Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The State of the Union - A Home Run?

Maybe. But he doesn’t score unless he touches all the bases.

The State of the Union speech sounded good - they always do - but left me unconvinced Obama was ready to work with Republicans in any real way. The country spoke last November and voiced an opinion loud and clear, but Obama failed to listen until the eve of the New Year when the Republicans got him in a head lock he couldn’t get out of; if he didn’t approve the tax extensions for everyone, the taxes would go up for the under $250K crowd as well as the “rich,” and he would get the blame. Republicans could have won everything they wanted, or put all the blame on Obama for a big political victory. But doing so would have wiped out the tax cut extensions which would have been bad for the country, so they capitulated. Obama, on the other hand, capitulated for political purposes. So even though the hard left is furious with him for agreeing to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy as well as the middle class, he came out smelling like a rose.

His approval numbers went up as a result. Some of the tentative middle independents not only think he might have gotten the picture, but seemed to like the fact he was working with Republicans, cooperation they’ve wanted for a long time. Thus the uptick. I’m guessing his State of the Union speech will give him a boost as well - it always does, probably because it is one of the few times large numbers of Americans are watching when the President is in control and usually at his best. And since many of those who watch don’t stay tuned long enough to hear the opposing party’s response, the image is positive. In his speech, Obama sounded a bit like an American, which is unusual for him. He talked about America being exceptional. He talked about America doing “big things.” He acknowledged America was the most dynamic and prosperous country in the world. And he acknowledged that with hard work you can succeed in America (which is a common thing to say if you are a liberal, but liberal policies seem to imply they believe exactly the opposite). I think America liked hearing these things instead of what we usually hear from him; complaints about what is wrong with America, why we are not exceptional, and why we need to apologize to the world.

However, you can’t blame us for being skeptical about his apparent change of attitude. We have seen this Obama before. In his campaign speeches he stated no legislation is good legislation unless it has support from both parties. He shot that promise down immediately. Now he promises cooperation again. Yet when he spoke of Obamacare and said we could work together to fix the bill without need to start over, what it sounded like was “Okay, I’ll go along with some changes, but not the issues that are near and dear to my heart.” Which is most of it. If not, and if he is willing to work together to come up with a good bill, why not start over with bipartisan support as he originally promised? Ha. I don’t need to answer that; you know the answer. He won’t wind up with what he wants. Consider this; if you draw plans for a house and as you get ready to build it you realize there are serious flaws with the floor plan, you redraw it right then. You don’t build it and then redesign it. No one understands the 2,700 page bill fully, and most of what they do understand is ambiguous and open for argument or just plain stupid. Part of this, of course, was because of the shenanigans Pelosi and Reid used to get the bill through when they did not have the support of the American people or the Scott Brown affected Senate. But regardless of the reason, it is a ridiculous piece of legislation that needs to be trashed and redone completely. Amending a bill like this is far more difficult than starting over. But he says he won’t do it.

And, with that attitude, is there a reason Republicans should work with him in a reasonable fashion? What if they said “Okay, we will accept Obamacare, but only if you agree not to cover people who don’t pay?” How do you think that would go over? Like a lead balloon. In effect, Obama said he would consider changes as long as he got what he wanted. He’s compromising like the Iranians - “Let’s talk and then do it my way.”

And through it all we got to hear the same chants that have become extremely unpopular with conservatives and the American public. Let’s invest (don’t say spend!) in clean energy, education, and everything else. Let’s “compete” with China and India. Most clear-thinking Americans realize we need to get our financial house in order first. If we get financially healthy, then we “invest.” Right now the spending is exactly what is destroying our outlook for a bright future. The stimulus bill has failed miserably, and at the same time it guarantees a harder time digging out if and when the economy does improve.

I must confess; I have a hard time figuring this guy out. Is he a true believer? Is he an idealogue? Or is he a political animal? We will probably know by the end of next year. If he is an idealogue, he won’t compromise with Republicans. If, however, he is mostly politically motivated, we may see him compromise and swing to the middle.

So, did he hit a home run with the SOTU? Maybe, but already he missed first base. He needs to go back and touch first before he moves on, or the American people will grab the ball and tag him out.

Mercer Tyson StraightThinker.com

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