Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on the President's speech

I though it was a very well-delivered speech and he hit a lot of points that the administration thinks will resonate with voters. Perhaps, if he had delivered such a speech his first weeks in office, it might have rung true. But it was as if he were either ignoring what he'd done in the past year except for touting benefits that are supposed to have accrued from the actions he did take.

Overall, the tone sounded very defensive and angry at times. The rhetoric at the end about how great the country is was very nicely done. But he was still making jabs at the Bush administration and making absurd claims about how he is once again prosecuting civil rights violations as if such violations had been ignored for eight years.

And how he gets away with blaming the Republicans for what didn't get done in this past year when his party had a filibuster-proof Senate and could do whatever it wanted in the House is beyond me.

He can make that sweet appeal for nonpartisanship and say that his door is open for ideas from the other party, as if no Republican had ever proposed anything on health care. That is extremely irritating considering that there ar eplenty of ideas that conservatives have talked about, but just haven't been able to get anywhere with the Democrats having such huge majorities in each house of Congress. He was the one who allied himself with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and said nothing when they started crafting bills without Republican input.

And he can act as if he's done so much to restore the economy as if people don't know that he had a budget line of about $800 billion and we're still facing double-digit employment. If his policies had been the answer that he pretends that they were, why have the consequences been the exact opposite of what his advisers predicted?

My students are very excited to hear his proposal to forgive student debts, but how would that work? And remember that this was in the context of telling us how he was going to trim the deficit. And why should the federal government be forgiving debts if people choose public service? What jobs would qualify as public service? And why should the government favor one career choice over others? Why is someone working for a nonprofit better than getting a job working for a small business entrepreneur?

And I thought he slid very quickly over the war on terror and ignored all the criticism his administration has received about giving KSM a criminal trial in New York and Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber.

I have no idea how the speech would play with people who aren't so steeped in reading and listening about politics as I am. Will people believe his claims on the economy, transparency, and nonpartisanship or will they remember that he is the one who endorsed and crafted a health care bill while working with all sorts of special interests and then threw in a big giveaway to the labor unions at the end? Will people remember all the spending on the stimulus that has done so very little to improve the economy? Mostly, I think that there will be a temporary bump in the President's popularity and then we'll be back where we were.

I doubt that people will focus on the sorts of things that conservatives object to or simply notice what a neutral entity such as the Associated Press issues in their Fact Check of the President's speech. AP casts a very skeptical eye on the President's supposed call for a freeze of some spending to start a year from now, his creation of a toothless bipartisan deficit-cutting commission, his claims about the health care bill he endorsed, his boasting about having created 2 million jobs when no one has any real count of how many jobs his stimulus might have created and the White House count is riddled with errors. The President called for greater transparency from Congress in crafting laws when he's the one who has broken his previous pledges for transparency or to not involve special interests. And his bragging about how many more terrorists he's had killed than the Bush administration did was simply an unverifiable claim to make himself seem tougher and more successful than people think he has been.

However, he still seems to think that the only reason the majority of people are opposing his policies is simply because he hasn't explained them enough. We're all too stupid to understand all the previous speeches he's given. And suddenly we're all supposed to be smarter now that he has given this speech? I doubt it. The policies haven't changed, so why should people's assessment of those policies change?