachusetts is about disgust with “process” not policy and the Jarrett line that it is about some vague unfocused frustration lead to the inevitable conclusion that this White House just doesn’t get it.

As William McGurn in the WSJ points out, the central problem is that Americans – only 20 per cent of whom view themselves as liberal – view the Obama agenda as too far Left. “There’s no sign that Obama buys any of this,” writes McGurn. “His team argues, apparently oblivious to the inherent condescension, that no intelligent American could possibly oppose his health-care agenda on substance.”

Yep, the mindset is one of: sooner or later these dumb Americans will realise that we know what’s best for them.

If our President isn’t careful and continues his current trajectory, there’s only one state that we can be sure he’ll hold—and that’s a state of denial. Scary.