Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

President Obama’s speech to Congress: Reactions

Posted by sanityinjection on February 25, 2009

I watched all of the President’s speech last night as well as the Republican response delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Here are my thoughts:

It should surprise no one at this point that Obama knows how to give a great speech. His tone, delivery, and message were calibrated for precisely the right effect. If I were someone who didn’t follow politics, I would have found his speech inspiring and reassuring. There was something for everyone in the laundry list of initiatives Obama promised us – even the Republican members in the chamber had the chance to cheer when Obama talked about deficit reduction and support for charter schools (The best moment of the whole speech was when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a face behind the President when he mentioned charter schools, acting for all the world like a petulant 12-year-old girl. In fact, the Speaker’s whole demeanor last night was more like a giddy cheerleader than the second most powerful person in America. She made Joe Biden look dignified, and that takes some doing.) As one commentator on CNN noted, if Obama were to achieve even half of the things he promised in this speech, it would represent a stunning success.

However, I was repeatedly struck by the contrast between Obama’s words, and what is actually being done and proposed in Washington. The Associated Press has a good article fact-checking the President’s speech:

Fundamentally, I fail to understand how President Obama can say to us with a straight face that he’s committed to cutting the deficit and eliminating earmarks when a) he and his Congress have just spent $1 trillion that we don’t have, and b) Pelosi’s House leadership has just introduced a  continuing budget resolution that is loaded with earmarks and increases government spending by 8% over the previous year. This is like an alcoholic telling you he’s quitting drinking after pounding drinks all night and at the same time as he’s asking the bartender for another round! Nor am I reassured by Obama’s promises that his housing plan will only help good people and not bad people, despite no one having any idea how that could happen.

The Detroit News has a good op-ed this morning detailing the differences between the President’s stated goals and what his programs actually do:

As for Jindal’s response, everyone acknowledges that delivering the opposition response is sort of a hopeless task. Far fewer people actually watch, and those who do cannot help but notice the lack of the ceremony and gravitas that the President enjoys in speaking to Congress.

Nevertheless, I thought Jindal made some good choices. Knowing he couldn’t hope to match the President in formality, he chose an informal, even folksy approach in both his words and his demeanor – no podium separating him from his audience. He spent the first part of his speech introducing viewers seeing him for the first time to his personal background. He avoided attacking Obama directly – in fact, he praised Obama more than once, and focused his criticisms on Democrats in Congress, while acknowledging the GOP’s own failures when it was in power in Washington.

The biggest problem with Jindal’s speech was the irony of his message. Jindal argued that making government bigger and giving it more power is not the solution to our problems, and argued that Americans can and will do a better job that the government will. Unfortunately, as the commentators pointed out afterward, Jindal’s state of Louisiana has benefited from lots of federal programs and dollars in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. It’s hard to preach self-reliance when you’re in line collecting your welfare check 🙂

As one commentator pointed out on my radio this morning, Presidential speeches to Congress make for great political theater, but they are rarely remembered even a week after they are over.


4 Responses to “President Obama’s speech to Congress: Reactions”

  1. A.j. said

    yes, Jindal was rather humorous, could not take him seriously – Obama, hope we can take him seriously

  2. gotkindle said

    Obama speech was great.
    I wish they didn’t clap so many times and for so long.
    got kindle?

  3. Sister Benedict said

    Speaker Pelosi needs to burn that mucus-colored outfit.

  4. sanityinjection said

    David Gergen has a new op-ed up on AC360 criticizing the President’s ambitious reforms and offering some suggestions on how to regroup:

    For those not familiar with Gergen, he is a liberal Republican who has served in White House positions under four Presidents of both parties. Gergen argues that Obama is trying to do too many things at once (to capitalize on his strong public appropval ratings) and that this will inevitably mean something gets screwed up. He recommends focusing on the economy first and letting health care and energy reform move on a slower track.

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