President Barack Obama tried mightily to pull a Bill Clinton and move to the political center last night in his State of the Union address. But Obama is no Clinton. His roots are too deeply planted in the soil of progressivism to permit a true conversion. Clinton, on the other hand, had come out of the Democratic Party’s centrist wing and was more of an opportunistic politician than an ideologue.
Thus, Obama’s attempt to reach the stars with his oratory about America reaching its “sputnik moment” failed to take off and ended more like his own Hindenburg moment.
Sure, Obama proposed a bipartisan effort to “win the future.” But it was largely a future made up of repackaged progressive big government solutions, with some modest gestures to the verdict of last November’s mid-term elections such as Obama’s welcome promise to veto any bills coming to his desk containing earmarks.
The speech focused mainly on government spending on education, innovation and infrastructure (which Obama called investments). Government would still be empowered to select industry winners (green industries). We will still be saddled with Obamacare (with some minor tinkering around the edges). Obama’s bogus claim that his health care program will cut the deficit by $250 billion stems from the phony numbers and assumptions that the Democrats had fed to the Congressional Budget Office for the purpose of estimating the cost of Obamacare.
When Obama finally got around to truly dealing with the nation’s deficit problem, he proposed a very modest discretionary five year spending freeze that would purportedly save $400 billion over the next decade.
First of all, there is a bit of smoke and mirrors behind this proposal. As Obama’s top economic adviser Gene Sperling admitted:
It is true that we already had a three-year freeze, so there were already significant savings in the budget. But we’ve extended that by two years.
Secondly, $40 billion a year cut from the projected annual deficit of 1.3 to 1.4 trillion dollars is a drop in the bucket.
Nowhere in Obama’s State of the Union address did he speak to Americans’ real concerns about today’s persistently high jobless rate of over 9% – a true measure of the current state of the union. Instead he talked about “our generation’s Sputnik moment” – an illusion to the wake-up call that the United States received when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite back in 1957. John F. Kennedy’s response was to commit our nation to putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960′s, which we accomplished. Let’s not forget that one of Obama’s primary missions for our space agency NASA was an outreach to the Muslim world to help lift their self-esteem.
President Obama spoke for slightly over an hour. He devoted only ten minutes or so out of his whole State of the Union speech to foreign affairs. He gave a deceptively upbeat account, omitting Iran’s steady march towards achieving a nuclear arms capability and its expansion of influence in Iraq and Lebanon on Obama’s watch.
Obama failed to level with the American people about the state of the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan, except to repeat that troops will start to come home this July. What is the mission and the benchmarks for determining success? What concrete steps are being taken to root out corruption in the Afghan government for which we are sacrificing lives and resources to defend? Why has a majority of all combat-related U.S. casualties in the nine-year-long war in Afghanistan occurred since President Obama was inaugurated when there are only about 100 reported al Qaeda forces still in Afghanistan? Why is it so crucial to continue fighting the homegrown Afghan Taliban insurgents who are killing our soldiers rather than simply maintain enough military presence to stamp out any resurgence of al Qaeda safe havens?
With two wars still going, unemployment at over 9%, record deficits and debt, and diminished standing in the world vis a vis China and Iran, President Obama had to put his best game face on when he insisted that “the state of our union is strong.”
President Obama owed us honest discourse, not platitudes and feel-good talk. If a broad-based focus group assembled by Frank Lutz last night on Fox News is any indication, his platitudes and political re-packaging did not go over very well.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam