Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union Address Criticized - From the Left

Responses to the president's State of the Union address are everywhere. It is notable that as his term in office progresses, some real critiques are available for mass consumption - from the left. In the beginning, Obama was obviously treated with kid gloves by an adoring national media. Now, with promises and accomplishments exposed over time, a more realistic appraisal of his performance emerges.

The little that Obama presented in the way of cooperation in cutting federal spending, for example, doesn't really add up. It was a lot of small measures at a time crying out for bold steps to treat the ailing economy.

OBAMA: Vowed to veto any bills sent to him that include "earmarks," pet spending provisions pushed by individual lawmakers. "Both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it."

THE FACTS: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has promised that no bill with earmarks will be sent to Obama in the first place. Republicans have taken the lead in battling earmarks while Obama signed plenty of earmark-laden spending bills when Democrats controlled both houses. As recently as last month, Obama was prepared to sign a catchall spending measure stuffed with earmarks, before it collapsed in the Senate after an outcry from conservatives over the bill's $8 billion-plus in home-state pet projects.

It's a turnabout for the president; in early 2009, Obama sounded like an apologist for the practice: "Done right, earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their districts, and that's why I've opposed their outright elimination," he said then.

So, Obama presents an example of ending earmarks in legislation, though he has strongly defended them in the past and the new GOP leadership has already acted upon ending the practice. Smoke and mirrors. It is easy to act as though you will be firm when the system is already in place.

In the foreign policy department, the speech was woefully lacking in any substance at all. Where was the support for budding democracies around the globe? When will he truly step up to help Africa? Where was the support of human rights activists around the globe - especially those imprisoned by dictators and thug leaders? Where was the concern about our border security and the failing country of Mexico?

Former Carter administration national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziski
called the speech 'Pollyannaish' and lacking in heft. He was disappointed that foreign policy came towards the end of the speech and glossed over. He said Americans have an "unbelievable ignorance of the rest of the world." As for our leadership on the world stage, Brzeziski said, "We could end up with the entire Muslim world against us. Where was the guidance?"

And from another liberal critic - Journalist/author Bob Woodward dismissed the State of the Union address as "a feel good speech".

The real problem with the address is that Obama - a very savvy political man - tried too hard to appear as a moderate and appeal to Independents. His history is not as a moderate and the results of the mid-term elections was a strong signal sent from America that no one buys that line of thought. Obama is in re-election mode and he suffered a huge humiliation last November that cannot be ignored. This speech, however, ended up a pile of mush. He played on emotions with the acknowledgement of the Arizona shootings and concentrated on human interest stories to add weight to his proposals for new spending as he spoke of reducing the deficit. The contradiction was stark. And, most of all, it brought the light of insincerity to his words.

The flowery words have been spoken. Now he hits the campaign trail to convince the voters that he is in charge and capable of what is before him. The media is his best support, still. We continue to hear the talking points prepared by the White House parroted in press reports - Obama's approval numbers are up in polling, he is moving to the center and he is up to the challenge.

Congressional Budget Office states that a $1.5 trillion deficit - 9.5% of GDP - will be in place without true fiscal reform. The federal deficit is at an all time high.

Is President Obama up to the task?

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