SOTU

Having absorbed much of the commentary on President Obama’s speech last night, I have nothing to add here that hasn’t been said already by all of the usual bloggers and pundits. I will second a few thoughts though.

First, I thought the president seemed oddly unfazed by recent events. He certainly wasn’t ill at ease; indeed he seemed remarkably relaxed and confident — even, at times, downright cocky. (An affectation of his that I am finding harder and harder to bear as time goes on — the Mussolini-style chin lift — was in play throughout.)

He made several gestures toward the Right, mostly involving taxes. They are welcome, if sincere. I was also gratified to see him mention nuclear power, which should be an obvious candidate if we are serious about clean, independent energy.

He finally mentioned the health-care debacle, after about half an hour, and he did so in a way that I thought was either utterly delusional or deliberately offensive. He made no acknowledgement whatsoever of the many reasons that intelligent, patriotic citizens opposed the bill — its cost; its gross expansion of, and concentration of power in, the government; the scandalous way the votes were bought, etc. — but rather blamed himself only “for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.” This is not only insulting — he suggests that the only way anyone could object to his scheme is not to understand it, and that Americans citizens are so dense that despite his hundreds of speeches and press releases the problem was that they still needed more of his patient tutelage — it is also worryingly unmoored from reality. Many observers lately have been saying this is a sign of enormous (and possibly pathological) narcissism, and I will not hasten to disagree.

He also seemed, for all his calls to bipartisanship, unwilling to mend fences with the Republicans, choosing instead to berate and provoke them.

Perhaps the most startling moment was his castigation of the Supreme Court for their recent decision in United Citizens v. Federal Election Board — which was not only bad form (and his hesitation and ad-libbing at that moment showed, I think, that he knew he was about to behave badly), but also factually inaccurate, as Samuel Alito was quick to point out in a muttered objection that has been replayed continually all day today.

I really haven’t much more to add. In short, nothing much seems to have changed in Mr. Obama’s mind, though a great deal has changed all around him; I don’t think this speech did much to calm the waters. We’ll just have to see.

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2 Comments

  1. howsurprising says

    It probably goes without saying that I was pleased by Obama’s performance. It reaffirmed the his qualities that led me to support his election campaign- a thoughtful leader who reaffirms the essential unity of this country. Of course, it seems that one’ politics dictates what one sees in the man. Those on the left see a centrist, even moderately right of center Democrat in Obama, but one like Clinton worthy of support, by and large (though you wouldn’t hear it on leftwing radio). And those on the right see a socialist wannabe Mussolini. Well, both can’t be right, and I figure that I am: he’s a slightly left of center Democrat of the classic mold.

    Regarding the Supreme Court decision. Bad decision, even if it was constitutionally the right one. It could have declined to take on the case, and it should have declined. That said, your statement that Obama was “wrong” because Alito said he was is, well, fine as far as it goes, since Alito was on the majority opinion of the court. But there was also a minority opinion on the court that did not feel so sanguine about the consequences of the majority’s decision as regards foreign corporations. In as much as majorities and minorities are dictated by the politics of the Presidents who appoint them and the Congresses who approve them, majority and minority opinions ought to be judged with close to the same respect: in this case, almost half of the justices believe that there might be a problem. If some do, then others might, and if they do, it will be a problem. See how that works?

    We can look at the minority opinion to see the statements pertaining to it:

    If taken seriously, our colleagues’ assumption that the identity of a speaker has no relevance to the Government’s ability to regulate political speech would lead to some remarkable conclusions. Such an assumption would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by
    “Tokyo Rose” during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders. More pertinently, it would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans: To do otherwise, after all, could “ ‘enhance the relative voice’ ” of some (i.e., humans) over others (i.e.,
    nonhumans). Ante, at 33 (quoting Buckley, 424 U. S.

    In state elections, even domestic corporations may be “foreign”­
    controlled in the sense that they are incorporated in another jurisdic­tion and primarily owned and operated by out-of-state residents.

    Given these statements, you might be right to call out Obama for making a claim that is not disputed, but to claim that Obama was wrong, or that he was lying, is not only intellectually lazy (and you friend have gotten lazier with age), but its dishonest as well.

    As for calling out the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is just another branch of government, one of three equals. I suspect that a lot of people found it shocking because they were told it was shocking. I know a lot of people agreed with Obama.

    Posted January 29, 2010 at 4:37 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    “howsurprising”, I apologize for the delay in this comment’s appearing here. It was caught in my Akismet spam filter – the first false positive since I started using it back in December.

    I may, on occasion, be intellectually lazy, though I certainly try not to be. That’s not what happened here, though: what I was referring to, and what Mr. Alito was reacting to as well,as far as I know, was not any suggestion on Mr. Obama’s part that the decision itself was wrong, but rather his remarks about the involvement of foreign corporations, and in particular about “overturning a century of law”.

    As for the court’s ruling, I am inclined to agree with the majority, but not strongly so; I can see that both sides have some traction here, and I’ve been meaning to read the full opinions.

    Again, do forgive me for misplacing your comment for so long. We may disagree about this and that, but one can’t learn anything if one isn’t willing to listen — and so I never block civil and thoughtful comments, which yours generally are.

    Posted February 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Permalink