RESTORING THE ART OF COMPROMISE

SOTU the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In Politics on January 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Last night’s State of the Union address highlighted the President’s rhetorical talents, offered a glimpse into the 2012 campaign season, and left a lot of policy issues hanging in Congressional limbo. I will quickly opine on my impressions of the speech.

First the good:

  1. Optimism was in full force. Whether this is the product of President Obama’s general speaking demeanor, a campaign strategy, or a combination of the two, it was prevalent throughout every part of the speech. The Administration certainly wants to reiterate the fact that things haven’t been great but are certainly getting better.
  2. This was a good campaign speech. Not to say that campaigning in the SOTU is a good thing, but the fact is this is 2012, an election year, and the President is running for reelection. With that in mind, he did a good job highlighting his accomplishments, avoiding failures, offering a vision for the future, and generally being a good speaker. This is likely a preview of much of what his campaign will be about; and, to that end, he did a good job.
  3. Fairness resonates well. Beyond the speech’s clear populism, the core of the President’s message dealt with fairness. It is very American, in my opinion, to glorify a society in which every individual has an equal shot from birth at becoming whatever they choose to become. It’s sort of a Rawlsian positive liberty that doesn’t necessitate a planned technocracy as some would suggest.

Now the bad:

  1. The populism just doesn’t do it for me. After all of the words have been said, the policies prescribed, and the comments made; this speech was almost completely a populist appeal to the electorate. I tend to be skeptical of populism, mainly because it has a tendency to skew facts and not come through in the end; I’m not saying that is the President’s goal, but such an approach lends itself to creating a superhuman image of the President that no one can achieve.
  2. It still felt like a pre-“priority-politics” speech. Saying we should use half of the money saved by leaving Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down the deficit suggests that we can use any of that money to pay down the deficit; we can’t. It will only reduce the growth of the deficit – this is very different. While I agree in infrastructure spending and prioritizing education, I didn’t hear the President really take aim at things that can allow us to spend money on priorities by increasing revenue and reducing spending significantly in other areas.
  3. As always with SOTU speeches, I would have enjoyed more details.

And finally the ugly, which seems obvious to me, the “spilled milk” joke was horrendous. I wonder if Jon Huntsman wrote that.

There you have it. The good, the bad, and the (very) ugly of President Obama’s third SOTU.SOTU the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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  1. I read an article on NY Times the other day called “What the Left Gets Right” and it is interesting to see how it compares to your response to the SOTU.

    For example, the author writes (regarding his research for his article(s) interviewing conservatives and liberals about each other), “conservatives were more strategic in their replies, conceding compassion to the left but not political legitimacy,” and one common theme that Republicans liked about Democrats was that they “recognize the real problems facing the poor, the hardships resulting from economic globalization and the socially destructive force of increasing inequality.” It seems like you hit on both of these – you liked that he stressed equality, and the political strategist in you liked that he used it as a campaign speech. On the other hand, the conservatives interviewed for the article think that liberals are “all heart” and have “an exaggerated sense of what is fixable” – this seems to go along with your concern of there not being enough details. I’m not necessarily sure how much you would agree with the rest of the article, but I thought these couple of points were interesting, even if they are fairly generic. What do you think?

    The article is here: http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/what-the-left-gets-right/#

    • I agree with the assessment. Though I would say that I don’t necessarily prefer a political SOTU; I just think the speech was successful as a political speech.

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