On the SOTU speech

George Will: Uncle Sam in the driver's seat


The word "entitlements" was absent from his nearly 7,000-word State of the Union address - a $183 million speech that meandered for 61 minutes as the nation's debt grew $3 million a minute. He exhorted listeners to "win the future" by remembering the past.

On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, in the Utah Territory, a golden spike was driven to celebrate the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. In the 1960s, the United States sent men to the moon. Obama said: Today's government should take more control of the nation's resources so it can do innovative things akin to building the transcontinental railroad and exploring space.

The nation heard: You should trust the government whose recent innovations include the ethanol debacle that, four days before the State of the Union, the government expanded. And you should surrender more resources to the government whose recent innovations include the wild proliferation of subprime mortgages.


The day after Obama told the nation that the key to prosperity is creativity defined by this government and propelled by more government spending ("investment"), the Congressional Budget Office said that this year's budget gap is widening to $1.5 trillion, making the national debt 70 percent of gross domestic product, up from 40 percent in 2008.


[On the Volt and Nissan Leaf]

The government already offers $7,500 tax incentives for people who buy electric cars such as the $32,780 Nissan Leaf and, more to the point, General Motors' $41,000 Chevrolet Volt. As The Post's Peter Whoriskey reported, these prices are "well above" those of "comparably sized cars with gasoline engines that can cost about $20,000."

Obama's goal of getting 1 million such cars on America's roads by 2015 cannot be met unless innovative government rigs the market. Introduced in 2008, the $7,500 bribe was limited to the first 250,000 cars. Under Obama's stimulus, it was expanded to 200,000 per manufacturer.

Peggy Noonan: An Unserious Speech Misses the Mark


The speech was more than half over before the president got around to the spending crisis. He signaled no interest in making cuts, which suggested that he continues not to comprehend America's central anxiety about government spending: that it will crush our children, constrict the economy in which they operate, make America poorer, lower its standing in the world, and do in the American dream. Americans are alarmed about this not because they're cheap and selfish but because they care about the country they will leave behind when they are gone.

President Obama's answer is to "freeze" a small portion of government spending at current levels for five years. This is a reasonable part of a package, but it's not a package and it's not a cut. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who called it "sad," told a local radio station the savings offered "won't even pay the interest on the debt we're about to accumulate" in the next two years. The president was trying to "hoodwink" the American people, Mr. Coburn said: "The federal government is twice the size it was 10 years ago. It's 27% bigger than it was two years ago." Cuts, not a freeze, are needed—it's a matter of "urgency."


He too often in making a case puts the focus on himself. George H.W. Bush, always afraid of sounding egotistical, took the I's out of his speeches. We called his edits "I-ectomies." Mr. Obama always seems to put the I in. He does "I implants."

Humor, that leavening, subtle uniter, was insufficiently present. Humor is denigrated by serious people, but serious people often miss the obvious. The president made one humorous reference, to smoked salmon. It emerged as the biggest word in the NPR word cloud of responses. That's because it was the most memorable thing in the speech. The president made a semi-humorous reference to TSA pat-downs, but his government is in charge of and insists on the invasive new procedures, to which the president has never been and will never be subjected. So it's not funny coming from him. The audience sort of chuckled, but only because many are brutes who don't understand that it is an unacceptable violation to have your genital areas patted against your will by strangers.

I actually hate writing this. I wanted to write "A Serious Man Seizes the Center." But he was not serious and he didn't seize the center, he went straight for the mush. Maybe at the end of the day he thinks that's what centrism is.

Comments: Why I cannot watch or listen to Obama (I did read his SOTU!): He never really says anything. Just "mush".

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