A Frontpage symposium on the president’s big speech.
In a culmination of his controversial first year in office, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address this evening. Front Page magazine turned to a panel of experts for their advice on the speech that the president should give and the political priorities that he must address in 2010. -- The Editors
Life After Debt
New budget estimates show that – under current policies – the national debt would triple to $22 trillion over the next decade. This additional debt, which is overwhelmingly driven by rising spending, would total $130,000 per household.
In a perfect world, President Obama would announce:
1) specific reforms to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
2) a repeal of TARP and the stimulus
3) a plan to devolve much of the federal government to the state and local governments closer to the people they serve
4) an abandonment of his massive health care bill.
Alas, this is not going to happen.
Perhaps more realistically, the President should back up his proposed three-year freeze on some discretionary spending with statutory spending caps – and promise to veto any spending that exceeds the cap. He should follow a bipartisan recommendation to take Social Medicare, Medicare, and Medicaid spending off autopilot, and force Congress to budget for these programs. He should restore his campaign promises to reduce earmarks down to 1994 levels, scour the federal budget line-by-line for wasteful spending, and produce a health plan that truly bends the cost curve downward.
Brian Riedl is a Senior Policy Analyst and Grover Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at The Heritage Foundation.
Nowhere Left to Turn
In my view, the problem for Obama is that no matter what he says, no one's going to believe him -- not the right, not the left, not the center. In a year in office has acquired a massive credibility problem, which is not helped by the way by his overexposure. Consider his problem. To go forward with his leftist agenda is political suicide as every poll since August has shown. But what will he gain if he tacks right? He will further alienate his base but will he persuade any conservatives that he is not an incompetent menace? Or reassure the independents who have deserted him that he just made a mistake, and is not fundamentally dishonest (which even Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, who recently thought of him as a "God," now believes) and not to be trusted? I almost think it would be better for him to skip the State of the Union, and spend the evening firing most of the people around him, which would be the first step in convincing everybody that he's serious about changing course.
David Horowitz is editor-in-chief of Front Page magazine, the author of numerous books, and the president and founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
A Teachable Moment
I'd like to hear Obama say that he is going to go back to the drawing boards with health care and will work consensually to solve this complex problem incrementally rather than through some arrogant holistic solutions that will make us sicker and poorer in one gesture.
I'd like him to hear him admit that the stimulus plan was a bust and that, contrary to his mendacious spokesmen, his administration has failed utterly in the effort to create jobs.
I'd like to hear him tell the nation to read his lips on no new taxes.
I'd like to hear him acknowledge that the way voters came forth in elections in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia to show that while they want to be intelligently governed they refuse to be ruled represents a quintessential American moment.
I'd like to hear him tell the democracy activists in Iran that he is deeply ashamed by his failure to support their cause and that he no longer harbors fantasies that his contemptible silence will bring talks in which he will be able to use his overrated eloquence to turn their mullah tormentors away from their desire to get the Bomb.
I'd like to hear him say that he is disillusioned with the Palestinian thugocracy his policies see as morally superior to the Israelis.
I'd like to hear him say that he has rethought his negative take on American exceptionalism and now, after a regrettable apology tour, sees that the US is a shining example for the world rather than just another country.
I'd like, in other words, for an admission, however oblique, that he has learned something in his first year in office.
But I'm not holding my breath.
Peter Collier co-authored seven books with David Horowitz, including the widely read Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the ‘60s. He is also the author of many other books including, biographies on the Fords, Rockefellers, and Kennedys. He works at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The Pride Before the Fall
If someone had told President Obama that one year after his inauguration his party would lose statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey, fumble signature initiatives like health care and cap-and-trade, surrender the seat Ted Kennedy had held since 1962—to an unknown state senator—and give the once-demoralized Republican Party an opportunity to win back Congress, he would have laughed at that someone. One thing is certain: He’s not laughing right now as he prepares for his first State of the Union address.
The smartest course of action for the president may the most difficult for him to take, because it would require him to learn from, and listen to, his predecessors. That, of course, would presuppose that he believes he can learn something from his predecessors. The Clinton model of retreating from an ideological crusade and “pivoting” to practical and politically palatable policies could be helpful to Obama’s sinking administration. But don’t count on him to embrace that model. Obama seems far more ideological than President Clinton and has yet to convey the appearance of humility, which Clinton so effectively used to his advantage as a candidate and president. I actually hope Obama keeps listening to the “full speed ahead” mantra of the far left. If he does, by this time next year there will be a Republican Congress in place to check his statist agenda.
Alan Dowd writes on U.S. politics and U.S. foreign policy.
Time for Return of the Straight Talk Express
It used to be said “politics should stop at the water’s edge.” With the threat of global terrorism, where security is concerned politics should stop at our “doorstep.” Sadly, none of that is happening in Washington. In his first year in office, on security issues, Obama never switched from campaigning to governing. All of his initiatives were “political calculations” to try to show he was not weak on national security, but at the same time didn’t lose the “base.”
That has to stop. Obama has nothing to show for a year in the world. His foreign policies have not been shrewd and pragmatic. They have been laughable. He dithered on Afghanistan. He lost the bubble on homeland security. He caved to the Russians and Chinese.
Stop the insanity, Mr. President.
Here are five commitments he could make to turn things around.
1) State flatly terrorism is job #1.
2) Declare we are in Afghanistan to win and winning is more important than arbitrary deadlines.
3) Admit we are living in the margin of error of when Iran will detonate a nuclear weapon. We need unilateral US sanctions--now. We need robust missile defense--now. We need to highlight the regime’s horrific human rights record--now. We need to draw red lines--now.
4) Call for adding $50 billion a year to the defense budget to buy the equipment our men and women in uniform need to protect this generation of Americans and the next.
5) Forget about immigration “amnesty.” Granting amnesty would just make the challenge of securing the border worse. We need security, enforcement, and legitimate worker programs. That has to be Obama’s priority—now.
Dr. James Jay Carafano is the deputy director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
A Reset on Russia
President Barack Obama’s Russia policy is defined by the Administration’s view that America is overstretched globally, and that without assistance from a major power, such as Russia or China, Washington cannot achieve its goals. Some in the Administration believe that America is in decline and their job is to manage it. The policy of “outstretched hand” toward Russia (as well as other unfriendly powers) follows from this notion. So far, President Obama has failed to achieve any impressive results.
Russian officials say that the Obama Administration listens better [than that of George W. Bush], but “did not offer anything substantive.” Others compared Obama with Gorbachev – in terms of presiding over a great power in decline and referring to his naïveté. A senior Russian official half-jokingly said the U.S. concessions were “birthday presents for President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.”
Sure, the Kremlin will pocket the U.S. concessions and ask for more. It was blatantly clear to this author as early as September 2009, (after spending ten days with the leading Russian foreign policy experts), that the Obama Administration did not – and will not — receive any quid-pro-quo for the significant concessions it provided to Russia as a part of its “reset button” policy.
Another systemic problem Obama faced in Russia is the duopoly of power. Obama spent many hours talking to Medvedev, whereas the real decision making lies with Putin. Talking to the wrong guy is a bad negotiating strategy.
It is too expensive to have a U.S. president learning on the job. Misreading Russia’s great power agenda, overestimation of one’s own negotiating capabilities, misplaced and idealistic faith in the merits of arms control, and dialogue at all costs all this brought Barack Obama’s Russia policy into dangerous shoals. One hopes that the President will learn his lessons and that his second year in office will benefit the United States in the Administration’s dealings with Putin & Co.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Here is my suggested text for the State of the Union in its entirety:
"My fellow citizens of the world. I come before you today to gaze into the middle distance and speak in ringing phrases. For make no mistake: the time for phrases that do not ring is past. Already, in only the first year since I have fulfilled my awesome destiny, I have created millions of jobs—not just ordinary jobs that you have to work at for pay, but jobs beyond your wildest imagination, over the mountain of your deepest desires, and down the hallway of your fondest dreams. I have sent many troops to Afghanistan—many, many troops who are running here and there with serious faces, shouting “Let’s go,” and firing their rifles so that the isolated extremists who have gathered together in great numbers to attack us will know that I am become Shiva, destroyer of worlds.
“But there is much still to do. Even as we speak, a child is crying—a little, sad, pitiful child with big eyes, crying enormous tears that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to dry. So let me be very clear: the bridge from yesteryear leads to the cloudbanks of a golden perfection where the prospect of a horizon awaits a mighty century. At this, we must not fail. Thank you—and God bless us, every one."
Andrew Klavan is the author of best-selling novels True Crime, Don’t Say a Word, and Empire of Lies. He blogs at AndrewKlavan.com.