Obligatory post about POTUS’ SOTU speech *UPDATED*

Preparing and eating dinner took precedence of the President’s first State of the Union speech, so I didn’t watch it in real time.  Indeed, because I find Obama’s presentation dull (he has the cadences of a slightly defective metronome), I haven’t listened to it at all, but I have read it.  I therefore felt that, as an obsessive blogger, it behooved me to make a few comments.

The most obvious comment to make is that the speech was sooooo loooong, clocking in at over an hour.  This might have been okay, but for the second most obvious comment I’m about to make, which is that it was dull.  It suffered from exactly the same defect as Obama’s inauguration speech:  there was no underlying theme tying it together.  It was, instead, a slightly tempered laundry list of Leftist dreams, wrapped up with a wooden peroration about America’s wonderfulness.  In other words, leaden, not stirring — an expected sin from most presidents, but an unforgivable sin in a president elected primarily based upon the expectation that he would be the greatest orator since Cicero.

By my rough count, there are 37 “I’s” in the speech.  By contrast, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural speech had one “I” in it.  Because we live in a more confessional age than in times past, a review of SOTU speeches from the last 40 years probably have their fair numbers of “I’s” in them, but they tend to leap out in an Obama speech, since they are both overused and emblematic of the man himself.

Speaking of the man himself, I’m patting myself on the back, in a slightly depressed way, because the speech was exactly what one could have predicted after reading my attack on Obama’s narcissism.  It was dishonest, defensive and, significantly, showed an inability to be flexible in the face of a rebuff from the voters.  Where both Reagan and Clinton, when rebuffed, tacked to the middle, Obama continues to push an agenda that is more statist than the American people want.

I have no desire to get bogged down in the endless minutiae of Obama’s speech.  It reminds me of the briefs written by a lawyer against whom I had the misfortune to litigate almost 20 years ago.  To the uninitiated, his briefs, aside from the grammatical errors, looked like ordinary documents, with facts, laws and arguments.  Only to the educated eye was it clear that each sentence contained at least one factual or legal falsehood or twisted argument.  Unfortunately, it might take a paragraph or a page to assemble the facts, law and argument necessary to expose even a single misstatement.  This meant that his briefs were smooth and seamless, although entirely false, whereas my opposing briefs, in their effort to educate the court, were long and complicated.  Smart judges ruled in my favor; dumb judges (and, boy, are there a lot of those in San Francisco Superior Court), took the easy way out, only to be reversed, every time, at the appellate level.  Because this is a blog, not a legal brief, I’m not going to occupy myself with trying to right every factual wrong in Obama’s speech.  But there are a few points I want to make.

Obama starts the speech by complaining that things were rotten when he arrived in town, by saying that he did everything possible to make it better, and then by expressing surprise that, one year later, things are worse.  Hmmm.  Could it be . . . and I’m just suggesting here . . . but could it be that the “everything” Obama did is what made things worse?  Obama doesn’t seem to recognize that the efforts he put in place, which involved burdening our country with decades worth of crippling debt, much of which went to political pandering, might be a cause-and-effect situation:

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted — immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who’d already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

Laughably, after stating the above about the massive unemployment, Obama makes his risible statement that, in the face of these rising unemployment numbers, his wonderful policies mean that “there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.”  People like me, those who believe in the marketplace, and believe that government is slow and, because of its concentration of powers, inclined to corruption, think that, had the money been disseminated to businesses and individuals in the form of tax breaks and refunds, there would have been a whole lot more employed and a whole lot less unemployed walking around.

Did you barf, as I did, when Obama said “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change”?  I think ordinary Americans are figuring out that the “overwhelming scientific evidence” is a cesspool of ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, with some actual facts thrown in for leavening.  I’ll concede that the climate is changing, because it has done so for 3 billion or so years.  I’ll concede, wholeheartedly, that we are the earth’s stewards, and that it behooves us to treat it with respect, for our own benefit and that of our children.  But I will not allow myself to be bullied into stupid economic decisions, all in the name of false, agenda-driven “science.”

Throughout the speech, to cover up for the government’s culpability in worsening the recession by taking money away from the people and packing it into the government, Obama engages in populist attacks against the marketplace.  There are little throwaway lines (“bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn’t”) that culminate in Obama’s unconscionable attack on the United States Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court justices, Sotomayor included, responded by sitting there absolutely frozen in shock, surrounded by a sea of applauding Democrats:

With all due deference to separation of powers, 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. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

I don’t believe that a President has ever used a SOTU as a vehicle to attack the Supreme Court — and nodding to the “separation of powers” doesn’t make it any better. The statement is especially foul considering that the Supreme Court decision goes to the heart of America’s uniqueness, it’s difference from all other countries, and that is its veneration for freedom of speech, especially in the political marketplace. I think that even ordinary Americans, unversed in the Constitutional law that was allegedly Obama’s academic specialty, have figured this one out.  [UPDATE:  Not only was Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court unprecedented it was just plain wrong, explaining Alito’s shocked “not true” response.]

The level of self-delusion in the speech is staggering.  A few paragraphs after his extraordinary attack on the Supremes, Obama, self-deprecatingly, assures everyone that he never thought he was the Messiah:

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another. Now, I’m not naive. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony — and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy.

This is, to say the least, a peculiar statement from a man whose sole platform, in the absence of any experience or accomplishments, was that his wonderful temperament would usher in a new era of government, free from partisan fighting at home, creating peace and harmony abroad, and then, just for an encore, he would heal the planet and lower the seas.  His whole shtick, one that vanished the moment he announced in a meeting that he won, and his opponents lost, was that he would transcend all serious fighting and petty bickering on the earth, an act that had his followers likening him to a sort of God.

And that’s really all I want to say now.  Yes, there is more and more to attack, whether on speech, jobs, ugly populism, national security, etc., but I grow weary just thinking of that task.  Bottom line:  despite the rebuff in Massachusetts (and New Jersey and Virginia), Obama chooses to believe that nothing has really changed.  Americans, he thinks, want big government.  Indeed, he could have “X’d” out the entire speech and simply said this:

Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Better living through Big Government

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

And as for that last line, which I copied directly out of his actual speech, I find it funny coming out of the mouth of a man who can’t seem to find a church in Washington, D.C. — even though I know the City boasts a few churches — and who has not attended any serious religious occasions since arriving in D.C.  Just a reminder, as if you needed one, that his real God is government.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can watch the speech here.  At around 46:30, you can see Obama’s attack on the Supreme’s, followed by their shocked reaction.

UPDATEMark Steyn says clearly what I, in a muddled way, tried to say about the vision-free, laundry-list quality of Obama’s speech:

It sounds like an all-purpose speech for President Anyone: We’ve met here in good times and bad, war and peace, prosperity and depression, Shrove Tuesday and Super Bowl Sunday, riding high in April, shot down in May. We’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time we find ourselves flat on our face, we pick ourselves up and get back in the race. That’s life, pause for applause . . .

There’s no sense that, even as platitudinous filler, it arises organically from who this man is. As mawkish and shameless as the Clinton SOTUs were, they nevertheless projected a kind of authenticity. With Obama, the big-picture uplift seems unmoored from any personal connection — and he’s not good enough to make it real. Same with all those municipal name-checks.

When he does say anything firm and declarative — the pro-business stuff at home, the pro-freedom stuff abroad — it’s entirely detached from any policy, any action, so it plays to the Bob Herbert trust issue. And, when he moves from the gaseous and general to the specific, he becomes petty and and thin-skinned and unpresidential. And, unlike the national security feints and 101 Historical Allusions For Public Speakers stuff, the petulance is all too obviously real.

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  • jj

    In any room this guy happens to be occupying, he will simultaneously be the least knowledgeable, yet most condescending person present.  To take the obvious, glaring example: The least accomplished person in the chamber last night launches an attack on the Supreme Court – for defending the 1st amendment?  (And that repellent jackass Schumer gives him a standing O for attacking Alito.  Which doesn’t need a question mark – we’re talking about Schumer – so it’s normative.)  They didn’t reverse a century of law, they reversed McCain-Feingold – which should have been reversed ten minutes after it passed.  Most normal people knew right away that it was crap legislation – I exempt the idiot McCain from the term ‘normal’ – and represented a direct attack on the Constitution.  The only genuine question is why it took so long to dump it.
    I’m beginning to think we’re in real trouble with this guy.  It is apparent he’s not a well assembled personality, and comes complete with a complex of quite real, genuine, issues in that area.  (It’s one thing to call somebody something because you disagree with them, and their entire approach.  It’s quite another – and far more disconcerting thing – to experience the slowly dawning realization: “holy cow – he really is...”  In this case, a narcissist who occasionally experiences it to the level of pathology.)  This is not a happy, or a well boy – though I guess he is the one he’s been waiting for.
    It’s also not reassuring to spot those two sock puppets behind him making faces and jumping up and down to applaud – and realize the positions they occupy. To judge by the expressions on what’s left of Pelosi’s face, we have as the Speaker of the House in this country an actual madwoman.   Biden is, well – Biden.  Really nothing more needs to be said on that score.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Apropos Pelosi, even liberals are mocking her — as I saw on a facebook thread under my real name, where hardcore liberal friends of mine took turns attacking her bizarre facial twitches.  Obama is still the Messiah to these people, but Congress is no longer getting a pass.

  • http://problemiserisa.blogspot.com/ Richard Johnston

    I have a bit of a quibble with the proposition the president was “wrong” about the implications of the Citizens United case.  This is not to say his choice of venue or demeanor was not questionable; it’s about substance.
    The link you provide ends up being to a statute limiting “foreign corporations” from electioneering (that’s a bit imprecise but I think it’s close enough for present purposes).
    First, since Citizens United was based on constitutional analysis, a mere statute may very well wilt before it.
    Second, the statute does not impact the ability of foreign-controlled corporations from making campaign expenditures (e.g., Sony America).
    Third, this concern was quite emphatically expressed in Justice Stevens’ dissent, such that the concern cannot be dismissed out of hand (disagreed with, of course, but a Supreme Court Justice’s views ought to be afforded the respect of examination on their merits if you ask me).
    The foreign-controlled corporation issue will in all likelihood be decided in a  future case.  But for now it does remain an issue — indeed the majority opinion in Citizens United expressly said it was not addressing the issue, so it remains unresolved.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    It’s a decent quibble, Richard, although the fact that the law is on the books and not yet challenged means it truly is up in the air.  As for me, I believe that Constitutional rights don’t automatically extend to foreign nationals, human or corporate (which is why I’m not distressed by denying such rights to foreign terrorists), so I think one could make a compelling argument that the Supreme Court’s decision leaves the law as it stands.

  • suek

    >>I find it funny coming out of the mouth of a man who can’t seem to find a church in Washington, D.C.>>
    Somewhere, on some blog, I predicted this.  In other words, I’ve never believed that he was a Christian by actual belief.  The church was his ticket to gaining political power in Chicago.  I’m not sure he’s a muslim, but I think his heart lies in that direction.  Taqiya permits – and even encourages – deception of the kufir when in the end it benefits islam.  Is he muslim?  I don’t know.  I do know the old expression “Give me the child till he is six, and you can have him for the rest of his life” – meaning that the formative years are the most important.  And his formative years were in a muslim country, in a muslim school.  He claimed to have been converted, but can’t find an appropriate church in Washington in a year’s time.  That says to me that his conversion was not genuine.  He’s either muslim or atheist.  I don’t know which. (And in the term atheist, I include those who claim a belief in God, but act in a manner that is contrary to that belief.  Actions speak louder than words – always.)

  • http://problemiserisa.blogspot.com/ Richard Johnston

    “As for me, I believe that Constitutional rights don’t automatically extend to foreign nationals, human or corporate (which is why I’m not distressed by denying such rights to foreign terrorists), so I think one could make a compelling argument that the Supreme Court’s decision leaves the law as it stands.”
    Yabbut is Sony America, for example, a “foreign national”?  It’s a U.S. corporation, after all.  There are plenty of U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations.  I do think the likelihood is that Citizens United would make it quite difficult to squelch their involvement.
    Not that their involvement should necessarily be squelched.  I would always err on the side of more speech as a remedy for bad speech, and as long as the true source of the speech is disclosed (and disclosure requirements did survive Citizens United) then I’d be inclined to trust people to consider the source.  I’m just saying the president was not so far afield here (again, substantively) as your original post seemed to suggest.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Richard said:

    “Not that their involvement should necessarily be squelched.  I would always err on the side of more speech as a remedy for bad speech, and as long as the true source of the speech is disclosed (and disclosure requirements did survive Citizens United) then I’d be inclined to trust people to consider the source.  I’m just saying the president was not so far afield here (again, substantively) as your original post seemed to suggest.”

    Hear! Hear!  As long-time readers of this blog know, my beef with the MSM isn’t that it’s biased, it’s that it tries to pretend that it’s not biased.  The same holds true for corporate speech.  I don’t want the speech hidden behind an innocuously named 527.  I want to know that it comes from a corporate farm in Nebraska, Standard Oil in Pennsylvania, or Sony’s U.S. subsidiary.  Armed with that information, I’m pretty darn safe.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    <B> I’m beginning to think we’re in real trouble with this guy. </b>
    Like I said, he’s an incubating mass murderer. President Clinton once lost the nuclear authorization codes for the Football. We’d better hope that when the time comes, Obama won’t be able to even find the Football.

  • http://khemenu.blogspot.com Ari Tai

    re: free speech for all

    So he’s willing to give rights to the knicker-bomber but withhold them from other foreign entities?   

    A pity we write regulations and laws that require both citizens and their enterprise (U.S. and not) to come to D.C. on bended knee to insure they get to stay in business for reasons other than being a great competitor for the citizen’s wallet (amazing what voting every day can do). 

    Change the character of regulation to be universal and “blind” – applying to all uniformly – (or eliminate it entirely) and we’d be free of this type of rent-seeking corruption.   There must somewhere be a business/policy school focused on how to write regulation with this character.  e.g. perhaps, rather than regulate safety into airlines, just require their management, BoD and family fly coach regularly (without notice) on all their planes.   Or live close to their factories.  Or unionized teachers and union administration to send their children to the schools they run. 

    Wrt to political speech by a group, perhaps all funds from members (and profits not distributed to shareholders but spent on political speech) should require a quarterly opt-in.  What was hard is now trivial on the internet.   Best would be an issue by issue opt-in (like a purchasing decision..), but I’d settle for a couple of times a year.   My guess is the unions would discover how few of their members agree with their positions.  And how many shareholders would prefer corporations defend their ability to compete in the face of government meddling that can be seen taking money directly out of their pockets.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar
  • elc

    I happen to own a slightly defective metronome, and I must insist that listening to it is far preferable to listening to Mr. Obama’s content-free Voice-of-Saruman drone.