At tonight’s State of the Union address President Barack Obama did not hit the home run some people were hoping for. While he obviously made an attempt at recognizing the powerful position of the GOP opposition Obama did not make the anticipated “shift to the center” some pundits were predicting. Nor did the President manage to ingratiate himself with the electorate by announcing any new strategies to spur the slow economic recovery. In fact Obama seemed to be attempting to take control of the political debate by declaring the recovery accomplished and outlining a plan to stabilize it.
This is like saying to a heart attack victim he isn’t going to die, just continue to have a heart attack forever.
Obama didn’t say much about unemployment, the dismal housing market, poverty, our failing foreign policies, or even health care (except to take a jab at the Republicans’ symbolic repeal in the House).
Instead he concentrated on areas that were placed on the back burners due to the contentious health care debate and the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan: education, reinvestment, and so-called “clean” energy. Obama is a big supporter of coal, which is in no way clean except in the coal industry propaganda on the subject.
He got the GOP on its feet for the first two, but they remained glued to their seats on his energy statement. Obama had the temerity to deride the oil industry – the GOP’s main contributors.
Education and the nebulous area of “reinvestment” are easy to stand and applaud for; any politician who didn’t risked looking like a jerk. But there is a big difference between a standing ovation and actual support for real proposals. And even Obama’s tacit attack on Big Government and its plethora of redundant agencies won him few friends, because when you talk about cutting government you are actually talking about cutting government jobs in local constituencies.
This was a cautious State of the Union address – more about political positioning than about substantive policies. If Obama is seen to try to work with the opposition, then when they dig-in and deny his agenda he can say “see? They’re the obstruction here! I tried to meet them half-way!”
Because in Washington, D.C. half-way and no-way are very much the same thing.