Commentary on the president’s State of the Union address abounds throughout the blogosphere with predictable people saying predictable things about Obama’s speechifying. The Associated Press, not exactly a bastion of conservative thought, has fact checked some of the presidents statements and found them to be, less than truthful. Just to highlight one:
OBAMA: He called for action by the White House and Congress “to do our work openly, and to give our people the government they deserve.”
THE FACTS: Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign — to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN “so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.” Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it’s acted upon.
There are more listed in the article the conclusion of which is that Obama is a liar. In other news, water remains wet.
Beyond the overt lies however was the stunning petulant and partisan tone struck by the president, who seems to view himself as somehow about the crowd and above the fray, not unlike a modern day Mussolini complete with the held tilting arrogance.
From the head tilt and far away gaze, to his demand that all things STILL bend to his will, we are seeing a modern incarnation of Mussolini. He just dismissed the will of the people as though it were a gnat buzzing about his royal head.
Peter Wehner at the Politics Daily says it well:
The speech was defensive and petulant, backward-looking and condescending, petty and graceless. He didn’t persuade people; he lectured them. What was on display last night was a man of unsurpassed self-righteousness engaged in constant self-justification. His first year in office has been, by almost every measure, a failure – and it is perceived as a failure by much of the public…
After having spent much of his time blaming his predecessor for his own failures, he said he was “not interested in re-litigating the past.”
Having gone on a spending spree that is unprecedented in American history, the president castigated the political class for “leaving a mountain of debt” to future generations. Having helped to create the worst fiscal situation in our lifetime, he says he will “refuse to pass the problems on to another generation of Americans.” He says, “If we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery” – despite the fact that future generations will have to work to undo the deficit and debt he had done so much to increase.
It was as if we were being lectured on marital fidelity by John Edwards or Mark Sanford.
Indeed it was the epitome of the kind of ideological stem winder one might expect from a Mussolini, Lenin, or Hitler (all of whom were good public speakers who didn’t need a teleprompter to boot!). But I have come to expect little else from the petty man who somehow conned millions of people into believing him to be a pragmatic, centrist if slightly left-of-center, moderate kind of guy who would reset the obviously rabidly partisan atmosphere of Washington D.C.
Beyond his ideological blinders however, is a problem with settled realities that have nothing to do with politics:
Obama has a reality problem.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that unemployment will average more than 10 percent for the first half of this year, before declining at a slower pace than in past recoveries. On this economic path, Obama’s presidency will fail. Many Democrats in the House chamber tonight will lose their jobs. And the nation will enter a Carter-like period of stagnation and self-doubt.
Every element of the president’s speech tonight should be considered in this light.
Unreality indeed. But for me more shocking and dangerous is the way the president, in defiance of custom and decency, launched an unprecedented (and unpresidential) political broadside against the Supreme Court. Professor Barnett of the Georgetown Law School had this to say about Obama’s assertion:
In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.
That the president was wrong on the facts of the case is well established (and not surprising given his obviously deficient knowledge of the law). What is disturbing to me is the way his comments suggest that the Supreme Court, one of the co-equal branches of governance under our Constitution, ought somehow to be subordinate to the varying politics interests of the day.
The independence of the Court, connected with, but not dependent on, the Executive and Legislative branches is not merely an appendage of governance. Obama’s hypocritical annoyance at the court’s decision may be warranted, but his disrespect is not. Which leads me to another concern about Obama and the general state of the union.
The partisanship in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, has obscured a salient issue that ought to merit more attention from conservatives than it does, and that is that Congress, the Court, and the Executive branches of government ought to be much more zealous in guarding their prerogatives than they have been. Legislators, of whatever party, ought to regularly remind the president where his power stops and where theirs begins and any Congress that subverts its responsibilities in order to “tow the party line” whether under Democrat or Republican leadership has abdicated its responsibility under the Constitution.
The President of the United States is no “god floating above the crowd,” no matter how many times Chris Matthews gets a thrill down his leg. He is simply the chief of the Executive branch. Congressmen and Senators ought to make it a practice never to respond to any “presidential summons” to convene about any legislation, or to speak deferentially in any manner to or about the president. And the President ought to issue an apology to the Court.
Update: Is not this what I referred to? The separation of power is important and judges should not subject themselves to what Clarence Thomas refers to as,
a lot that you don’t hear on TV: The catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments. One of the consequences is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.
The separation of powers is one of the foundation stones of our liberty and a bulwark against the increasing power of the Imperial Presidency. It must be preserved.