Apparently that’s what everyone expects to hear in the SOTU address. And most see it as a reflection of political reality. Independents deserted the Democrats fairly quickly after the Obama administration took office, apparently not liking what they saw developing at all. So here comes the inevitable shift – at least the perception of one – to the center in order to win them back.
The left? Where are they going to go? Who else would they vote for? They’re not going anywhere despite all their grumbling and mumbling about Obama’s attempt to move right (and yes, a move by Obama to the center means a distinct move to the right). Here’s the reality:
A labor official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more candidly about the president’s political situation, noted that “the midterm elections freed” Obama to work independently and without regard to his party’s left.
“The left understands that the choice in 2012 will be Obama or somebody far worse,” the official said. “They will have no choice, no matter what Obama says in the State of the Union address. No matter how much we complain, he knows that at the end of the day, we will be supporting him in 2012 — and that affects what he can do now. The choice for us will be an administration that disappointed us or a Republican administration that will be out to destroy us.”
Colorful language, but you get the drift. The far left is stuck with him and Obama knows it. It is the center where elections are won, and right now they don’t belong to him.
So how does he win them back?
Well the Democrats hope that it will be through leadership. Rep Anthony Weiner lays it out:
“He’s the president of the United States, and he’s got to go in there and lean into the idea that he still has an agenda he wants to accomplish,” Weiner said. “He has to make sure he’s leading the debate and Paul Ryan is responding, not the other way around.
“He has to make it clear that he’s not going to be held hostage over issues like the debt-limit increase,” Weiner said.
But, as usual and instead, the President plans to vote “present”:
But the president’s decision not to lay out his own vision for reducing the national debt has infuriated balanced-budget advocates, who fear that a bipartisan consensus for action fostered last month by Obama’s commission could wither without presidential leadership.
"There is no way you get momentum without the president. If you don’t lead now, when is it going to come?" said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "He has to go first and he has to be specific. He has to pivot to something hard."
And pander, of course:
The direction of Obama’s speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security – the single largest federal program.
The sound you hear, my friends, is that of the can being swiftly kicked down the road again – something candidate Obama said wasn’t going to happen on his watch.
The administration claims that it’s goals will be more specifically addressed in the budget request the White House submits in mid February. Per Robert Gibbs, the SOTU is just not the proper venue for specifics. Well, except when you want to take a shot at the Supreme Court, who, by the way, will only have partial attendance this year, with a group of conservative justices clearly deciding to show their disapproval of the partisan sniping they were victim too in last year’s SOTU.
Yup, all in all politics rules the day with the political advice being as predictable as sunrise. Obama, being the ultimate political animal, will indeed heed it, but the left shouldn’t look for any leadership to suddenly emerge where none has been evident in the past and the center should be wary of the now well-known smoke and mirrors show the administration puts on regularly – saying one thing and doing something else altogether.
Life in the Obama White House I’m afraid.
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.
I’m going to use Taegan Goddard’s reaction at CQ Politics as a basis for mine and to show how two people can watch the same thing and react like they hadn’t:
President Obama spent more than an hour making arguments he should have been making for months. He forcefully reminded Americans that he was not responsible for the big problems he inherited. He desperately needed to remind people the historical context and he did it successfully.
Did he really? He’s been saying this stuff for a year now and I’m pretty sure the world is aware of his opinion on the subject. Whether or not he again “successfully” placed it in a “historical context” is a matter of opinion, but what isn’t a matter of opinion is he’s had a year to work on jobs and the economy and he’s screwed around with health care instead.
Interestingly, it was like a campaign speech designed to appeal to independents. Obama refused to be pulled into the traditional left vs. right polarization that plagues Washington, D.C. It’s what got him elected in the first place.
He was right in the middle of the “traditional left vs. right polarization”. He was lecturing Republicans during most of the speech. And he even got into the populist side of things with his attacks on banks and corporations. Hell, he even went after the Supreme Court and threw a shot across the bow of the Joint Chiefs.
There were also several political moments you might see again in this fall’s midterm campaigns. The video of Republicans sitting on their hands while Obama called for banks to pay back bailout funds will almost certainly come back to haunt them.
This is the inside the beltway mentality speaking. That particular video will mean zip to those who see it. Jobs, economic turnaround, prosperity – attacking banks isn’t going to bring any of those.
While everyone knew the president would focus on jobs and the economy, it was nonetheless shocking it took him nearly 40 minutes to get to health care reform. Just weeks ago, it was the most important issue on his agenda. Obama made his case once again but it’s far from clear whether Democrats are scared enough or feel the urgency to ignore the confused politics of the issue and pass the bill.
For the 30th time in a year he talked about health care. What part of “we don’t want what you’re selling” do you suppose he doesn’t get? It isn’t that they aren’t conveying the message properly – it’s the message itself that’s being rejected along with a procedure that includes such absurdities as “sidecar reconciliation”, bribes and closed door meetings. Get a freaking clue.
It was a decent speech, but not a great one.
In fact it was an outstanding speech as far as speeches go, but what does it mean. This is a president who has given more outstanding speeches than any since Reagan. The difference is, things happened after Reagan spoke. Nothing happens after Obama speaks. So while the rhetoric was defiant, pointed, and lofty, it was all “just words”.
President’s get kudos for words. They are remembered for deeds. And thus far, Obama is very light in the deed department.