As we’ve come to expect from President Obama, tonight’s State of the Union message was a model of coherent argument and organization. In response, here’s a mishmash of reactions from sundry corners of the blogosphere:
— As the president went through his initial laundry list of wishes and causes, Josh Marshall of TPM came to think liberals might not be in such dire political straits: “Listening to this litany, I’m reminded how Republicans are on the wrong side – just politically, let alone on policy — of most signature issues in a populist economic moment. I think there were zero Republicans standing up on any part of Obama’s financial reform agenda — something that polls exceedingly well in addition to being good public policy.”
— Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review was struck by this passage: “The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.” Dumbstruck, that is: “Raise your hands if you believe there are any circumstances under which this president would veto a financial-regulation bill passed by this Congress.”
— “The most interesting part of the speech is where he threatens to veto any financial bill that doesn’t really take on the banks,” echoed Megan McArdle at the Atlantic.
The State of the Union
Columns, quick takes and the editorial on the president’s 2010 national address.
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“The proposals he unveiled last week to limit the size of bank liabilities, and dismantle their proprietary trading desks, were greeted with acclaim by many financial journalists, but it is widely believed that legislators like Senator Dodd will simply kill them in committee. If he’s willing to risk ending up with nothing, that may be smart politics–and perhaps smart regulation. But that’s a very daring move for a president who has so far proved extremely reluctant to take on his congress.”
— Ponnuru’s colleague at the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez, had some ungrudging praise: “The President did outright the Right on nuclear power plants. So many have given up on that issue.”
— Andrew Sullivan had a similar observation: “His energy program sounds a lot like McCain’s in the campaign: all of the above. And drill, baby, drill! But I love this: clean energy is worth doing whatever you think of climate change. Plenty of conservatives should be able to support this if they could get past their partisanship and bile.” But Sullivan thinks style confidently trumped substance: “I’m struck by how relaxed he seems. Smiling, confident, easy-going, and yet also deadly serious. He’s certainly a lot calmer than most of his supporters, including me. I was a bit of a wreck before this after such a depressing couple of weeks. But he is managing to lift that gloom - not by dazzling rhetoric, but by a form of realism that is reassuring.”
— Regarding the president’s comment that reforming health care wasn’t a fight he was aching for, Ana Marie Cox of GQ notes that his spokesman like to say “he didn’t take on health care because it’s his hobby.” “But, you know, it sort of does feel like it’s a hobby to him, no?” asks Cox. “He tinkers, and pauses, puts it away, moves his own deadline, goes back to the drawing board…”
— For Allahpundit of Hot Air, the most striking claim from the White House came earlier in day, when Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs appeared on Good Morning America. “Many of the same factors that led Sen. [Scott] Brown to become a senator from Massachusetts led Barack Obama to become president,” insisted Gibbs. “Now, we’ve got to deal with those angers and frustrations by putting people back to work, by demonstrating we have a plan to get our economy continued on the road to recovery and putting those folks back to work, and protecting our country from those who seek to do us harm.” Allahpundit’s response: “The One has always enjoyed psychoanalyzing American voters — look no further than his massively overhyped speech on race — but watching him explain to Massachusetts that they were actually kinda sorta voting for him when they voted for Scott Brown should make this his most entertaining soliloquy yet.”
— There was big applause for the president’s line that “I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” but Tanya Domi, a former Army captain writing at Pam’s House Blend, didn’t think that fellow gay men and lesbians should show much gratitude for the rather vague pledge.
Our community, including any Democratic voter who supported you in November 2008 would expect you to sign a hate crimes act into law. This is a given by any Democratic president and surely those inside the Beltway would call signing a hate crimes bill as “low hanging fruit.”
And yet the President once again throws out a few crumbs to our community, announcing to the entire country that there will be no reversal to a discriminatory law for the time being that continues to place our sisters and brethren in harms’ way, for more than simply serving in wars, as tragic and dangerous as they are.
This is the change we have been waiting for? Where is the fierce urgency of now, Mr. President? Don’t you hear that trumpet of justice pounding in your ears when military bands play ‘Hail to the Chief’?
Jillian Bandes of TownHall found the president’s shifts between acknowledging ideological differences and criticism of partisanship a bit muddled. “Obama thinks the Citizens United ruling will “usher in” more special interests in Washington. Alito looked a little combative. I think mud wrestling is in order. Hats off to him recognizing that there is a “fundamental difference in ideology” between different political views. He admitted that some politics are irreconcilable, and I think he might’ve even alluded to Thomas Paine, but I’m working my way through a bottle of wine and can’t be completely sure. He referenced Scott Brown for about half a second. Republicans “have to lead” now that Democrats don’t have a supermajority. If leading means holding your ground on that irreconcilable ideology, I’m all for it.”
— “So we’re going to double our exports in five years, are we?” asks Kevin D. Williamson at the Corner. “Well, let’s think about that. Two ways of counting it up:”
In 2008, the total value of U.S. exports was about $1.8 trillion, and the value of our exports was growing at 12 percent per year, according to Commerce. So, left to their own devices, our exports ought to go from about $2 trillion now to about $3.5 trillion over the next five years — not quite double, but 75 percent growth. So, how many billions of dollars are we going to spend to get that last $500 billion in exports? (And that’s not $500 billion in profit, as I understand it, that’s $500 billion in sales.)
Looked at another way: Exports were 13 percent of GDP in 2008. If that’s the metric we’re using, then they’ll need to be 26 percent of GDP in five years to hit Obama’s goal. If the rest of the economy just stood still (and hold on while the English major thinks this through) that means that exports would have to expand by the equivalent of 13 percent of today’s GDP in five years to hit Obama’s goal. In other words, our new exports — just the new ones — would have to be roughly equal in size to the entire U.S. health-care industry today. That does not seem to me especially likely to happen.
If I’m missing something here, let me know.
Feeling the same way was Ezra Klein, who leaves us with a fitting encapsulation of the American political mood: “Rumor has it the State of the Union is today rather than tomorrow to avoid conflicting with the Lost premiere. But my feelings towards one are pretty similar to my feelings towards the other: I’m confused by the most recent plot twists and skeptical that the writers can wrap it all up in one tidy package.”