Free Markets, Free People

State of the Union


SOTU–About those energy claims

One of the things I heard in the State of the Union address by Barack Obama were a legion of contradictions, shaded truth and outright fiction.  Never more than in the section about oil and gas:

Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.  (Applause.)  Right now — right now — American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.  That’s right — eight years.  Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.  (Applause.)

But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough.  This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.  (Applause.)  A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.  (Applause.)  And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.  Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.  And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.  (Applause.)  Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.  (Applause.)  And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock –- reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.  (Applause.) 

Let’s hit the first paragraph with Bureau of Land Management numbers as provided by the Energy Today blog, shall we?

  • New leases on federal lands were down 44% in 2009/2010 compared to 2007/2008.
  • Permits and new wells drilled were both down 39% for the same time frame.
  • The economic downturn in 2007 was a factor in this decline, but leasing, permitting and drilling have rebounded on private lands; the decline in new permits in the West is significantly greater on federal lands (-39%) than non-federal, private lands (-20%) over the last two years.
  • Returning permitting, leasing and drilling to 2007/2008 levels would create 30,000 jobs over the next four years and increase federal royalties by $2 billion.

So “opening” land means zippity do dah.  Leases and permits are where the action is and neither have increased under this administration as he’s have you believe.  In fact, they’re down quite markedly. 

Note also that the increases in leasing, permitting and drilling has been on private lands.

There’s also the claim that there has been lower imports from foreign suppliers since his administration began, with the obvious intent that one is supposed to connect his claim above with delivering that result.

Uh, no:

Lower imports are the result of lower demand, and increasing production has come despite Obama’s policies, according to Jack Gerard, American Petroleum Institute President. The U.S. needs a “course correction” on energy policy that includes faster permitting on federal lands in the West and in the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

In case President Obama missed it, we’re in the middle of a deep recession, one which has driven the demand for oil down considerably.  It has nothing to do with his policies in particular and, in fact, had the economy been booming, the effect of his policies would be much more widely felt and an increase in foreign imports would have been likely.

As Institute for Energy Research president Thomas Pyle said:

He also claimed credit for the fact that oil imports are down, even though the drop owes more to the ongoing hardships experienced by millions of Americans who cannot find jobs or afford to drive in the Obama economy.

And, of course, as mentioned above, if indeed the Obama administration would just return to 2007/2008 permitting levels, 30,000 jobs could be had immediately.

Then, of course, there’s the Keystone XL pipeline which was ignored both in Obama’s discussion of energy, oil and gas as well as his discussion of infrastructure projects. 

Pyle also took exception to the claim that the US only has 2% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

"The president continues to repeat the discredited mantra that America only has 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. The Institute for Energy Research released last month the North American Energy Inventory, which uses government data to demonstrate that America is literally floating on energy. Under North American soil is twice as much oil as the combined proved reserves of every OPEC nation combined. As for natural gas, we have enough on this continent to provide America’s electricity needs for the next 575 years at current usage. The president just isn’t being honest with the American people about the vast energy supply that is literally under our feet. His own government reports show it.

Then there’s fracking and natural gas.  The administration would have you believe that it is dangerous to the public’s health.  Thus the lines about the public’s health and safety.  But other than disinformation, there is little if anything to back this fear. 

Only those who don’t understand the process fear it.  As I’ve mentioned for some time, fracking is not new.  It isn’t some new technology that has suddenly been discovered.  Fracking has been in use in the US for over 60 years and has been used on over a million wells. 

Suddenly however, it is a threat to public safety.  Well, science says that’s most likely not true:

Professor Mike Stephenson of the British Geological Survey said most experts thought the process, known as fracking, was a "pretty safe activity".

[…]

Professor Stephenson said the distance between groundwater supplies 40m to 50m below the surface and the sources of gas in the shale a mile or two underground, made it unlikely methane would leak into water as a result of fracking.

He said: "Most geologists are pretty convinced that it is extremely unlikely contamination would occur."

Additionally, and this is important:

"There’s natural methane in groundwater and you have to distinguish between what’s there already and what might have leaked in."

Natural methane like this.  So, like global warming, it would be nice to remove the junk science from the real science and deal with facts. 

Not to wander too far afield, this is just part of the spin that is evident throughout the speech on many subjects.  It is, as one would expect, an entirely one-sided account designed to make a very thin and poor record look much deeper and rich. 

Of course Obama isn’t the first or only president to do this, just the latest.  But it is importantly to understand the disingenuousness of this attempt to persuade.  Only then can anyone make an informed decision about his record. 

As he likes to do, he’s treated us to glowing rhetoric and very passable acting.  But for the most part, he’s highlighted three years of accomplishing nothing (see first post with video) and on that which he is willing to claim, the real truth, which is not flattering to him, is to be found in the details.

He has a record and he has to run on it.  And despite all the spin and shading, it is not a good one.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Translating the SOTU

So many words to translate from Obama lingo to English.  For instance:

New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Translation: We’ve had our run for two years, spending trillions of dollars wastefully and jamming through a huge big government program for health care.  Now, Repubicans, its time for “bi-partisanship”.

Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

Translation: I resisted it until the end and was backed into a corner, but hey, this is the SOTU and I’ll try to get out in front of all of that and claim credit since it seems to be working.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.

Translation: Please disregard the fact that I’m contradicting myself.  Please understand that the first few sentences are only something to be used to justify further government spending.  And here it is:

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Translation: I plan to call new spending “investment” so we can pretend it isn’t just more of the same.  And if I couch it in high sounding rhetoric about research and development and use scare terms like “Sputnik moment”, it’s sure to make it all seem to be a net “good thing”.

We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

Translation: In reality we are “just handing out money”.  Your money.  Money you earned and for which you probably had quite a different priority – like feeding and clothing your family and putting a roof over their head.  Instead we prefer to subsidize marginal technology which to this point hasn’t shown the ability to effectively provide the energy we need to move forward instead of subsidizing those that do.  And if you don’t believe me:

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Translation: The war on domestic oil continues.  It’s just nasty.  And dirty.  And we need “clean” energy.  Forget the fact that the technology for such energy isn’t anywhere near ready for primetime and doesn’t appear it will be for years, decades even.  Let’s dump on domestic oil now – that’s sure to make us less dependent on foreign oil – something I called on us to do earlier in the speech.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.

Translation: I love issuing challenges, especially when I can’t be held responsible for them if they don’t work out.  We can’t even generate 10% of our needs through “clean energy” and it doesn’t appear we’ll be any closer in 2035 given the current state of technology, but it does help me justify my war on domestic oil when I say things like this.

Oh, and education?  Well, it needs – get ready for it – more money:

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

Translation: We’ve had a Department of Education for decades and our education levels have slipped terribly … abysmally … for its entire existence.  But this will fix that.  All we need is to spend more.   Trust me.

Oh, and did I mention more spending? 

Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.

We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Translation: Yeah, see, we don’t want to leave it up to states and local communities to do this stuff – we’d rather take their money to a federal level and then hand it back with strings and after we’ve taken our cut.  That way I and other politicians can take credit for it.  And if you believe all the malarkey I’m spreading about high-speed rail (and the claim there’ll be no “pat-downs”), I have some government bonds in which you might want to invest.  If you thought corn ethanol was a boondoggle, wait until we get involved in high-speed rail projects.

Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans.

Translation: That’s right, ‘we”.  It will never happen unless government is involved.  Businesses have absolutely no interest in deploying “next generation of high-speed wireless coverage” to everyone they can get it too.  That 4G stuff?  Oh, just ignore that.  And admit it – you’re much happier now that government is involved in policing the internet, right?  Hey, you can’t put the “BIG” in “big government” unless you’re involved in everything.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.

Translation: Not really, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?  But you have to be reminded that without government, well, you’d just be in a freakin’ mess wouldn’t you?

But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Translation: Yeah, because without government, none of that would have ever happened, particularly the last and newest angle on the health care monstrosity we Democrats jammed through Congress last year.

Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law.

Translation: What do you mean 28 states are suing over the law?

We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.

Translation: That spending a decade ago – bad stuff.  Other guy’s fault.  Not mine (sure I was in the Senate, so what?). That 3 trillion I threw to the wind.  Good stuff.

I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Translation: After all, if we let our “most vulnerable citizens” keep more of what they earn by cutting spending by trillions of dollars, they’ll just spend it on the wrong stuff.   Only we know what is important and what we can “honestly afford to do without”.

The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.

Translation: Yes, you read it right.  We’re now defining “excessive spending” as “spending” found in “tax breaks and loopholes”.  That’s a method of “cutting spending” of which I approve.

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.

Translation: But remember – government has not taken over health care.  Say it with me – government has not taken over health care.

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

Translation: Let’s fix Social Security.  But not by privatizing it or any portion of it.  Only government is the answer and after all, we’ve handled it so well to this point we ought to be the go to entity, don’t you think?  We actually make Enron look good, but let’s not mention that, okay?

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.

It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

Translation: I still want to tax the rich because we’ve screwed up the budget, the deficit and the debt so badly that we’re in horrible trouble and we need a fall guy to demonize for being selfish and not doing their “fair share”.  Lord knows government has done its fair share in screwing this up.  Seems to me the rich would be willing to part with their money to help us fix it.  Right?  Anybody?

In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.

Translation: And if you believe they’re going to be substantial changes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you need to see.  But saying things like that allows me to push my “big government is good government” theme:

In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government.

Translation: If I can sell this, I can push government into everything I want it in.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.

Translation: Well, we believe in those “rights” if we can redefine them on the fly – you know, like the “right” to health care?

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.

Translation: That’s right – but now they must have government and government spending to make their dreams a reality.  Just remember that.  Meanwhile, start saving up for those coal-powered cars because we want millions of ‘em on the road in a few years. “ Dreams”, right?  Oh you thought I meant the dreams of ordinary people?  Uh, no, I meant the dream of government planners, of course.

Bah.

~McQ


A Smarter Response to the State of the Union Address

[Note: You might have already seen this at The Next Right or mentioned at Politico.  I'm cross-posting here for more feedback and in the hope you'll help spread the word.]

After the election, I saw several Republicans discussing who should deliver the SOTU response speech.

No one should.

First, any speech is bound to suffer by comparison to a speech before a joint session of Congress, with the Supreme Court in attendance.  Republicans tried to capture some of the same spirit by having Bob McDonnell speak before a small crowd of supporters in the Virginia House of Delegates chamber, but if you can’t match the pomp and grandeur of the president, try to avoid a direct comparison.

Not only is the venue working against you, but the president is a nationally-elected official; no member of the opposition can have the same stature.  Appearing to try to match the president’s status just plays to his strengths.

And finally, a speech, to be delivered immediately after the president’s carefully-planned opening move, puts the responder at a disadvantage.  Since the response speech is written without knowing exactly what the president is going to say, what is supposed to be a criticism of the president’s speech or agenda is relayed in vague terms, not pointed responses.  A prepared speech can only talk past the president, appearing deaf to what the president just said in the marquee event.

This precious free airtime could be spent dismantling the president’s argument, then pivoting to counterattack and providing alternatives.

How can the opposition do this?

Take advantage of the fact that they have fewer restraints.

First, make it a table discussion with more than one responder.  As a suggestion, include at least one governor to remind the audience that there are independent sources of authority, laboratories of policy that should retain their power to handle local problems (a big-city mayor could also do), and also include a legislator representing the opposition in Congress to directly address the president’s agenda on the federal level.

This also takes the pressure off of any one person to speak for the party, and signals that the opposition is having a frank conversation, not speaking press-release style through the great filter of lawyers and focus-group-tested language.  Make good use of stars like Paul Ryan and Chris Christie who have shown they’re champs at off-the-cuff communication and aren’t afraid to take on big issues.  Bobby Jindal would have been far better suited to this than talking into a camera solo.

Second, use resources the president doesn’t have.  The president is limited by the tradition of giving his speech in the chamber of the House of Representatives, which only affords him a microphone, a teleprompter and an audience.  Instead of trying to beat the president at his own game, use a modern-looking studio, where the responders can make use of supporting staff and visual aids like charts and video.

And this extra content should come from a well-coordinated rapid-response team who provide ammunition for the response.

  • The model for responding to a speech in progress is liveblogging.  Certain people, by some mix of expertise, encyclopedic memory and quick wit, have proven they can tear apart a carefully-crafted speech in real time.  Identify these people—bloggers, political operatives, think-tankers—and (with their advance permission) borrow their best arguments and lines.
  • A media team would be responsible for matching the president’s remarks to earlier video and quotes from the president, his advisers and top congressional allies that contradicted the president’s SOTU message.  Anyone with a good memory and a well-ordered catalogue of video and/or transcripts can do this.  What could be more damaging than showing that the speech just delivered contained flip-flops?
  • To respond to specific policy proposals and claims, have a team of stat junkies, economists and others who can call up relevant charts and other visuals to help the responders on-screen.

This kind of rapid counter-offensive would be much more entertaining than the president’s exhausting, conventional address, giving viewers a good reason to stick around afterward.  And it would be much more effective than current efforts like sending out fact-check emails and post-speech press releases, the contents of which are read by only a tiny minority of people who saw the speech.

Don’t play to the president’s strengths. Use your own, leveraging all the media available to you that the president doesn’t have.


SOTU Fact Check

Surprisingly, AP does it (credit where credit is due).  They cover the “spending freeze” (it would amount to less than 1% of the deficit) which we’ve covered in some detail.  They also point out that the nonsense about the health care plan preserving the “right” of Americans to keep their doctor and their plan isn’t exactly true (we’ve covered that before as well).   And they take on the claim about lobbyists which Michael has handled quite well below.

AP also talks about the deficit commission that Obama covered last night:

Obama: “I’ve called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.”

THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted — a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.

The key line is in bold. Any commission formed by executive order will have no authority over Congress. Thus it will be a “gimmick” designed to “pretend we solved a problem”. How can it be anything else?

As Obama mentioned the Senate blocked a bill that would have created the commission. The same Senate that today used its 60 vote supermajority to pass a 1.9 trillion dollar hike to the debt ceiling. So you can draw your own conclusions as to how serious the party that can muster 60 votes for raising the debt ceiling but can’t manage to get those same 60 votes to pass a deficit commission is about the debt and cutting spending.

Another one covered by AP has to do with the claim of 2 million jobs saved or created by the “stimulus”. By their calculation and those of CBO, it may – let me stress that word – may have been in the range of 600,000 to possibly 1.6 million. Yeah – with tight numbers like that, you can bet they know what they’re talking about.

That brings us to Obama’s quote about transparency in which he calls on the White House and Congress to “do our work openly and give our people the government they deserve”. Most of the people have awakened to the fact that after not vetting the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, we have the government we deserve. However, AP points out that Obama just skipped past all the broken transparency pledges he made and hasn’t even attempted to keep. Why in the world would anyone take his latest plea for transparency seriously?

You may or may not remember one of the few mentions of foreign policy last night – other than the usual tough talk toward Iran, most likely signifying nothing in reality – in which he claimed, “The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.”

Yeah, well, not quite. According to AP:

Despite insisting early last year that they would complete the negotiations in time to avoid expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in early December, the U.S. and Russia failed to do so. And while officials say they think a deal on a new treaty is within reach, there has been no breakthrough. A new round of talks is set to start Monday. One important sticking point: disagreement over including missile defense issues in a new accord. If completed, the new deal may arguably be the farthest-reaching arms control treaty since the original 1991 agreement. An interim deal reached in 2002 did not include its own rules on verifying nuclear reductions.

And one of my favorite claims of the night – I’ve killed more terrorists than Bush did in 2008:

“And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008.”

Not so fast, says AP:

It is an impossible claim to verify. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published enemy body counts, particularly those targeted by armed drones in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. The pace of drone attacks has increased dramatically in the last 18 months, according to congressional officials briefed on the secret program.

If it is an “impossible claim to verify” then Obama knew when he said it, that he was safe from scrutiny. Nice. I have four words for those who choose to believe his claim: “saved and created jobs”.

Last but not least we turn to PoltiFact for the SCOTUS shot by Obama:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”

Politifact says that if it’s true, it is “barely true”. They have a very fine write up which I encourage you to read about why Justice Alito may have been absolutely justified in his silently mouthed “not true” as Obama took that shot. And I have to say, trying to humiliate the SCOTUS in a public speech with them sitting right there open to such ridicule is a politically stupid stunt. They are, after all, still human beings, and I wouldn’t want to be arguing a case for the Obama administration that could go either way after POTUS called SCOTUS out. They’re not underlings like the JCS who have to sit there and take it. They are members of an equal and separate branch. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of that little bit of political stupidity.

~McQ


Obama’s Transparency

President Obama went after Washington lobbyists in a big way last night, blaming them for what ails America in a major portion of his State of the Union speech.

In his State of the Union on Wednesday, Obama once again targeted K Street: “We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.”

But that was yesterday. Today his administration reached out to those same lobbyists to help pass Obama’s agenda:

A day after bashing lobbyists, President Barack Obama’s administration has invited K Street insiders to join private briefings on a range of topics addressed in Wednesday’s State of the Union.

The Treasury Department on Thursday morning invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.” …

The invitation stated, “The White House is encouraging you to participate in these calls and will have a question and answer session at the end of each call. As a reminder, these calls are not intended for press purposes.”

Like a secret mistress, K-Streeters are not exactly thrilled with Obama demonizing them in public and then requesting their expertise behind closed doors:

Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.

One lobbyist said, “Bash lobbyists, then reach out to us. Bash lobbyists [while] I have received four Democratic invitations for fundraisers.”

[...]

Lobbyists say the Obama White House has held many off-the-record teleconferences over the past year.

For example, lobbyists and others were invited to a teleconference with “senior Obama administration officials” on Monday to discuss the administration’s plan to improve the lives of middle-class families.

The invitation, which is addressed to “Friends,” emphasizes in bold and italics that “this call is for background information only and not intended for press purposes.” It advises callers to tell the operator “you’re joining the ‘White House Briefing Call.’ ”

Another lobbyist said these types of teleconferences occur “all the time.”

And that is why many on K Street are exasperated with Obama’s use of lobbyists as a punching bag. Some have said they understood why he used strong rhetoric on the campaign trail but are irritated the White House solicits their opinions while Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations.

That politicians court special interests is nothing new, nor is their blatant prevarication and hypocrisy when it comes to claiming to “work for the people.” Yet publicly targeting specific groups for opprobrium in order to drum up public support, and then immediately running to that very same group for their help, is a whole special class of slimy. Who is it, exactly, that Obama thinks he’s backstabbing? The electorate? The lobbyists? Indeed, why should anyone trust him at all? And all of this in the name of transparency.

Judging by his actions, Obama thinks “transparency” means “clearly lying”.


The State Of The Union Address

An address that has become popularly known on blogs and Twitter as the SOTU. In the case of the one scheduled for tonight, some think it should be abbreviated as the STFU address, but then there are always some who’d prefer silence to the usual nonsense that takes place at the Capitol.

So what will we hear tonight? Well as we get closer, more and more is leaking out. One thing that leaked earlier than the rest is the spending freeze we’ve written about. 25 billion a year for three years. Make sure you listen for what the president talks about spending tonight to balance it against that huge spending freeze. As mentioned, we do many more times that amount of deficit spending each month. If that is the sum of his plan for addressing the deficit, he’s not at all serious about it.

The NY Times has an interesting paragraph in their preview of the SOTU.

When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s.

First, he will accept the “responsibility” but not necessarily the “blame”? How’s that work? If you’re responsible for something and it doesn’t get done, who else is to blame? Another in a long line of indicators that this guy is not a leader. One of the first things any company commander makes clear to a new platoon leader is the platoon leader is responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen in his platoon. And that platoon leader knows exactly who the company commander will blame. The same is going to happen here. Obama may decide he’s not going to accept blame, but he’s really not the final arbiter on that, is he?

However, if that’s the Obama game plan, it will be interesting to hear to whom or what he tries to shift the blame. Bush, of course, is in for a round of finger pointing (perhaps more obliquely than usual, but I’m sure it will be there). One thing to remember when he begins that is the Congress – the branch of government that appropriates and spends money as well as making laws (and regulations) – has been in Democratic hands for the last 4 years.

I’d bet he’ll also set his sights on blaming “obstructionist” Republicans. Of course to buy into the “obstructionist” argument you have to again be ignorant of the fact that Democrats have enjoyed overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress to include, until recently, a super-majority in the Senate. So it is unclear who he can credibly blame, other than himself, for not passing his agenda items except, perhaps, the leadership of the Congress. And we all know how that would be received.

Then there’s the sentence that Obama refuses to “accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s”. Pure arrogance. Pure hubris. Poll after poll have made it clear the majority of Americans do not want this monstrosity of a health care bill specifically and in general they want government’s size and expenditures reigned in. And the sooner the better.

Obama and his team still haven’t recognized the fact that the entire political landscape changed with the financial crisis. He seems to think if he gives that crisis enough lip service while proceeding with an agenda ancillary to it, he can still do the agenda. No. Not true. All one has to do is read the Pew survey I posted yesterday to understand where the public’s attention is and where the public wants government’s attention focused. Almost without exception it’s the economy and jobs. All the rest is simply not important. The bunch in DC better figure it out and do so quickly or, as has been promised, they’ll get someone who will – beginning this year with the mid-terms.

So in effect, doubling down on an ineffective and unpopular decision doesn’t make one a strong leader. Instead, in the face of what those who put him in office want him to focus on, it makes him seem more of a petulant and stubborn adolescent who refuses to change because the adults want him too.

Consider this:

As Mr. Obama navigates a crossroads of his presidency, a moment when he signals what lessons he has drawn from his first year in office, the public posture of the White House is that any shortcomings are the result of failing to explain effectively what they were doing — and why. He will acknowledge making mistakes in pursuit of his agenda, aides said, but will not toss the agenda overboard in search of a more popular one.

That’s incredible. It is the very same fallback Democrats took when they lost the presidency in 2000. It wasn’t the message, it just wasn’t properly conveyed. For them it is never the message, even after poll after poll tells them it is. The man gave almost 30 speeches on health care and the public still has said – repeatedly – “no”. What part of “no” doesn’t he and the Democats understand? Which again brings us to the last sentence and the petulance I describe above. It also points to a man who has yet to understand what I pointed out previously – the political landscape has irrevocably changed since he introduced that agenda on the campaign trail. In politics those who can’t adapt “die” electorally – and that is precisely where he and the Democrats are headed.

Finally, it gives lie to the contention that Obama is a pragmatist. If what the NYT is claiming is true, he’s the very antithesis of a pragmatic politician. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue who will not give up his ideological agenda regardless of the hand reality deals him. And that sort of ideological intransigence will cost him politically. While I can admire those who try to live their ideology, I don’t particularly care for those who try to force it on others. And that’s precisely what he is attempting here.

I’m sure there will be some surprises tonight. I’m interested to hear his “pivot” toward jobs and the economy.  And I’m sure the speech will be eloquent. But we’re over the awe of his eloquence. It’s means zip anymore. Those 30 eloquent speeches on health care delivered what? Nothing.  Even though I’m quite happy about that, it makes the point that he’s all speech and no action. He is “just words”.

Speaking of words, I’m trying to get an idea of what the over/under is on how many times he’ll say “I”, “me” or “my” tonight. This is the first SOTU for the most self-absorbed president in my lifetime and I can’t help but believe the count will be high.

~McQ

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