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.