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January 29, 2014

Ron Fournier on the State of the Union: "Diminished Leader... Americans May Have Already Tuned Out Barack Obama"

He actually says "Good Speech, Modest Agenda," then the rest of it.

He's a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who's been increasing disappointed by Obama the past couple of years. So his feeling may be taken at least as partially representative of the Disappointed Democrats bloc.

Is that all there is?

In what may be his last, best chance to revive a presidency that has fallen far short of its promise, Barack Obama unveiled his 2014 agenda Tuesday night: small-bore executive orders, studies, summits, and legislation, long-seasoned and stalled. "America does not stand still," he said, "and neither will I."

He focused on the era's seminal issue, loss of social mobility and income equality in a post-industrial, global economy. "The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by—let alone get ahead," Obama said to a joint session of Congress attending his annual State of the Union address.

Another cold, hard fact: Obama may not have the skill, the will, or the time to do much about it.

Another cold, hard fact Fournier omits: Income inequality has increased at a torrid pace under the Redistributor In Chief.

It was a good speech about a modest agenda delivered by a diminished leader, a man who famously promised to reject the politics of "small things" and aim big—to change the culture of Washington, to restore the public's faith in government, and to tackle enduring national problems with bold solutions. The night he sealed the Democratic nomination in 2008, candidate Obama looked forward to a day when future generations might say "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

Tuesday night was no such moment.

It was, instead, a moment in miniature: an executive order to raise the minimum wage for future federal contractors, and another to create "starter" retirement accounts; summits on long-term unemployment and working families; and scores of promises to "continue" existing administration programs.

"What I offer tonight," he said, "is a set of concrete, practical proposals." Oh, such a far cry from "an audacity to hope."

...

He turns to a recent gushing biographical piece cum interview that ran in the New Yorker.

He also told Remnick that people are looking for "other flavors ... somebody else out there who can give me that spark of inspiration or excitement." He's right, and you had to wonder during the State of the Union address whether Obama's time had passed ... whether even a great address could move the needle ... whether they've tuned him out.

That's an immature impulse, of course. People really ought to not seek too much meaning or "inspiration or excitement" in politicians, political parties, or political 5 point plans. That's kind of Dummy Stuff, isn't it?

But Obama, more than any President I can think of, is all about that and little else.

Fournier turns to various polls, including those that show that a majority of Americans now call Obama a weak leader.

...

Democratic operative Chris Lehane, another veteran of the Clinton White House, said, "It will require disciplined execution to succeed."

That's the problem: Obama has not executed; he has not found a way to overcome his era's obstacles and fulfill his potential for greatness. It may be too late to learn how.

I can't weigh in on whether it was a "good speech." I strongly doubt that. But I didn't watch. At 1:30 am or so I went to bed and turned on the TV and the speech was replaying on Fox. I heard Obama say something -- I forget what, but he used his Stage Whisper fake drama voice -- and I cursed "F*** you" at the TV.

I brushed my teeth and didn't hear much more than I had the first time. When I came back out, he said something else clingy, desperate, and false, and again I said "F*** you," then I turned him off my TV and watched something else for twenty minutes.

So that's what I got out of it.

On the other hand, alleged GOP strategist and CNN gadfly Alex Castellantos got a lot more out of it.

“I think I’ve said before that a speech by Barack Obama is a lot like sex,” Castellanos told a CNN panel after the State of the Union Tuesday night. “The worst there ever was is still excellent.”

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posted by Ace at 01:34 PM

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