The speech that wasn't billed as a State of the Union Address was delivered by our first black president and we are all appreciative of that milestone. However, the speech did not live up to my expectations. While everyone delights in criticizing Governor Bobby Jindal's response to the speech, I'll put a few thoughts out there about the main event.
It was a pep rally. Granted our country could use a pep rally but suddenly the president makes the effort to stop with the constant doom and gloom and we are all suppose to be grateful for some optimism? It sounded phony. And, with the jack in the box performance of a constantly smiling Speaker of the House sitting behind him, the phoniness was magnified.
While it is good that the president continued to give lip service to working with all politicians in Washington, it rang hollow. We know how his biggest accomplishment to date was handled and it does not bode well for upcoming legislation. Also, by continuing to take pot shots at the previous administration, by saying not once but twice that he "inherited" the financial crisis, he sounds like he is still on the campaign trail and not the top of the leadership chain in the Oval Office. It is time to stop. With the passage of the massive spending bill, President Obama now owns the financial environment. He inherited nothing. He asked for the job, it wasn't just left to him.
It will be interesting to track how Wall Street reacts in the next few days. Up until today, Wall Street continued with the downward trend. We will see if today's rally continues. By saying his plan is not about helping banks but of helping people, how does he expect us to believe that if the banks don't have confidence to begin more relaxed credit lending? "People" won't be able to make large purchases unless banks (Wall Street) feel they have some support, too.
By putting Joe Biden at the helm for oversight of the spending bill's allotments, he turned the speech into a juvenile throwaway line - "Nobody messes with Joe". Really? Late night comedians, editorial pages, and talking heads on cable television may beg to differ. I think Joe is messed with quite a lot, and rightfully so. He is a walking gaffe machine.
And, what about Joe Biden's son, the hedge fund manager who is now dragged into the Sanford scandal?
President Obama said he doesn't want bigger government yet no cuts in spending were announced except in Defense. He went out of his way to tout closing Gitmo as the end of "torture" though he hasn't decided what to do with the remaining prisoners and didn't offer any solutions. Also, in recent days it has come to light that he will continue the policy of rendition of the previous administration - he just did it quietly with an Executive Order. Gitmo has been determined to be in compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Will he send everyone to Bagram, Afghanistan where that facility has also been approved by the international community?
By continuing on with the crisis mode, he expects to ride his political capitol in these early days of his administration into massive governmental control of universal health care, energy policy and education reform. Perhaps he should re-read President Bush's first major accomplishment - No Child Left Behind and the federal expansion it brought. How many more billions of dollars must be wasted on our public school system? Now that a Democrat is in the White House it seems it is acceptable to utter the words "charter school" and teacher accountability.
Does this president understand it is with oil that solar panels are manufactured? How about all those "alternative batteries" that new car production will require? And, wind technology? Does he know that natural gas is drilled with oil? Someone should tell him. Otherwise he will continue to sound quite foolish.
He introduced his wife at the beginning of the speech at the same time as the Speaker and the Vice President. That was odd. And then he didn't bother to introduce the members representing the hero quota until the end of the speech. Then Michelle Obama hogged the spotlight meant for the little girl sitting next to her - the eight grade student from South Carolina who wrote to the President to fix her school. A young Democrat, I see. Michelle Obama does enjoy the spotlight.
The speech was long on campaign talk. The problem is that by saying "whatever proves necessary" as a solution to the crisis du jour is not a strategy uttered by a leader. We know the man is a pro at campaigning. He is very experienced at that. He so far has failed to lead.
Rolling back tax cuts is a tax increase. This increase also applies to those making over $250,000 that President Obama uses as the marker for "rich" in America. The problem is that small business people usually file as individuals and that puts them above the mark. The president doesn't understand this. This is a prime example of the policy differences between the two parties.
The spending bill touted as President Obama's big success - for which Speaker Pelosi is obviously taking full credit - will not succeed without large cuts in federal spending. There are many redundant programs in Washington. More are not needed. Simply adding some Czars to the equation accomplishes more red tape.
While the president was more optimistic towards the end of his speech, and he rallied as best as he could the audience, it remained a sophomoric attempt.
And, for those interested in the fashion scorecard: Michelle Obama has buff arms but should be told not to wear sleeveless dresses to evening events where professional attire is necessary. All the sheeple will continue to talk of her fashion style and how well she is put together but I continue to think of how Laura Bush was bashed as though she were a hick from the sticks as she moved into Washington with her quiet dignity intact. Jill Biden looked completely out of place in her pastel green suit, but at least it was a suit. And, Nancy Pelosi? That godawful thing she was wearing was not helped at all by her constant jumping - literally - out of her chair whether it was appropriate or not.
President Obama has spent more time out of Washington in the month that he has been there than any other new president. Can you imagine the howls if President Bush had done that? President Obama is failing on the leadership score. And, he doesn't need any more practice on the campaign trail. The campaign is over. He has to get out of mode.
Much more substance is needed to go along with the style. Otherwise, President Obama is doomed to empty suit status for the next four years.