Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Thursday Morning Quarterbacking" (Wall Street Journal)

Wall Street Journal:
Here’s a roundup of analysis on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
Clive Crook, the Atlantic: “Little sign of a reset that I could see. The speech emphasized jobs and the economy over healthcare reform, but that would have made sense even if the political landscape had not shifted. As for the poll numbers, as for Massachusetts, they might never have happened. He mentioned Scott Brown’s victory only obliquely, and in way that denied it any significance…He conveyed almost no sense that the country was sending him a message and that he was paying attention. He shuffled priorities-but goals and methods had not changed. The tone was uncompromising and often combative. ‘We don’t quit. I don’t quit.’ If you admire tenacity, there was a lot to like.”

Fred Barnes, the Weekly Standard: “Haven’t we heard that speech before, practically every word of it? Maybe it was a year ago when President Obama first addressed Congress. Maybe it was during the campaign. Maybe it was at one of those town halls? Maybe Obama can’t help himself. His speeches just insist on sounding the same. In any case, Obama delivered the least fresh State of the Union address I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard more than 30 of them. It was filled with old ideas, campaign cliches, and frequent use of personal pronoun, ‘I.’ That’s the Obama pattern.”

Brian Darling, “The President, when not blaming the Bush Administration for his problems, merely thinks that the American people are not listening to him. This is good news for conservatives, because the President’s speech last night shows that he will take no action to right the ship before Congressional elections this November and he seems incapable of a nuanced approach to politics that includes a mix of conservative and liberal approaches to problem solving. The President is like the Captain of the Titanic in April of 1912 steaming past huge icebergs in the hope that his ship of state somehow makes it until the end of the year without a catastrophic collision.”

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, the Nation: “A contemporary State of the Union address is less an assessment of our national circumstances than it is a collective Rorschach test: an inkblot given meaning by the viewer more than by the subject. The televised pageantry of applause and ovations has little to do with the President’s articulation of a policy agenda and far more to do with how his partisan allies and opponents read the electoral viability of his phrases.”

Michael Scherer, Time: “So it went all night for the President, who a year ago came before the same body to announce, ‘Now is the time to act boldly and wisely.’ That bold wisdom has, in the course of a year, been transformed into a much more qualified vision of something short of significant legislative failure. ‘To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills,’ he said.”

Howard Fineman, Newsweek: “If one speech can replenish a presidency—and I’m not sure it can—Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was just such a speech. In tone and content it was aimed squarely at the fickle voters he has lost since last year: the swing-voting independents in the middle of the spectrum…As a piece of politics, it was nothing short of masterful.”

John Dickerson, Slate: “It was appropriate that the iPad was unveiled the same day President Obama gave his first State of the Union speech. Both were centered on Jobs, and both sought to give people something useful they could put their hands on…The State of the Union speech was intended, at least in part, to remind voters that the president is the same guy they elected 14 months ago. It’s another similarity the speech shares with the iPad: They were seen as possibly reviving troubled enterprises (the publishing industry and the Obama brand). The president’s speech was another of his good ones. But like the iPad and publishing, it’s not clear how much the good packaging really will help the venture.”

Joan Walsh, Salon: “It was a good speech. It was better and tougher than I expected (I didn’t expect him to tweak the GOP for playing “Just say no,” for instance). But I’ve swooned over Obama’s speeches before. The man can do speeches. He needs to follow this one up with tough action to make his agenda reality before it will really be more than just words to me.”

David Corn, Mother Jones: “Here was an opportunity for Obama to show himself a fighter, by confronting GOPers and the insurance lobbyists more forcefully, depicting the health care debate as a face-off with two sides, and encouraging Americans to enter the fray, presumably on his side. Yet he made no explicit pitch for citizen pressure on Congress. (What about the Obama Nation army of 13 million people? He wasn’t talking to them.)”

Mark McKinnon, Daily Beast: “The reality is that the speech he gave tonight in terms of his agenda hasn’t changed much from speeches he was giving a year ago…The speech was good, but not a game-changer. I think a week from now, the picture of this presidency will look largely the same.”

Yuval Levin, National Review: “The president gave a campaign speech tonight, but the Democrats had better hope that this is not what their campaign speeches are like this year. It was amazingly disconnected from the moment — treating and describing the public as downtrodden, depressed, but resilient, when the public mood seems more like fed up

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