Post SOTU open thread *UPDATED*

I didn’t watch the SOTU speech last night.  Both my kids had lots of homework, and needed lots of help, and that trumped anything Obama might have said.  Later . . . well, the moment was gone.  I didn’t want to sit in my office late at night, staring at a long, long, long speech.  And today, nope, it’s not going to happen.  Life goes on.

I have, however, been reading reviews about the speech.  My facebook friends, almost all liberals, think it was brilliant.  The views on the conservative blogosphere are mixed, ranging from claims that it was meaningless and mediocre, to surprise that he actually made noises as if he liked this country.  All agree, however, that Obama’s vision revolves around more and more, and still more, government.

It struck me reading about the speech (as opposed to actually hearing or reading the speech, so please keep that distinction in mind) that everyone, in one way or another, made the same point:  Beyond a few throwaway lines, Obama didn’t talk about America, her people, resources, goals and purpose.  Instead, he talked about government.  Obama is a bureaucrat.  To him, at the end of the day, the only true American resource is its government.  The people and natural riches in this nation are widgets that exist to fuel government’s efforts.

This is a very different view from that held by many Americans, which is that government should be subordinate to the people.  It should be a tool that exists to power us.  Certainly that was the vision the Founders signed off on in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The Founder’s viewed government as subordinate to men; Obama views men as subordinate to government.  This doesn’t mean he envisions men as slaves or vermin.  It simply means that he has what I consider an inverted hierarchy when it comes to the relative importance of citizens and their government.

What do you think?

Oh!  One more thing:  The headlines in the Chron is “Obama’s call for ‘our generation’s Sputnik moment.'”  That’s just a disastrous sound byte.  Obama calls for America to be like the Soviet Union in the 1950s.  Regardless of what he actually said, that phrase is going to be the message that sticks.  That isn’t soaring rhetoric; that’s an embarrassing dream of totalitarian statism.

UPDATE:  James Taranto also thinks the “sputnik moment” was a rhetorical failure, although it turns out to have quite a long history in Thomas Friedman’s little corner of the flat earth.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Obama’s not even a bureaucrat. He’s a wannabe plantation owner. Off loads all the work on his foremen, overseers, and slaves while he sits back and collects the product of their sweat. Obama finds “work” boring.

  • CollegeCon

    I suspect that you misinterpreted “Sputnik moment.”  I’m pretty sure that he meant the reaction in the US TO Sputnik (acceleration of the space program) rather than actually comparing us to the Russkis.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “October Sky” that’s what I mean.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I was at a family event recently where my (Liberal) BILs were going on about how the government needs to do this, needs to do that, etc. (examples, “high speed rail”, create jobs, government works projects).
    A (conservative) nephew and I interrupted them…
    “There is no money!”
    They really, really were unable to comprehend that concept.

  • jj

    There’s only one problem with the “Sputnik moment” thing – which I agree, was meant to indicate a national rev-up and effort.  The nation did indeed rev up, and created NASA, and off we went to the moon, hooray.  But the part that young Obama forgets is that NASA didn’t do anything except sign contracts and distribute money.  They distributed it to private corporations.  It was the private corporations – Boeing, Rockwell, Thiokoll, Hughes, etc. – that did the inventing, did the innovating, and actually confronted and solved the problems.  They were the ones that built the stuff that got us there.  He seems to think NASA did it.  NASA didn’t manufacture a single bolt, nor did they torque down a single bolt.  Private industry did that.  (NASA’s direct contribution was to succumb to political pressure and try to launch Challenger under conditions when everybody who knew what they were doing knew it shouldn’t be launched.)
    Based on last night’s performance he doesn’t get it.  He’s never gotten it.  He never will.

  • Bookworm

    CollegeCon:  I know that’s what Obama meant, but that’s not how the sound byte reads.  And that’s a problem, I think, a problem for Obama.


    Education: he spoke of the importance of higher education, but never addressed the dismal failures of K-12.
    Energy: he spoke of the ‘need’ to create alternative fuels, but never addressed off-shore drilling, building more refineries or building nuclear plants.
    Exports: he spoke of doubling exports by 2014. Well, it’s certainly not going to be a light bulb, a television, or a computer.
    A Sputnik moment: It was a poke in the eye. NASA spokesperson, Charles Bolden’s reach out to Muslim countries is the antithesis to the space program of the 1960’s. The Sputnik moment was a sputtering moment.

  • Midknight

    More money on education as if spending even MORE on top of more than almost anyone else does will magically ix the problem.
    Heh –
    but to address a point in the posting: Yeah, government will solve everything, do everything, we’re just the (sometimes productive) widgets. Heck, It aint even our money, since tax breaks are considered an expense.
    That last part really, REALLY galls me.

  • Charles Martel

    Book, it won’t really be a problem for him. Today’s college grads won’t know (or care) what he’s talking about, and his touts in the media will explain it away.

    I didn’t listen to it because I’m way past believing anything he says, and having to sit there and parse his lies would have been a drag. He makes me feel the same way I felt in the weeks before I canceled my NYT subscription: Who has the time to deconstruct everything that’s wrong with what I’m reading (or in his case, hearing)?


    Almost forgot …the importance of bipartisanship ‘ cause when one is a POTUS, you can buy n’ sell it like carbon credits.
    From Patterico:
    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.


    Finally,  NPR has 4,000 responses to the SOTU. They have fed them to a word cloud generator – as if his words aren’t nebulous enough. Oh, do delight in the ‘art’ of reporting – we are funding it!

  • Mike Devx

    By your words you are revealed.  This is not the first time Obama has called for a “Sputnik Moment”.  Apparently those words resonate with HIM.  I think you are spot on in your assessment, Book.
    Look at it this way.  If you go on and on about “whoremongers” and “drowing in the Lake Of Fire for Eternity”, then what resonates with you is fundamentalist Christianity.  And that’s fine.  But to claim you’re not identifying with it is ridiculous.
    Obama doesn’t find a phrase that celebrates American Exceptionalism because there’s nothing exceptional about America to him. He’d rather dwell on the Sputnik Moment.
    It’s what resonates with him.  Big Government, the bigger the better.  The more authoritarian, the better.  Obama, the Man Who Would Be King.
    Mama Obama on Christmas morning: “Bammie, what’s wrong?”
    “You know I wanted more Bureaucracy for Christmas.  You only got me these TOYS.”
    “But honey… you’ve already filled three rooms of our house with bureaucrats and reams of papers with all kinds of regulations and proposals for more government bureaucracies.  We just don’t have any more space for more Bureaucracies.”
    “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! You don’t love me anymore!”
    “Oh, honey, I Hope you Change.  Your mind, that is.”

  • Wolf Howling

    Well, you certainly didn’t miss anything last night.  Obama didn’t even make a good head fake to the center, promising as he did to keep spending us into oblivion.  He still sees the government as the answer to all of our problems, whether real, imagined or purposely manufatured.  He did trot out what will be the new meme to every attempt to reign in the left’s world record spending binge – think of the poor and the children.  It is a travesty.  The poor need decent jobs and low food, fuel and housing costs.  Virtually every policy Obama is pushing is going to hit the poor the hardest.  Obama may give them a dollar in handouts, but when that dollar won’t buy a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread, the poor are not exactly better off.

    As to Sputnik . . . yeah, poor imagery indeed.  Leave it to Obama to embrace an old Soviet icon to motivate Amerika to follow his lead down the path to new innovations in socialism. 

  • Michael Adams

    Yep, to anyone over fifty nine, a “Sputnik moment” is nothing to seek.

  • Oldflyer

    I never considered his analogy to mean anything other than our response to Sputnik.  I posted somewhere on that.  The Soviets put a grapefruit sized satellite in orbit at a time when our rocket program was sputtering; so we (JFK) threw trillions of $$ into the moon boondoggle.
    The lesson of the Sputnik moment is very real, but it is not what Obama wants to teach.  The lesson is that government will over react, and overspend in response to every real or imagined problem.
    All JFK needed to do was reassure the country that our space program was designed to serve our national needs; that the problems with the Vanguard rocket system would be addressed, and that we would proceed in a orderly and reasoned manner to reach our goals.
    But, “we will put a man on the moon in this decade” really was a lot more grandiose and politically satisfying.  Also a lot more expensive.  Not to mention, meaningless.  Well, we do have some moon rocks, and some impressive video.  And the country was entertained for awhile.  At the very same time that Neil Armstrong spoke his stirring words, young men were dying in, and over, Viet Nam because of shortages of war supplies and lack of political will.
    Pardon my cynicism.

  • bizcor

    So Book you are feeling a bit uninspired. It happens. Not such a surprise hey we, the tea party and conservative movement have worked very hard to turn the tide. We have gotten control of the House which means we hold the checkbook so it its ok to take a brief respite. Getting in control of the checkbook allows us to take repose but it does not allow us to rest on our laurels. The Republicans are not above reproach. They need to be held accountable. We need to watch them like a hawk. So languish in it for a bit because the checkbook is on hold but remember we have only just begun. We must continue teach those who think the government should supply us with everything are incorrect.

    Did I wish you a Happy New Year? If not I do now. Same to all the contributors 

  • Earl

    I’m late….but I didn’t listen to the speech either (cannot force myself to listen to the man, and no one is paying me to do so).
    What impressed me about the “Sputnik moment” is that under the Obama Administration, NASA’s budget has been slashed to the point that nothing comparable can be done over there.
    I realize that he isn’t talking about loosing NASA to do big things, but the cognitive dissonance is too great to ignore.
    If we don’t continue the “change” of 2010 when 2012 gets here, our country is well and truly screwed!


    Earl … there just isn’t enough money for most of us to listen. Reading it was grueling.
    BTW…I like your blog. Why, you ask? I love to cook and have an opinion about most things as well. I usually make too much and since I live alone, my neighbors are the beneficiaries of never learning to cook for fewer than four and I never mind eating the same meal two days in a row ;

  • Earl

    @Sadie:  I’ve always loved to cook (Thanks, Mom!) but never had time until I retired.  Now having fun.  I don’t like “fussy” stuff – enjoying my Crock-Pot and made a wonderful rice pudding today – will have to tweak it for brown rice, and my love for custard, but it’s a great start!
    Anyhow, here’s the link for the Beef Wellington, which I HIGHLY recommend:
    You’ll need to add “.htm” on the end, and “http://www.” on the front – if I type it in, the preview shows a whole bunch of trash in my comment, so I left the prefix and suffix off.
    It occurs to me that it would have been smart to include the link in my post along with the photographs – I’ll have to go back and edit.
    I made my own Mushroom pate, as it’s not to be found in Bend — no pate of any kind, actually.  One of the guys (Whole Foods) told me it was a holiday thing….  There are lots of recipes on the Web – I made something rather simple by extracting from a number:

    Mushroom Pate – Earl’s
    1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
    3/4 pound of fresh mushrooms, chopped
    1/4 cup of butter or margarine
    1/2 teaspoon of salt
    1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves
    1/8 teaspoon of ground white pepper
    1 tablespoon of dry sherry or Madeira (optional)
    2 tablespoons of soft butter, margarine or salad oil

    In wide frying pan, sauté garlic and mushrooms in 1/4 cup butter over high heat until liquid evaporates.
    Add salt, thyme, pepper and sherry. Lower heat, simmer until mushrooms are dry.
    Puree mushroom mixture in blender or food processor.
    Blend in the 2 tablespoons butter.
    Turn into serving dish. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.
    Garnish with chopped green onions before serving.


    Post your rice pudding on your blog and I’ll grab the recipe from there.
    It’s my favorite. Of course, I never can leave well enough alone and add cardamon and dried cranberries (that have been soaked in a bit of o.j. and then nuke it for a minute). I’ll pass on the brown rice and stay with basmati or jasmine.