Random Thoughts On SOTU
Short take: not my favorite speech, although I'm fairly sure it will be well received by the public. These things usually are.
But I think it sounded oddly discordant, as if the economic crisis is a best forgotten nightmare even though we still have 9.5% official unemployment and a housing sector in deep distress. It's not as if GDP is growing at some jaw dropping pace. So, to my ears it was oddly out of touch. "Winning the future" would be a lot more inspiring if we were all sure we were going to survive the present.
I'm glad that he said he didn't want "fixing" Social Security to come at the expense of the vulnerable or by restricting benefits, but like the AARP I think danger lurks in the fact that he spoke about it in the context of deficit reduction. Best to be vigilant on this one.
And public investment is great but it doesn't create net jobs if other spending is slashed. I guess they are just going on the sheer belief that Morning in America is definitely around the corner. It's quite a risk.
There was lots of good individual stuff in the speech, but overall, as I said, it just seemed off key to me. But then I'm almost never impressed by these speeches, so I'm not a good gauge. The early poll returns have 90% of the people liking it, so what do I know?
As for Paul Ryan, well he seemed callow on the screen and sounded reedy, so he isn't going to be setting any hearts on fire. However, I'm always impressed by the fact that Republicans so often pepper their speeches heavily with "what we believe." They reinforce their principles every chance they get. I'm not sure Democrats can even articulate theirs. In the case of Obama, it's "I believe in whatever works" which doesn't give people much to hang on to.
Bachman? Hilarious. I wonder if Palin is going to make fun of her odd use of the teleprompter.
But more hilarious than that was the response of the CNN gasbags, who said she reinforced Ryan's Reaganesque message, but (according to David Gergen) with more facts and figures.
The Republicans in Frank Luntz's focus groups all hated it when Obama talked about bipartisanship and the Democrats all loved it. The Republicans think Obama is a phony because he never really tries it. The Dems all loved him for trying. This is a fundamental tribal difference. (I turned it off to watch Bachman and when I came back they were all shouting at each other about something.)
Meanwhile, gasbags everywhere were very concerned that Obama didn't concentrate more on deficit reduction and the obvious necessity to destroy Social Security and Medicare as soon as humanly possible. They seem to be on something of a crusade.
Howard Fineman, however, got a major thrill up his leg.
Update: Howie posted an excellent response tonight from Blue America's first 2012 endorsee, progressive Nicholas Ruiz, that you might find interesting in contrast.