OK, maybe it wasn’t flat. From Boston.com:
“According to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey of Americans who watched the address, 68 percent said their reaction to his address was extremely positive and another 24 percent somewhat positive.
Also, 85 percent said his speech made them feel more optimistic about the country’s path in the next few years.”
Also, a lot of people watched. Fifty-twp million viewers, according to Nielsen, as opposed to 40 million for Bush’s first state of the union.
I thought it was kind of flat. When did Obama decide to abandon the “Yes We Can” style of speaking? Not that I expected him to use that particular phrase, but I expected to be inspired. And I wasn’t. Take the beginning of the speech for example. We’ve just witnessed the entrance of a new cabinet (wow, it’s Democrats), Supreme Court Justices (wow, there’s Justice Ginsberg recovering from cancer surgery, a new president—and so forth. Applause all around. The room is buzzing. The nation is uncertain, concerned about the future. Surely the new president is going to give us a grand vision of country, put our current woes in historic context, personalize the trials we will face, and the grand sense of accomplishment when we triumph over adversity!!
Instead, in the first minutes of the speech (literally) He launches immediately into telling us how bad things are. Here are the first words:
I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:
We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The buzz is gone.
I was expecting him to tell a great story, make me feel confident and ready to “rebuild and recover”. Instead he just asserted that that’s how it would be. The biggest applause lines seemed to be for some specific program proposals (ending agriculture subsidies!! honest budgeting!!!). Not what I expected and pretty much forgettable for most people, I suspect.
It seems very strange to me that the guy who inspired everyone on the campaign trail has abandoned that style of speaking as president.
Obama has made a point of taking on far right talkers like Hannity and Limbaugh to a certain extent. During the campaign he said that “hardcore Sean Hannity fans probably wouldn’t want to have a beer with me“. And the other day he told GOP leaders that “you can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done”. Hannity and Limbaugh love this stuff, of course, because going eyeball to eyeball with Obama boosts their ratings.
So, from that perspective, I’m not sure it makes sense for Obama to mention them by name and risk increasing their visibility. On the other hand, Limbaugh wingnuttism has been around now for years, so Obama isn’t exactly giving a national stage to a start-up movement; they say Limbaugh has 20 million listeners. By now that’s probably his max and it’s a lot, but it’s not enough people to win a national election. And I would argue that Limbaugh wingnuttism drives off a lot of folks too. He’s one reason there are zero GOP congressmen in the northeast. So to the extent Obama can identify the GOP with Limbaugh/Hannity he can solidify the Democrats as the more centrist party and keep winning elections as the GOP becomes an ever more regional party.
I think Obama knows what he’s doing.
By the way, a liberal group is tagging along on this idea. They are running radio ads in three states asking, effectively “whose side is our Senator on in the vote for a stimulus package: Rush Limbaugh or President Obama?” The states are Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio and they all have a GOP senator. They are all states Obama won.
As a long-time blogger for a more liberal America, I’m tempted to sign-off this blog and say mission accomplished.
But, I don’t think I will. For one thing, I think Obama’s going to need some help as he takes steps toward an America that lives up to the promise of America. In that journey, I am here to serve. For another, I like to write blog posts.
A debate in Iowa, long ago…
No posts since November 2. What happened? I think I’ve been going through the 3 stages of political grief (in reverse).
At first it was Fear that despite polls, Obama wouldn’t win. Then, Disbelief that he actually won. Then Relief that someone with brains, maturity, and a coherent value system is actually going to be running country; that he will be backed by large majorities in both houses of Congress, and all of this is happening after 8 long years of idiocy. Whew. Unbelievable.
In any event, this is a blog, so what’s the topic of the day? Ah yes, the auto industry. To bail or not to bail….
I have a love/hate relationship with the big American auto makers. I love my car. I’m not sure I love Detroit cars. At the same time American automakers literally invented the car market: Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet, Cadillac, Nash, Packard….on and on. It’s an American success story. How can we just toss this industry overboard? Particularly at a time of economic panic. Do we really want to dismantle Ford and GM in bankruptcy court? I don’t. Would Japan or Germany dump on their major manufacturers that way? No.
GM and Ford certainly have their problems; some of them self-inflicted, other not. One that’s not, is their “legacy costs” associated with providing health insurance for retirees. GM got efficient. Now they have far more retirees than workers. Should they be punished for that? No. Health insurance should have been nationalized fifty years ago, but the radical right blocked it then, just like it’s blocking it now. It was a massive error to ask employers to provide insurance that really should be social insurance. Now GM is paying the price. And so are we.
But the radical right still doesn’t get it. Yesterday, Mitt Romney announced that he favors letting the Big Automakers die. Who cares what it does to the economy. Apparently he puts Country Second and Destroying Unions First.
One other thought: the automakers are asking for a $25 billion loan. A lot of money. But is it really? Last time I checked, corporations were accumulating huge amounts of cash. For example, Exxon (according to their 6/30/08 10Q statement) has accumulated $35 billion in cash. That’s not just equity or working capital or short-term investments. That’s cash. I guess they can’t figure out what to do with it. Maybe they should loan it to their friends at GM who make the cars that use their fuel.
In a case you missed it I highly recommend that you watch Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama on Meet the Press. It’s a very powerful, detailed statement that hits McCain slimy campaign tactics hard (he even brings up and takes down the Bill Ayers issue). I particularly like Powell’s “correct” answer to the charge that Obama is Muslim.
Update: Rush Limbaugh claims Powell is a racist. Shocking news, I know, from the Conscience of the Right