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The State of the Union: Resurrecting Straw Men and Tilting at Windmills

January 28, 2010

Just when you thought that “there are those who” was long dead and “experts” across the “political spectrum” had faded into irrelevance–if they even existed at all–old boogeymen, some long forgotten and some regular Emmanuel Goldstein-like caricatures have returned to do battle with The One.

The rhetorical bag of tricks is, it appears, only so deep–even for one as talented and bright as the president.

I’ve personally never cared for his speaking style.  I find the president’s speaking to be jarring; he trips over applause lines and rushes through others; he whistles his ‘S’s, and his hand gestures are often annoying to me.  But I would be a fool, blinded by ideology if I weren’t able to recognize that the man has the power to inspire people through his speaking.  That’s why it’s such a shame that he squanders his intellect and oratorical prowess on resurrecting the same boogey men and shadow-boxing the same imagined villains.

Rather than possibly admit that leftist’s devotion to Keyne’s outmoded and demonstrably flawed economic theories might have inspired the decision to pass Porkulus, we continue to get fed this “experts across the political spectrum” nonsense.  He made a decision as a leader, and that decision was wrong; his insistence on using his ideological opposites to provide cover for his decision is unbecoming a leader. 

His continued reliance on straw men is disconcerting.  Where are these people who want to put America’s future on hold?  Where are these people who say that recovery can’t occur?  No one of any consequence has these opinions.  There are those of us who think that the private sector ought to be responsible for America’s future and her recovery, but that’s not the same as what the president implies.

His stubborn refusal to accept responsibility for the deficit he helped run up as a senator is nothing short of infuriating.  Of course, having accrued far more “not voting” tallies than actual yes or no votes might have him a little confused, but here’s the truth: he voted for TARP and was a reliable vote on bills that contained net tax increases.  Why persist in acting as though he stumbled into office and deficits Elmer Fudd-like?  Oh, those wasscawy Wepubwicans!  I’ve stumbled into a wecession!

The president, even during the SOTU address, will lull even us hard-core conservatives into open-mindedness and regale us with his oratorical skills, as he did when he insisted that he would not settle for an America that took second place in the world–and then proceeded to attribute the success of China’s economy to the glory of their government.  China is a growing powerhouse precisely because of their reluctant yet increasing embrace of markets, not because of the wisdom and foresight of their tyrannical government. 

Overall, it was a speech full of incongruities.  The president claims to feel our pain, but not enough to lay off of wildly unpopular legislation like his health care “reform” bill.  He acts like he practically had to be dragged into bailing out banks, but sees no other possibility but to force the not-so-subtle hand of government into the energy sector.  He wants a post-partisan era of cooperation, but issues a wildly inappropriate denunciation of the Supreme Court in the middle of his speech and then allows shmuch Democrats like Schumer to stand up right next to the justices and applaud like drunken frat boys cheering a wet t-shirt contest at his comment.  Do leftists now begin to see the substantive points of disagreement we have with the president?

His speech exhorted Republicans to work more on providing solutions, but he failed to reasonably acknowledge the multitude of amendments and bills that Republicans have proposed during this session.  He gives tacit approval to the “party of no” imprecation while asking us to be more cooperative.  Do leftists begin to see that this isn’t about being the party of no?  I mean, it isn’t as though we railed against a sweeping expansion of government power that is wholly amenable to our ideology simply for political gain, as Democrats did with Medicare Part D.  Normally, Democrats jump at the chance to add layers of bureaucracy to the government works; all of the sudden, and every day since, Dems act as though their conservative sensitivities have been offended by Medicare Part D.  One imagines antebellum mansions and Democrats as fainting Scarlet O’Hare types: Oh, I do declare! 

And finally there is, again, the utter classlessness of attacking a man who has been completely powerless for over a year now.  But if you listened to the SOTU, you’d think Bush was back in Crawford ruthlessly twirling a Thadeus mustache and silently beating down the lumpenproles with his polo mallet.  Bush is the most powerful former president in history, apparently.  Soon we will be regaled with ribald tales of how the defiler Bush caused the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

This speech, I’m certain, will have the dual virtue of not doing much to rally his disheartened base and also not courting anyone on the other side of the aisle.  One thing is for certain: Republicans need to capitalize on the good fortune they’ve been handed.  If they waste this opportunity to begin elucidating conservative ideas and principles–McDonnell did a great job of that tonight–then they will have given away a huge advantage.

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