Sunday, January 23, 2011


The New York Times has a preview of what's likely to be in President Obama's State of the Union address, and my guess, assuming the preview is accurate, is that, while he may get praise for certain aspects of the speech from the commentariat immediately after the speech, it will ultimate offend pretty much everyone (except the broad general public). What's going to upset all us gasbags -- columnists, bloggers, and cable talking heads -- to varying degrees is the difference-splitting and lack of detail:

... Without going into detail, he will touch on issues like overhauling the corporate tax code and encouraging exports, and he will defend his health care law. Less clear is whether he will touch on social issues like gun control, which has become more prominent since the Arizona attack, which killed six and gravely wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others....

Advisers say that Mr. Obama's address will be more thematic than heavy on specific policy initiatives.

He will probably call, for example, for overhauling the corporate tax code to allow lower rates by ending some current tax breaks, but without giving details.

Mr. Obama is unlikely, they said, to embrace the recommendations of a bipartisan majority on the debt-reduction commission he created....

In general, the theme of deficit reduction will be less prominent in the speech as Mr. Obama emphasizes spending "investments" and "responsible" budget cutting at a time when Republicans have proposed spending cuts, unspecified, of 20 percent or more....

So: the right and many Broderish centrists will be appalled that any non-military spending increases will be proposed. The Broderettes will also be appalled when Obama fails to prostrate himself before Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. We lefties will be appalled at the boot-licking aimed at big business and at the complete absence (my prediction) of any reference to guns.

And the public will really like the speech, because the public's view on all this is mixed, self-contradictory, and unfocused, and the speech will seem very much in sync with that.

(Which is not to say the speech will be incoherent. In fact, what Obama calls for will probably be more or less what we'd get from the government with this White House and this Congress under these circumstances, if we lived in a time when politicians actually worked to find grounds for agreement on anything. It would be a dog's breakfast of compromises. But Republicans don't do compromise anymore, so it won't be what we actually get. And, of course, in an environment in which the other party never compromises, maybe your Democratic State of the Union address should be your set of starting positions, not the ones you'd settle on.)


Meanwhile, I think there's something off-base about this passage in the Times story:

In his speeches, policy choices and personnel appointments, Mr. Obama has signaled that after two years in which his response to the economic crisis and his push for passage of the health care bill defined him to many voters as a big-government liberal, he is seeking to recast himself as a more business-friendly, pragmatic progressive.

That means emphasizing job creation, deficit reduction and a willingness to compromise in a new period of divided government. But it also means a willingness to make the case for spending -- or investment, as many in his party would prefer to call it -- in areas like education, transportation and technological innovation when it can be justified as essential to the nation's long-term prosperity.

I'm ignoring the exasperating claim that Obama's "response to the economic crisis" was part of what "defined him to many voters as a big-government liberal" (what, the massive handouts to Wall Street without any punishment and inadequate re-regulation?). I'm stuck on that phrase "more business-friendly, pragmatic progressive."

What follows it is a list of current Obama positions. I guess the "willingness to make the case for spending" is the "progressive" part. And the "willingness to compromise" is the "pragmatic" part. And maybe deficit reduction is "business-friendly."

But what is job creation? I think that's meant to be both "progressive" and "business-friendly" -- or maybe it's just meant to be "business-friendly."

But job creation isn't "business-friendly" -- not in the eyes of the current crop of business tycoons. They don't want to create jobs. They don't think they need to create jobs, perhaps ever. They think they can make massive amounts of money, permanently, without creating jobs -- why fix what ain't broken?

Maybe I'm misreading this -- but at this point even paying lip service to "job creation" seems like an affront to big business, at least as big business sees it.

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