Much hullabaloo about what Obama was going to say in yesterday's speech was conjured up in the three or for days before its actually delivery. Predictions of the President's call to raise taxes (presumably on everyone) were accurate, as were those who thought he might draw a line in the sand on Paul Ryan's budget plan.
While those two predictions were accurate, what we got was a speech from a President who appears to be so below-the-fold that he now apparently finds it necessary to invite his "opposition" as it were to sit in the front row while he trashes them and their ideas hand over fist, in front of a national audience. The speech was a disgrace.
It cheapened what has already (in my humble opinion) been a children's lemonade stand of a presidency. He offered no details about an alternative to the Ryan plan, all the while bashing the forward-thinking Congressman's ideas as un-American.
Regardless of the little substance the speech contained, I want to hammer home the point that the entire nature of the speech was self-serving, demagogic, and ran contrary to everything Barack Obama the presidential candidate was running on.
The President could have claimed the high ground with this speech. Sure he could have mentioned his ideas about raising taxes, and I'd even let him get away with saying all of the things that simply weren't true about either the Ryan plan, or Republican goals in general, but to essentially call conservative ideas horrendous and un-American, should never be uttered in a speech by any president, regardless of party affiliation.
Remember, this was a president who campaigned solely on the fact that he hadn't been in Washington long enough to be comfortable with the way it was working. He campaigned that he'd be above the fold, not drawing party lines, he claimed he'd be the "adult" in Washington. Yet the premise of this speech was wholly childish.
This "I'll be above the fold" rhetoric is what kept so many independents from seeing the light of the true Obama, the Obama who has a nationally televised speech in which he invites his political opponents simply to trash their ideas. And it wasn't just the premise of the speech that ran so afoul of what this man campaigned as.
Let's get to the (extremely scant) details, shall we?
In the speech he went on and on about how the Bush tax cuts were a horrible idea from the outset and came dangerously close to actually claiming they are a huge reason we're in the economic trouble we're in. All of that, after the fact that he extended all of the Bush tax cuts back in December.
He claimed our current federal spending is on a pace to be extremely detrimental to our welfare as a country, after introducing a budget plan to Congress in March that adds to the deficit by a whopping $1.6 trillion dollars.
In the same light, during the speech he acknowledged the Bowles-Simpson debt commission recommendations for what the country needs to do going forward to get out of the mess we're in as a strong starting point, after completely ignoring those recommendations in his State of the Union address, and again in his budget proposal to Congress.
Despite this change of heart on the recommendations, he still blatantly stated that one of the recommendations central to changing course economically was not going to happen "while he's president." That of course being the recommendation to lower all marginal tax rates, which have proven to increase revenue.
Aside from these few details that Obama contradicts himself over, the rest of the speech was mainly devoted to trashing all ideas, Republican or conservatively hatched. In doing so, he reminded us just how liberal he is when it comes to what the proper role of government should be.
This is a man who thinks that government should pay for everything. If a kid can't afford to go to college? The government should pay the bill. It's exactly this utopian vision that has put liberals in the corner they find themselves in.
You simply cannot act like you're serious about a budget problem (remember, that was the whole point of this speech, supposedly), and then in the speech say that it is government's job to send every college-qualified student to college. The two just don't seem to mesh.
In the end the speech had me wondering (yet again) about just how bad this President (and presidency) have been.
I mean, has Obama's bluff just simply never been called, throughout his entire professional life? We know the media won't do its job, so are we just to be fine with that fact that him simply being Barack Obama means we can forgo applying the same standards of accuracy and consistency as we have done to other presidents?
As president, the guy has said and done exactly the opposite that he said he would do either in the a.) campaign, or b.) at some other point earlier in his presidency.
If I had to take away anything from the speech is that the President, liberals, and even liberalism is at war with itself over the fact that the socialized welfare state, put into place by the initials presidents (FDR, LBJ) is crumbling before their very eyes. The fact that something is going to have to be done about it, is troubling, and so any fix will have to be small, and made by liberals and any (necessarily so) dramatic cuts being proposed by conservatives or Republicans must be demagogued to death.
Perhaps The Atlantic (yes, that Atlantic)'s Clive Cook summed up the speech the best. The speech was notable for its militant--though ineffectual--hostility to Republican proposals than for any fresh thinking of its own. It was a waste of breath.