Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I don't think his heart was in it. He didn't have any fire in the belly, not like he did in Tucson. He's been giving great speeches since he was a teenager, and it was like homework to him. So it was, yawn, I've gotta give another great Barack Obama speech. But is was a dispirited affair. And of course, what's really disappointing isn't the vague, centrist agenda he offered, but last November's election, which precludes him from offering anything more ambitious.
My nine-year-old daughter wanted to hear something about global warming. I wanted to hear how he expected to create any more jobs, given the GOP stranglehold on Congress. Both of us were disappointed.
But we weren't the target audience. Obama was trying in vain to recapture that air of "I've got this." He was speaking to swing voters, the ones who swung towards him in 2008 and swung away in 2010. Aside from how maddening it is that the direction of our country's policy agenda is in the hands of people who can't make up their fucking minds ...sorry, gotta stay civil. In any case, that's why we were all reduced to hearing a laundry list of previously tossed bones like tort reform and spending freezes.
The president's core message, once again, was that he could be trusted to be a bipartisan conciliator, which is presumably what swing voters liked about him in the first place. The problem is, he's also given the impression that he's a weak negotiator who can be easily rolled - possibly one reason so many swung back. And that's why the meaningless, arbitrary discretionary spending freeze sent the wrong message in the first place - and he just doubled down on it! Thank you for the umpteenth example of unilateral, unrewarded preemptive concessions.
There was a way the president could have fired up himself and his audience, helped to emphasize the more admirable parts of his speech, and come across as both someone willing to work with the opposition and someone who will fight for his core values. And that would have been to talk about global warming, and talk about our jobs crisis.
Why does it matter that the Chinese have lapped us in green tech and infrastructure development? Because global warming is a threat to our civilization! Why should we end wasteful subsidies to oil and coal companies? Because they're heating up our damn planet! Why should we save money by eliminating redundant agencies and obsolete weapons systems? So we can spend it creating jobs in green tech and infrastructure - and help save the damn planet!
See, I'm getting fired up already. And as someone who got pink-slipped out of a public sector job, and with two kids who are going to inherit a seriously warmed-up world, I can't understand why the president isn't fired up about this, too. With fifteen million people out of work, he should be running around with his hair on fire every day.
He really missed the opportunity to make a distinction between cutting the deficit in the long term - which we obviously need to do - and cutting spending right now, at the local, state, and federal level, which is an, excuse me, "job-killing" anti-stimulus, right in the middle of our fragile recovery.
So yeah, obviously, the 112th Congress isn't going to do jack about global warming or creating jobs, and they're going to cut as much spending as they can negotiate away from the White House. But bringing up these things would not only have provided some passion, it would have shown his audience what he would fight for, and fight against. It might even have imposed some political costs on his adversaries. But I guess it wouldn't have been very conciliatory.