Thursday, January 28, 2010

Initial Post-SOTU Impressions

I'm sure there will be a flood of analysis in the next couple days, but here are a few snippets to get you started. First, the full transcript of the speech can be found here.

Now, let's look at some facts. Those are always interesting, and usually counter to a Democrat's speech.

The Supreme Court
Tonight the president engaged in demogoguery of the worst kind, when he claimed that last week's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, "open[ed] the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities."

The president's statement is false.

The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making "a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election" under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any "expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication... ."

This is either blithering ignorance of the law, or demogoguery of the worst kind.
SC judge Sam Alito was captured on film as mouthing the words 'not true' to Obama's statement. Who should we believe, a hack lying legal novice with no track record but a giant political axe to grind, or an expert in the Constitution who is beholden to no one but his own conscience? Hm.

On Lobbyists

Tonight, Barack Obama said, “To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.

“That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why – for the first time in history – my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.

Maybe this explains why his national security policies are so weak. He put William Lynn in the Pentagon as Deputy Defense Secretary. Mr. Lynn was a lobbyist for Defense Contractor Ratheon. I guess the Deputy Defense Secretary is not a policy-making job.

But, there are many, many more - at least a dozen top-level advisers who were professional lobbyists before accepting their current positions.

Heritage offers a huge roundup on the speech. Here are some of the responses:
President Obama inherited a global recession and a global financial meltdown. So far, his enacted policies have had no beneficial effect as the 10 percent unemployment demonstrates in spades, and his threatened policies remain perhaps the greatest barrier to a strong economy. The economy will recover, and appears to have started to do so, thanks to the inherent strengths of the American economic system and the energy and hard work of American families and American businesses. The President now says he is focused intently on getting the economy to create jobs, but his announced policies say otherwise. Altogether, they are little more than a series of benign sounding talking points substituting for serious action, similar in quality and nature to the proposals already advancing in the House and the Senate.
President Obama is right to focus intensely on the economy and jobs. When he took office, the unemployment rate was 7.7 percent. One year and $1.4 trillion later (total deficit spending from February, 2009 to December, 2009), the unemployment rate stands at 10 percent, and 3.4 million jobs have been lost.

In addition to his ineffectual fiscal stimulus, Obama has proposed a variety of policies sharing the unified characteristic of being anti-jobs. He proposed higher tax rates on investment and small businesses. He proposed an immensely expensive and unpopular health care reform. He proposed massive additional taxes through cap and trade. It is fair to say the policies of Obama and his congressional allies, through the uncertainties and threats they make toward the producers in the American economy, are the single greatest impediment to economic recovery we now face.

Bank tax
President Obama tonight called for a new tax on banks and other large financial institutions, “a modest fee,” he said, “to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.” That sounds great, but in truth, the new tax would do nothing of the kind. Mr. Obama knows that almost every major bank has paid back their bailout funds, with interest. Taxpayers made substantial profits on those repayments.

On the other hand, most of the companies that still owe billions to taxpayers, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and auto firms GM and Chrysler would not be subject to the tax. In short, Mr. Obama would tax those that have paid back taxpayers, and exempt those who have not.

Despite overwhelming public opposition, the President in his State of the Union restated his commitment to flawed health care legislation that would transfer more power and decisions to Washington and away from patients and families.

These flawed bills would nullify the President’s numerous promises, ranging from allowing Americans to keep their existing coverage to protecting middle class Americans from tax increases. Indeed, the congressional health care legislation would break his pledges for fixing the economy, bringing down deficits, and creating jobs. In fact, the health care bills would cost in excess of $2 Trillion over the next 10 years and increase, not decrease, health care spending. Moreover, projections show the bill, when taken in its entirety, would add billions to the already staggering federal deficit and record government debt. Finally, the bills’ taxes and mandates would weaken the economy and lead to fewer jobs.

All fair-minded Americans, regardless of their political views, have been appalled by process. This includes blatant special interest politics at the expense of taxpayers, including backroom schemes to exempt some groups from provisions of the bill while forcing the rest of Americans to pick up the tab. The subsequent decline in public trust has been aggravated by the cavalier violation of the President’s numerous and highly publicized pledges to guarantee transparency, including C-Span coverage of congressional negotiations.

War on Terror
More than 40 minutes into his State of the Union speech, Obama mentioned terrorism. If you weren’t listening carefully, you might have missed it. It was all about 10 sentences.

This isn’t surprising. Obama has at times in the past year seemed reluctant to embrace the responsibility of defending the nation against acts of terrorism. Thus far, President Obama has only given one speech on the war on terrorism in his time in office. He pledged early on to close down Guantanamo Bay and prosecute terrorists in civil courts. And at the same time, he has limited the tools of the CIA and done everything he can to distance himself from Bush era counterterrorism policies, remaining almost silent on reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, provisions which he is said to support.

These actions are of course cracking under the weight of the national security threats facing the nation. And this lack of enthusiasm for his national security responsibilities has caught the attention of the American public. The Christmas Day plot was a reminder to all of what can happen if an Administration fails in this duty. Americans are asking—will President Obama take the steps necessary to defend the United States against its enemies?

Defense Spending
For a speech well over an hour in length, it was hard not to notice the breezy and brief reference to military needs. The President spoke for only a moment about the need to provide the U.S. military the resources it needs during war and support when forces return home.

Both priorities are incredibly important to sustaining the long-term health of the America’s Armed Forces. However, the President made no mention of his long-term commitment to the military and the urgent demand to give our men and women in uniform a capable array of next-generation systems to defeat any threat in the future, as well as those threats in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Green Jobs
The President apparently has dropped the term “green jobs” and instead has adopted the new term “clean energy” jobs. New words, same failed ideas.

Spain provides a case in point. With a world-leading quantity of both wind and solar electricity (both highly subsidized), Spain’s green-job creation should be second to none. However a study by Spanish economist Dr. Gabriel Calzada found 2.2 conventional jobs were destroyed for each green job created. This finding is consistent with Spain’s overall employment situation. At 19.4 percent, Spain’s latest unemployment rate is nearly double that of not only the United States (10.0 percent) but it is also nearly double the rate for Spain’s European neighbors, France (10.0 percent) and Portugal (9.8 percent).

Budget-busting subsidies and ham-fisted regulations will not help end the recession. Instead, they will shrink economic activity and prolong the recovery.
Inherited Deficits
The President’s claim that the long-term trillion-dollar budget deficits are “the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program” is clearly misleading. While these factors contributed to turning earlier surpluses into deficits, the budget deficit still stood at just $162 billion when the recession began in late 2007. The larger subsequent deficits have been driven by the recession, the financial bailouts, the President’s stimulus bill, and large discretionary spending hikes enacted by a Democratic Congress. Once the recession ends and its costs wind down, budget projections show permanent trillion-dollar deficits driven by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid growth, as well as the higher discretionary spending baseline, and growing net interest costs on this large debt – not even counting the President’s expensive proposals.
Following the Constitution
The former law school lecturer left much to be desired concerning legal issues in his State of the Union address.

First, in addressing the White House’s signature proposal to date, the President failed to give any assurances that he will expend any effort to force Congress to address the serious constitutional failures of the health care mandates in the existing versions of the legislation.

Second, the President ridiculed the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Citizen’s United as opening “the floodgates for special interest.” Contrary to the President’s characterization, the decision properly rejected the idea that the government can decide who gets to speak and ban some from speaking at all, particularly those doing their speaking through associations of members who share their beliefs. Amazingly, he urged Congress to “right this wrong” – amazing because the “wrong” is First Amendment protection of speech rights.

Third, the President claimed that his administration “has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.” This will come as news to anyone who has followed the Justice Department’s shenanigans in the New Black Panther Party case, one in which the Civil Rights Division chose not enforce a default judgment it had secured in a case against individuals caught on tape intimidating voters. Rather than prosecuting civil rights violations, the Obama Justice Department is seeking to evade subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is investigating the incident. If Obama is serious about showing that his civil right division follows and enforces the law, he should begin by complying with the Commission’s subpoenas.
There is much, much more at the link. Suffice it to say that his speech was little more than a campaign-style tirade long on promises and short on substance. Where he used factual-sounding verbiage, he was usually wrong.

Here are some initial impressions outside of the facts...

Yuval Levin
...on the whole, this was really an incredibly graceless, self-righteous, and grouchy performance. It had a lot of what’s bad about Obama’s speeches (he said “I” almost a hundred times, repeatedly referred to his campaign as though it were a great American story we all love, continued to blame Bush for everything under the sun even as he said he was “not interested in re-litigating the past,” and piled clich├ęs sky high) but none of what’s good about his speeches—the simple theme simply pursued. It was a very Clintonian speech without Clinton’s human charm.
Peter Robinson
What's the takeaway?

The tone.

Defensive, hectoring, self-righteous, self-referential, and angry. An astonishing performance.

Legal Insurrection
This was a small speech. A lot of petty pot shots, including at the Supreme Court. Very Nixonian, in that regard.

The verbiage was anything but soaring. The joke about root canal must have been off-teleprompter.

I really don't think he gets what is happening in Massachusetts and across this country. He is living in a bubble.

Obama seemed like someone lost at sea, grasping at everything. This was not the Obama of the campaign, because the campaign stump speeches cannot work anymore.

The blame Bush theme is tired.

The nation is tired of hearing these speeches and the whining.
Dan Perrin at RedState

It is difficult to term his state of the union address a speech. It was more like a lecture that combined a chest-beating tone that he is doing the tough work of saving the nation and he expects Congress and the nation to follow him. And it was all made awkward for his audience by his repeated insistence that he does not quit.

His plea for Congress to take another look at his health reform bill seemed weak.

But essentially it was a message to the American public that he is “not going to walk away” and is going impose the change he wants, regardless of what the American people want.

In other words, I am not listening.

I do not think Americans like to be lectured and being told: I am doing what I think is right, regardless of what you want.

It was weird, actually.

Bill Kristol

President Obama says he is "not interested in re-litigating the past." Well, I am -- at least to this extent: Would it have been too much for the president of the United States to have acknowledged and paid tribute to a truly remarkable recent American achievement -- turning around the war in Iraq and putting that war on course to a successful outcome?

Here's what Obama did say about Iraq:

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.

That's it: "This war is ending." But it's ending in a certain way -- with success. It could have ended with failure. Success rather than failure in Iraq has made a big difference elsewhere in the Middle East -- including in Iran. ...

Yet Obama can't bring himself to say that we prevailed in Iraq. He did say that "tonight, all of our men and women in uniform -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world must know that they have our respect, our gratitude, and our full support." But he won't say that we are grateful for their victory in a war where defeat would have been disastrous.

I would also remind that Obama was all in favor of surrendering back in 2006, and it was only George W. Bush's stubborn refusal to surrender that brought us this victory.

What are the major media outlets saying? So far, they're doing the typical cheerleader act.

The Republican response was done by Bob McDonnell, and by all accounts, it was excellent.

Here are my thoughts on Obama's speech as I watched it (it's late, so I'm not going to go back and link previous posts where applicable; but, all of this stuff has been documented on this blog in the past)...

Obama listed a whole bunch of taxes that he's cut. Funny, the only thing I can remember is a $13/month credit that went to the middle and lower classes! Oh, and by the way, that $13/month will be counted as taxable income next year. The other things he's talking about, I assume, are the various bailouts and 'cash for...' programs. I'm sorry, but he doesn't seem to understand what a tax CUT is. He specifically raised taxes on lower income Americans with the S-CHIP bill (the vast majority of smokers are lower income), he's planning to let Bush's tax cuts expire at the end of this year (which will raise everyone's income tax rates), and every single one of his massive spending bills can only be paid for by raising taxes. He's nuts.

Obama said that 2 million jobs have been created or saved. Really? How did they get that number? This blog and a multitude of others have posted the faulty data that they're using to claim jobs saved or created for months. It's breathtaking that he's still using the metric that his own White House recently said wasn't valid. No, the stimulus bill has been proven an utter failure on all counts.

Obama is saying that jobs will be his #1 focus in 2010. Um...where was this urge to work on jobs in 2009, when it was initially needed? Should we be comforted that he's coming around after a whole year, kind of a better-late-than-never philosophy? Seems to be how he wants to handle terrorism. Anyway, while we're on the subject of top legislative priorities, what happened to health care? I seem to recall a whole lot of angst about passing DemCare before the Christmas recess because it was so damned important.

Ah, there's a quick little insert about wanting another 'jobs bill'. Get ready for Son of Porkulus!

Now he's pledging $30 billion for small business credit loans. Wasn't that what TARP was supposed to do?

He's touting the idea of tax credits for businesses that hire new people. Why can't he figure out that one-time injections of money do absolutely nothing to change long-term behavior? All of his bailouts have failed, and all of the 'cash for...' programs have failed. Oh sure, they might boost sales temporarily, but once the stimulus dollars dry up, so do the sales. On top of that, a steep decline is usually found at that point, too. It's a false promise and a faulty method.

I agree 100% with his suggestion that we need more safe, clean nuclear power plants, and that we need to open up new offshore oil and natural gas development. Amen! Unfortunately, I don't believe for a second that he'll follow through. Dems have a 100% record of opposing precisely those measures. I sincerely hope he follows through, but I'll be shocked.

'Overwhelming scientific evidence' for climate change? You've got to be kidding me! That one even got a chuckle from audience. Mr. President, did you forget Copenhagen and East Anglia University? Sheesh.

Nice self-deprecating joke about taking on health care - that he didn't take it on because it was good politics. Does this mean he's finally hearing the American people? Nah, he's still pushing for DemCare. They just haven't figured out a new strategy to take over the health care system yet. He also spouts a whole lot of old and recycled talking points that are not true. Bring down deficit by $1 trillion over next two decades? Puh-lease. Doesn't the CBO only figure these bills for 10 years? And didn't they also say it would actually grow the deficit if you factor in the real world (meaning, factoring out the fantasy assumptions they threw in there)? Obama says that he didn't explain his plan well enough to the American people. No, sir, you explained it just fine, we just didn't want it. What you're proposing is, in fact, worse than the status quo. You ask if anyone has any better a matter of fact, the GOP just re-presented their plan today. Take a look.

Eh, I've had enough. This is a bunch of tripe, a semi-bitter rant by a man who is floundering and knows it. He has no real leadership qualities, and he has no executive experience to speak of, even after a year in the White House. All he knows is how to speak rhetorically and agitate the differences between groups of people. More Bush-blaming, more Republican-bashing, more class warfare, more hammer-the-rich, more of the same campaign rhetoric he's been offering for the past two and a half years. That's all he did tonight.

I'll post more analysis as I come across good stuff.

There's my two cents.

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