The State of the Union: a Hollow Speech


When President Bill Clinton faced Congress in 1995, after first losing any hope of health care reform and then control of Congress, he used his State of the Union speech to declare, “The era of big government is over.” President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night only served to remind us that the era of big speeches is over.

As America struggles with a 10 percent unemployment rate, stubbornly refusing to go down even as other economic numbers seem to rise, the public will no longer believe in speeches — only in results. As Cuba Gooding Jr. says to Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire,” Americans are saying, “Show me the money.”

In this sense, the Obama administration is remarkably similar to that of George W. Bush: There’s no hope of overcoming the president’s political problems by speeches, spin or posturing. It’ll take results.

As long as the body count rose in Iraq, nothing Bush said mattered much. And as long as the “body count” of un- and under-employed workers remains hovering over 20 percent, the American people won’t be moved by presidential speeches or even actions. Only results will matter.

Obama’s proposals to address the deficit, which is what is prolonging the recession, were ludicrous. None takes effect until next year. And, even when they do, they will only trim the deficit by 3 percent.

The very notion of a “jobs package” that underpins Obama’s newly announced program is oxymoronic. The president still seems not to have grasped the essential point that borrowing money to spend it to create jobs in fact costs jobs. Or that increasing the deficit decreases the opportunities for businesses and consumers to borrow and cuts the number of jobs.

Ultimately, the fate of the Obama presidency depends on whether he is right or his conservative critics are. If he’s correct, more spending will bring down unemployment and put people to work. If he’s wrong, the deficit that results from his spending will keep joblessness high.

A lot of last night’s speech was, in effect, an apology for his own policies.

His lamentation of partisanship and division, his appeals for unity — it all seemed almost to disregard his own record of polarization.

His allusion to the deficit “in which we find ourselves” was disingenuousness — at best. He has to hope that nobody was reading the newspaper as he proposed a stimulus package costing nearly $800 billion.

When he seemed at a loss, he lapsed into easy, populist applause lines — almost a parody of partisanship. His campaign speech, dressed up as a State of the Union, seemed irrelevant to the economic experience of our past year.

Even his forays into patriotism (“I do not accept second place for the United States of America”) sounded like a return to his rhetoric of the campaign — irrelevant to our current situation.

His threat to “send back” to Congress any regulatory reform that does not meet his specifications was reminiscent of Clinton’s threat — as he brandished a pen — to veto any health care reform that didn’t seem sufficient. The fact is that Congress isn’t about to vote to give him the power to seize any corporation that he deems is “too big to fail” and “potentially insolvent.” His threat to veto is irrelevant.

The most attractive of his proposals — and the one with the greatest potential political payoff — was his proposal to offer a $10,000-a-year tax credit for college tuition. His accompanying suggestion that student-loan payments be capped at 10 percent of a graduate’s income and that the debt be extinguished after 20 years (10 if he or she works in public service) also does him proud.

But even as Obama stumbled in embracing spending as the cure for joblessness, he failed even more in his comments about the War on Terror. Accumulating evidence is leading independents to demand that terror trials be handled by the military, not the civilian, justice system — and without Miranda warnings.

Getting intelligence about the next attack has a priority over criminal prosecution in the minds of all Americans … except perhaps those of the attorney general and the president.

  • johncarens

    If you take away The Big Speech from President Obama, what's left in his tremendous arsenal of leadership tools? Going on million-dollar date nights with his wife? Giving color commentary on sports shows? Swimming in the Pacific surf while the paparrazzi snaps "candid" shots of his outstanding pectorals? Having his thugs from Chicago rough up recalcitrant House Republicans?

    He wouldn't dare ash-can his version of Pol Pot's "Ruralization Program". He won't be satisfied with ANY employment statistics until everyone has a job… Out in the rice fields.

  • BS1977

    Just look at the budget deficit of 1.5 trillion dollars for ONE YEAR….and wonder how this nation is going to avoid bankruptcy. I guess the Feds can keep printing more money…until a loaf of bread will cost $25,000.

  • USMCSniper

    Herb Denenberg says that Obama imagines himself an emperor, but we see now that he has no clothes! We have a biased, dishonest, and fraudulent mainstream media that indoctrinates, misleads and deceives rather than informing and educating the public on the issues of our times.

    And, it’s about time America wakes up to the fact that we have a radical, leftist, socialist politician who still carries the trademark of the corrupt Cook County Chicago political machine from which he came and who has populated the White House with leftist radicals and thugs willing to use intimidation and anything else if needed to achieve their goals. The Chicago machine adopts the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals that says the end justifies the mean, i.e., anything goes. On top of that our president is an incompetent inexperince arrogant blowhard. At this time of the greatest danger to America, we have another even greater danger: a president not only not up to the job, but not remotely even fit for the job.

    • bubba4

      Again with the Saul Alinsky bullshit. Didn't you watch his meeting with Republicans? Some of you might think it a wise political strategy to make a strawman out of everything the President does and try to paint him as a radical Marxist something-or-other, but it just makes you an extremist jackass yourself….willing AT ANY COST to disrupt governing. I don't even think you believe some of the shit you say Sniper. But I admit calling him a Marxists makes more sense that saying what you really think.

  • poptoy

    To quote Forrest. "Stupid is as stupid does".

  • Jim Stuart

    Government-paid higher education will insulate colleges and universities from cost pressures, the last thing that we need, another entitlement. What would be a lot better is a National (online) University providing instructional content over the internet created by the very best of our university systems. This would make universitly level eduction available at the lowest possible cost to the most needy Americans, – or to anyone else not willing to spend the $$$ now neccessary for a higher education.

    Also, the President's proposal provides a special incentive for people entering public service. We don't want more incentives to grow the government!

    • bubba4

      Which special incentive are you talking about? His proposals from the speech?

  • davarino

    Its so easy for the president and his admin to play fast with our national security when they have bunckers to hide in, and a secret service to protect, while we the sheep have to bare the brunt of his lowsy decisions. Please, mr president, uphold our ideals while we pay the price. How noble of you.

  • William James Ward

    Obama is a silly man that because of silly people is now a silly president who makes
    silly speaches for the silly people who voted him in, making serious people seriously
    unhappy and seriously wanting to vote him out of there, seriously. Silly people are
    seriously looking at the serious loss of their jobs, income, health, future, homes,
    happiness et. al., and understand serious consequences prevail when all we have
    is put on the line for hope? change? blather? Seriously or not, if you are still silly.

    • johncarens

      Kinda silly, isn't it?

    • bubba4

      Didn't the worst of the economic crash already pass? And…i hate to be silly, but isn't a major cause of families losing everything our shitty lack of a health care "system"?

      Do you know anyone who collected unemployment over the last few months? Well, your state is probably one of the ones that without stimulus money would have been unable to pay unemployment after the Spring. Du-oh!

      Silly right?

  • bubba4

    "And as long as the “body count” of un- and under-employed workers remains hovering over 20 percent, the American people won’t be moved by presidential speeches or even actions"

    It's not anywhere near 20 percent you lying jackass. One thing Morris is not is an economist. I guess one could call this article his "opinion"…but it's mostly deliberate mistruths. It just shows, as FPM does everyday, that it simply doesn't matter what the President says…guys like Morris will just lie about it.

  • Gabriel Wassermann

    come true.