The New Moderate’s ‘Rebuttal’ to Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address
One of the burdens of writing for the blogosphere is that the competition invariably beats you to the punch — especially if the competition is 28 years old and happily juiced on energy drinks. Take half a day to ponder the events of the night before, and the train has already pulled out of the station.
I say better a day late than two days late. So here, for your entertainment and edification, is my point-by-point moderate’s “rebuttal” to Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address. Obama’s ideas are in boldface, sometimes quoted directly and sometimes not. My responses follow beneath in humble lightface type.
“We’ve had our differences…”
That’s an understatement. Even a Tea Partier would have to agree with Obama on that one.
“We are still bound together as one people… We’ll move forward together or not at all.”
Wishful thinking, but a valuable idea to keep in mind before we actually splinter into separate sub-nations based on religion, politics, socioeconomic standing and cultural preferences. Conservatives are constitutionally opposed to the notion of moving ahead together, but I’m not. Just don’t collectivize the farms.
On jobs: “The rules have been changed in the middle of the game.”
Way too true. Ask any baby boomer. Ask me. Nothing in our education prepared us for a postindustrial economy, concentration of wealth and the end of upward mobility for most of us. In hindsight, I would have become an investment banker or a Marxist. It’s the people struggling in the middle who have had the rug pulled out from under them.
We need to encourage innovation: “It is how we make our living.”
Constant innovation is already leaving most of us in the dust, but I must concede that America is a shark: we have to keep moving or die.
“This is our nation’s Sputnik moment.”
The most widely quoted line from Obama’s speech is intriguing and probably apt: we’ve been backed into a corner by our Great Recession and the simultaneous rise of China and South Korea as technological powers. We have no choice but to find our untapped strengths and reinvent ourselves if we want to stay competitive.
We need to focus on clean energy solutions: a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015; 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035.
Of course, the rise of clean energy implies the decline of dirty energy… probably not a bad thing, though the oil and coal lobbies will look for ways to keep us dirty as long as possible.
We need to make quality education a top priority. “It’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl that needs to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair… By the end of the decade, America will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
Hallelujah for the sentiments, and good luck.
We need to take on “undocumented” immigration, enforce the law but make an exception for the children of illegals who are enrolled in college.
Fair enough. We probably shouldn’t be punishing the children for the sins of the parents. But do we round up those parents and ship them south of the border while the kids are in school? It gets complicated.
Let’s renovate our crumbling infrastructure and introduce high-speed rail to most of the country. We’d be creating essential construction jobs.
I love train travel, and we need to put people to work… let’s do it!
Our corporate tax rate is forbiddingly high; at the same time too many companies use convenient loopholes to avoid paying taxes. We need to level the playing field by lowering corporate taxes and eliminating loopholes.
Right on, Mr. President! A long-overdue correction.
On his controversial healthcare program: “Let’s fix what needs fixing and then move forward.”
I like an open-minded chief executive. Obama knows we need universal healthcare by hook or by crook so that nobody has to go bankrupt on account of illness (or prohibitively high premiums). Yet he’s still willing to compromise so as not to alienate the pro-insurance faction in Congress. Let’s hope he knows the limits of compromise.
Push for medical malpractice reform “to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”
Yes! Three times yes! If American doctors didn’t have to fork over $100K annually for malpractice insurance, both healthcare costs and the cost of healthcare insurance would plummet.
Our national debt is out of control; government, like the rest of us, has to live within its means. Propsal: Freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.
Sounds smart, though we probably need to freeze foreign spending as well.
We can’t afford to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of the population. We wouldn’t be “punishing their success”… we’d be “promoting American success.”
Absolutely. The rich were already opening a huge gap over the middle class before the Bush-era tax cuts. The current gap is undeserved, unconscionable during a debt crisis, and greater than at any time since the glory days of the 1920s. Let the rich heroically surrender a few extra percentage points off the top for the good of the country that made their fortunes possible.
Simplify the U.S. tax code.
Yes! High time, too.
Eliminate redundant federal agencies.
Furnish the public with information about lobbying activity and spending in Congress, and make it available online.
Amen! Of course, I’d go a step further and prohibit any exchange of money between lobbyists and elected representatives.
The president will veto any bill that comes to him embellished with special earmarks (a.k.a. “pork”).
Hurrah! Can this man do anything wrong?
“American Muslims are part of our American family.”
OK, let’s not be so quick to adopt homegrown Islamist fanatics, jihadists and terrorists. All others are welcome.
The Iraq war is coming to an end, and we’ll soon be transitioning to Afghan leadership in the war against the Taliban.
Sounds good to The New Moderate, as long as it’s true.
The U.S. plans to fight Muslim terrorists worldwide and support “the democratic aspirations of all people.”
Noble and righteous… but let’s not overextend ourselves, either. JFK’s similar promise that we’d “bear any burden” got us mired in Vietnam. We can let our words (and our intelligence operations) do the supporting.
Our democracy can be “messy and contentious,” but we wouldn’t trade places with any other country.
Well said. A certain amount of discord is the price we pay for our freewheeling representative government.
We believe in the same promise: this is a country where anything is possible.
I like to think it’s still true. If enough of us agree that it’s true, it will be true.
“America is the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.”
And many of our most successful citizens are very ordinary indeed. No, strike that — sometimes my cynicism gets the best of me. The message here is central to our national identity: we’ve tradtionally been a nation of pioneers, innovators and dreamers. Not poets and philosophers so much as practical dreamers, from all backgrounds and levels of education. This is a tradition worth nurturing, and to nurture it we need to make sure that opportunity doesn’t become the exclusive province of our new upper class.
“We do big things.”
The president borrowed this simple but powerful slogan from the tiny American company that pulled off the miraculous rescue of the Chilean miners last year. Thinking big is part of the American character: part of why we’re so often seen as meddlers and hotshots by outsiders, and part of what makes us truly great. It’s an attitude we need to keep in mind as we recover from the ravages of a demoralizing decade.
You can see that my “rebuttal” looked more like an amen corner. That’s no accident. It was a wise, rousing and inspiring speech — the handiwork of a statesman rather than a politician. Obama clearly sees himself as president of all the people — not the spokesman for his base. His vision is progressive but rational, generous but balanced.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Obama’s hard experience in office has moved him toward the center — not because it’s easy (he’ll be taking flak from both extremist camps for the rest of his presidency) but because he knows it’s the right thing to do.