Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why I Didn't Watch The State of the Union Speech

Roger Kimball says it fairly well:

Like Justice Scalia, I am planning to give tonight’s State of the Union Address a pass. I am not quite ready for the 2012 campaign yet, and clearly President Obama is dusting off his clichés and contradictions for a big blow out tonight. “The economy’s in trouble, folks, but we need to spend more on EDUCATION. The United States must be more competitive, but we need to commit ourselves to green (i.e., economically ruinous) technology.” Etc. My personal stash of Dramamine just isn’t large enough. Besides, I think George Will is right: what the State of the Union is all about is the president, regardless of party, endeavoring to “stroke every erogenous zone in the electorate.” It’s a big country and the spectacle is bound to be unseemly.

State of the Union addresses have deteriorated into a parody. The president says something his people like and they all clap and cheer, he throws a bone to my people and they all stand and cheer. These speeches are like cheerleading sessions, partisan cheerleading sessions. The seating tonight is supposed to mitigate that somewhat--why does it take special seating for grown men and women to act like grown men and women? Good lord, is this the best we can come up with for a governing class?

And does anyone believe that the state of our union is sound? I'm tired of hearing that it is. What a load of crap. We're disunited, we're in deep doo-doo financially, and there are plenty of indications that we're a civilization in decline. The state of our union isn't sound, it's holding for now but in need of serious repair. If a president can't even tell the truth about what everyone knows, why should I believe anything else he has to say? It's Dante's ninth circle.

But it doesn't end when the speech is over. At least the Constitution provides some basis for the addresses themselves, cliche-filled claptrap that they've now become--but today, having lived through the hackery that is the State of the Union Address, we're also treated to the partisan response of the loyal opposition. The president gives his speech, and a member of the opposing political party (I guess it's a good thing we only have two parties) then tells the seven people in the country who are still watching TV why the president is wrong. It's almost like dignifying the SOTU speech by addressing its points!

So no, thank you. I've had enough of this for awhile.

Update, 1/27/11: Retired colonel and current US Representative from Florida Allen West gives his thoughts here. A snippet:

"I think what you saw last night was the president trying to live in two worlds. The one world is the one of reality that happened on the second of November, and you could see in his address points where he seemed more conservative than I am. But then there's the other world where he still has to appease and pacify his liberal, left base."


Rhymes With Right said...

Let's return to the Jeffersonian tradition of a SOTU written report to Congress, rather than the dog * pony show we get today.

mazenko said...

The state of our "union" is strong, Darren. And, that's why it's important, in an age and business of incredible pessimism, for our most visible cheerleader to stage a reminder of that. Certainly, there are always conflicts and disagreements. Certainly, the economy is struggling - unless you have significant stock holdings. Certainly, we have work to do on spending - education, infrastructure, defense, benefits, debt, & deficits. But those issues are as old as the republic, and it's important for us to have civil and public discourse about them.

I can't imagine how you get up every day and go to work where you do and somehow conclude that the state of our "union" is not sound. In my forty-one years on the planet - and drawing from five years of extensive travel and living abroad - I am certain that our "union" is strong. I tucked my kids in last night - as I have for the past nine years - and I felt very good about our lives. How could I not in the greatest republic the world has ever known?

You don't have to watch the State of the Union - many, even most, Americans don't. But when you got up this morning and the lights were on and the streets were clear and the drive to work was safe and you knew it was in your control to make sure the day would be productive, let part of yourself admit that the state of our "union" is strong.

Keep up with the yoga - it's not only good for the body, it's good for the soul.

Darren said...

Mazenko, I don't think that those positive things you mentioned are necessarily indicative of the strength of the union. And if by "union" you mean "nation", well, I worry that we're in decline.

mazenko said...

As Fareed Zakaria has so eloquently explained, the "rise of the rest" does not equate to the "decline of one."

Darren said...

I don't base my statement on the fact that others are rising, I rest it on the belief that we are declining. As Paul Harvey is quoted to have said, "A civilization goes up the stairs in work boots and down the stairs in slippers." A hundred years ago, Britain was the grand civilization on the planet. They're not anymore, and not just because *we* rose.

Blake said...

I too did not watch the State of the Union. Not because I'm conservative (which I am), but because the speech is a waste of time to watch in its entirety. I got the main points just listening to my father about it.

President Obama wants to create more Math and Science jobs. This is his answer to competing with China and other countries. We are the laughing stock of the free world. We're rich, we're cocky, yet somehow we're in debt up to our eyeballs.

Mazenko, it's good that you feel good about your life now. And I appreciate the fact that you work, and are most likely a good tax-paying citizen. However, many Americans need to step up to the plate.

Since FDR, we've been lulled into the false sense of security that if we lose our jobs, then the government will take care of everything. Can they do this forever? Can we continue to borrow money from other countries for the short term? And when I say short term it could be anywhere from 10-200 years. There's a line somewhere, and one of these days, we're going to go too far if we continue in this direction.

The President wants to invest in the US citizens. This is a novel idea. It especially helps me since he wants to create more jobs for math and science teachers.

However, why should America invest in its people if its people can barely sustain America?

MikeAT said...

The state of our "union" is strong, Darren. And, that's why it's important, in an age and business of incredible pessimism, for our most visible cheerleader to stage a reminder of that.


I think you are missing the major point. The point is not cheerleading but leadership. And that's a concept he knows nothing of. He’s a street thug politician who has never taken on a challenge and left it better. I’m glad your life is good. I’ve recently become engaged and having two step daughters is an experience I’ve never dreamed of. But I hope our children’s life is better than ours. One of the major factors to ensure that is to reverse the damage of this man.

Ellen K said...

I did watch the speech. All it did was clarify that this administration is clueless on how businesses work. They continue to subsidize corn ethanol at higher rates even with lower fuel efficiency and the anciallary raising of corn prices on food and animal feed. He also doesn't see a problem with more taxes on oil companies-which brings up something that liberals never seem to realize. That is the fact that any fee, any surcharge, any embargo or any tax ALWAYS is paid by the consumer in the form of higher prices. So when Obama says he wants to tax oil companies, what he means is that he will tax you in terms of higher prices for every single thing you buy.

Ohr Yochai said...

The majority of your argument is cynicism. You have said it yourself many times that if you look back in history, we have been dealing with these problems before. Teddy Roosevelt said, "In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better". Obama is facing todays challenges, he is showing leadership, he is meticulous in his effort. To address some of your other issues with policy.. Investing in education is probably the best long term plan for the economy as well as making America more competitive. Obama was completely clear in saying his efforts to close the deficit are a fraction of what is needed. It's going to be the generation of cynicism and pessimism and spectators that allow our beautiful nation that enjoys the highest equality in the world to fall. That is not this generation. Watch the speech but most importantly listen to his words and notice that action is taking place.
-Ohr Taylor (Student and Lone Liberal)

Darren said...

Ohr, I don't fault you for your idealism. I don't view myself as cynical, rather as being, uh, "tempered by experience". I don't think this president is serious about cutting government spending--which actually means cutting government--and when he talks I hear "just words". Other presidents wanted to cut government but wouldn't or couldn't, this one doesn't really want to.

If you want to have fun, go listen to the SOTU's from the last 3 or 4 presidents and see what they said vs what they did, and perhaps you'll be "tempered", too.

As for leadership, I fear you mean "I like the guy". I see no leadership at all in this president. On the contrary, I see an ideologue who will attempt to push his way no matter what, and if the people don't like what he wants, he lectures and cajoles them and holds his nose and chin up high as he looks down on them. None of the leadership traits that I learned at my alma mater, which may someday be your alma mater, are present in this man. Leadership means more than just getting people to like you.

Ohr Yochai said...

Every president wants big government. It just depends who they want big government for. Big business or struggling Americans? Those are the two usual options and quite often a mix of the two. I think you misperceive my standards on why I would like a president of the United States. I've never met Obama, and if I have been charmed, it is by the substance behind the eloquence not merely a speech, I know that it is substance because despite the plethora of George W. Bush's slip-ups on speeches I still respect his hard-liner foreign policy. I can recognize Obama's faults as being overly idealistic especially when it comes to costs vs efficiency but I believe it is a leader who can recognize when a previous plan is not working or unfair. He (although credit is not solely for him) has ended DADT, being a front-runner in what I believe to be one of the last modern civil-rights movements in America. Realizing the proper source of terror to be Afghanistan and focus more there and not Iraq, providing Health-Care for children, and a mandate for a cleaner future. How does that not seem like leadership? He has inspired so many to become involved, made real changes, and been in the fight from day one. I respect the leadership of Duty, Honor and Country and none of those words fall deaf on my ears. But explain to me what part of Obama's actions lack leadership, not just your political opinion on his policies. I know you may not agree with those but he is obviously a leader nonetheless.
-Ohr Taylor

Darren said...

I hear "just words". I see no leadership.

In the case of the president, leadership would be "working together". In his signature "legacy" act, the health care bill, Republicans were shut out of the process. Their suggestions were ignored, they were told not to say too much, and wavering Democrats were threatened or bribed in order to pass the bill. Not a single Republican in the House, and perhaps three Republican Senators, voted for that bill. That's not leadership as I see it. Pelosi/Obama/Reid got the bill passed, but there are ways besides leadership to get things done, and they availed themselves of those methods.

DADT? The Congress waited till the last minute of a lame-duck session, when many of them wouldn't be coming back, to vote on it. I honestly think it was done as a poke in the eye to the electorate, and not a sign of leadership, that they did it this way.

The language the president uses is not that of a leader. I tire of hearing Republicans described as driving the car off the road, sipping Slurpees, while Democrats work to pull the car back onto the road. I have a hard time believing that the current economy is the fault of one political party, but if you want to blame one party, the economy was humming along smoothly until 2006. :-) How have the deficit and national debt gone since then?

Do you need more examples?

mazenko said...

"humming along to 2006," Darren? Even you know - truly - what a ridiculous insinuation that is.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.