Tonight President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address to the country. The speech was one week and one day after the tide turning Massachusetts special election - the one that stopped the Democrats' 60 seat Senate majority. It was reported that the rewrites of the speech continued until 7:00 PM and that made the release of it to reporters delayed by one half of an hour. HUD Secretary, Sean Donovan, was the Cabinet member chosen to not attend. Hillary Clinton was not in attendance as she is overseas.
Though the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts was not there - he has not been seated yet - his election was referenced in the speech. Obama felt the need to remind Democrats that they still have the second largest majority in recent history.
Vice President Joe Biden played the part of head-nodder-in-chief. It was distracting. He didn't, however, rise to applaud the President as often as Speaker of the House Pelosi did. Both of them had strange looking frozen smiles as they listened to the speech.
Michelle Obama was wearing long sleeves, for a change. She did not rise when acknowledged by her husband, which is customary. That was odd, given her rising from her seat to applaud her own initiative with Jill Biden on behalf of supporting military families and other spots in the speech. It seems as though grace does not come easily for her.
The speech was not bold and it held a lecturing tone to it. The president - responding to the voters of recent elections - stated that jobs must be the number one focus in 2010. He called for a new jobs bill. It was evident he still holds the belief that government creates jobs when in fact the truth is that government can create the climate for job creation, not create private sector jobs. It is true enough that this administration has exploded the number of government jobs.
Obama justified the path of deficit spending by stating, "How long should America put its future on hold?", in reference to the infrastructure jobs he claims were created by the stimulus bill. "I do not accept second place for the United States of America", he said, as he touted concentration on education initiative spending. He bragged about supporting education initiatives for girls in places like Afghanistan, too, though no acknowledgement that it was former First Lady Laura Bush who put the programs into place.
Obama claimed he is not interested in punishing the nation's banks though he put into place a new layer of bank taxes, penalties, just last week. Perhaps he was trying to strike a balance as a populist there. With him, though, it does not ring true.
He tossed a bone to Republicans during the energy section of the speech. While stating new found enthusiasm for offshore drilling expansion for oil and natural gas; for building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants; biofuel and green technologies, he also called on the Senate to pass a cap and trade bill as the House did. Obama still just doesn't get it.
Obama stated a goal of doubling exports over the next five years. He called for a national export initiative to seek new markets aggressively.
As every President does, he stated the obvious - the best anti-poverty program is a world class education. He urged the Senate to pass a bill to support community colleges and to increase Pell Grants along with tax credits to families for four years.
Obama touted the middle class task force headed by Biden. This brought to mind the old adage that when all else fails, call together a commission or a task force. Seems too nebulous.
Many of Obama's lines didn't pass the laugh test. The most blatant: "I didn't choose this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt", as he spoke of the health care/insurance reform fiasco. Never mind he made it perfectly clear to staff and Congress that he wanted to do a victory lap on this very subject during his first State of the Union speech. Didn't happen so now it was never the plan. He holds to the excuse that if only he had explained his plan more, the people would support it. Please. The man is on television daily and has made more than 400 speeches and statements to the press about his agenda during the past year.
On the deficit, he blamed George W. Bush again. John McCain could be seen remarking to a fellow senator, "Blaming it on Bush", if you read his lips. He again promised to go "line by line" and veto unnecessary spending. He pledged to issue an Executive Order to put into place a bi-partisan commission on the deficit - sponsored by Senators Gregg and Conrad - after the Senate failed to pass the bill to create the commission yesterday. He also pledged to put pay as you go standards into effect, as it was supposedly under President Clinton. He said his newly announced budget freeze doesn't go into effect until next year, which got quite a laugh from the Republican side of the House. Obama said, "that's how budgets work". Funny. That presumes Obama is responsible about budgets.
Obama said that politicians in Washington face a "deficit of trust". He pledged, again, to "do our work openly", which is the very promise broken by him and this Democrat controlled Congress that has the voters most angry. He claims his administration will publish online any earmarks before votes. We have heard the 'no earmarks' claims before from him.
A disturbing mention of his displeasure of the recent Supreme Court ruling on the scale back of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform law - as the members of the Supreme Court sat directly before him in the audience - was seen as an intimidation tactic. Rightly so. He is from Chicago, you know. It was amusing to notice that Justice Alito was not bowing to the intimidation, though. Reading his lips, he said, "that's wrong" as Obama stated his opinion of the Court's ruling.
Hypocrisy reigned as Obama chastised the rancor in Washington among politicians. He said they must "reform how we work with one another". He lied when he said he didn't think that his election alone would bring about a new age of peace and harmony when, in fact, that is exactly what he was selling as he campaigned on the whole hopenchange nonsense. He said politicians can't be in perpetual campaign mode, though that is exactly how he governs. Or, doesn't govern. And, for good measure, he tsk-tsked Republicans by telling them that "just saying no is not leadership". That might hold water if Republicans had held a seat at the table as Obama's big agenda ideas moved forward. Maybe Obama should just go online - being so tech savvy and all - and read up on Republican ideas from the websites of Republican politicians. He pledged to meet with Democrats and Republican alike on a monthly basis. Who believes that one?
In summary, this State of the Union address was a whole lot of nothing. Nothing but posturing. Nothing but trying to give Democrats something to campaign on in this election year. The President who is supposed to be the best ever in delivering a speech from a teleprompter was sounding flat and uninspired, at time simply defiant, until the very end when he went into full campaign speech mode. He has squandered his first year in office and there is no getting it back with a speech filled with hypocritical musings and defiantly holding on to an agenda that has been soundly rejected by the voters.
President Obama is a man in complete denial.