Wednesday night’s State of the Union address was like a dish of Indian food: it had a lot of flavors. I can’t necessarily say I liked it, but it certainly tasted different than the giant heap of status quo we’ve been eating these last few months.
The most significant point President Barack Obama outlined during the address was that he has re-aligned the national priorities to the job market. As college students and graduates find themselves in an ever more competitive workforce, this is paramount. Yet while this might seem like a good change of pace, it in essence recognizes a failure. The work spent on health care reform has idled and despite more than a year of legislative ping-pong, the paddles are going back into the drawer. Health care could have been passed this year, but it was shut down by partisanship and special interests. Even if there is more common ground on jobs formation than the health care issue, it will still be plagued by division and pork.
Which brings us to the next point: Obama has finally allowed some emotion to leak out of his calm demeanor. There is a lot of frustration with the Republican side of Congress, especially considering that until about two weeks ago, health care could have been pushed through with a supermajority. Obama commented on that, saying, “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town – a supermajority – then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”
He recognized that the people are tired of the impractical posturing and lack of cooperation in Congress. One big step he took was to say, “Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there’s a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.” While this is a great idea, the president also said that the health care reconciliation between the House and Senate would be televised on CSPAN, Congress didn’t let that happen. It seems that our public servants enjoy telling us that they’ll fix our problems, they just don’t want to show us how they are planning to do it. Earmark spending transparency would definitely be a good step toward airing out the back room deals in Congress’s dirty laundry.
Obama also took a well aimed shot at the Supreme Court for overturning the campaign finance law the barred corporations from making unlimited donations to election campaigns, saying, “(U.S. Supreme Court ruling) I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”
Among other things, the president also spoke of re-integrating Iraq veterans when the majority of them come home this August, the signing of a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, abolishing don’t ask don’t tell, taxing banks that benefited from the bank bailout, reforming immigration law and standing by Haiti along with other impoverished countries. It might seem that Bob McDonnell had a point when he delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address, saying, “The government is trying to do too much.”
It is a large plate that the president has ordered. As he said in the address, the administration has had some well deserved setbacks this year, partly because the very problem of trying to do too much and accomplishing very little of what he set out to do. This isn’t to say that these things aren’t important and must be completed, but if the government can’t get its act together then the most important priorities must be handled.
Honestly, the president needs to get a little angrier at both sides of Congress. Many times during the address, the president referred to Washington as a disembodied third party telling “them” what will and will not pass. It was my understanding that Washington was everyone in the room, Congress, Justices, advisers, Joint Chiefs of Staff and a few honored guests. Apparently there must be a lot of other hidden parts of Washington “we the people” don’t happen to be aware of, obstructing the passage of “common-sense” reforms.
As far as checks and balances go, the president should be hammering Congress into reform with proposals and executive orders, not dragging them along like frustrated puppies, coaxing them whenever they won’t go along with his plans. So while the State of the Union was a good dish, filled with many good promises and plans, it was not peppered with enough anger and thus, conviction. I will start believing that the President really wants “change” when he starts demanding it from the responsible people in the room, instead of asking for it to happen as if none of them had a hand in the outcome.
On a final side note Bob McDonnell sure looked cute trying to talk about making decisions for the nation when he hasn’t even been the governor of Virginia a month yet. I sure hope Bob gets us our jobs like he promised, cuts all of our taxes and fixes all of transportation and health needs by next year, or I’m going to hold a conference and tell him how he should run the state. Thanks for setting the president straight Bob, we definitely need to use “all of our natural resources” and stop taxing rich people who clearly deserve their wealth. I for one would love to start drilling oil 50-100 miles offshore of Virginia so that 10 years from now we can extract the last scant bit of oil left to us in our mountain-less state because we blasted all of the coal out. That quote by Sen. Brown who was elected less than a week ago, that was really something profound. Good luck running for president in 2012, when your party pimps you out like an Alaskan soccer mom.