Opinion: The laundry list from Obama’s non-laundry-list State of the Union address


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Of all the major political events en route in coming weeks and months -- President Obama’s budget, the Republicans’ budget, the debt ceiling fight and the continuing budget resolution -- this State of the Union stuff is the least important.

Thanks to today’s media saturation, appointment political events like such speeches to Congress, presidential news conferences and debates garner way too much attention beforehand. It’s like good Kansas City BBQ: The anticipation is exquisite. It’s great going down. But two days later you’re hungry again.


So, a stipulation up front: Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, all 6,200+ words of it, won’t matter a whit by Monday. We’re chewing on it this morning. TV will have ....

... reactions all day. Instant polls will show some viewers liked what they thought they heard when they weren’t in the bathroom or talking back at the TV screen during a 62-minute show with no commercial breaks. But by the time the Beltway talk shows finish Sunday morning, this Obama State of the Union will be like Goldilocks’ porridge, the one that’s way too cold.

So before then, some not quite random observations:

It’s strange for a president who’s basically gutting NASA’s manned space program to call for another Sputnik moment to galvanize the nation to do something he apparently thinks we can’t afford anymore.

All the national unity, innovations, new products, jobs, medical lessons, pride and science that he cites coming out of that vast space undertaking were so good for the country that after the last shuttle mission this summer we’ll be renting seats on Russian rockets. A sputter moment.

It’s strange to hear Obama aides talk in advance so much about the new and improved non-laundry-list State of the Union format being polished by the left-handed president himself.

Here are the non-laundry-list State of the Union priorities from the ex-state senator:

We need to fix schools and fix roads and fix bridges and fix the tax code and fix the organization of government and solar energy and tax the rich more again and freeze spending on a small fraction of spending and boost exports and help small business.

Oh, and also he’s going to veto any legislation with earmarks because, by golly, this time he really, really means it. And stop subsidizing greedy oil companies. And he wants one of those State of the Union evergreens: ‘a review of government regulations.’

At least Obama didn’t say anything was shovel-ready.

We thought we were watching tape of his 2010 State of Union until the dead giveaway: In light of the Nov. 2 election ‘shellacking,’ this time Obama could only mutter a couple hundred words on healthcare because that’s all in the past now, he hopes.

It was strange to hear the guy who called Republicans ‘hostage-takers’ in last month’s tax negotiations say anything nice about one of them, new Speaker John Boehner. But Obama did, to his credit. Strange but nice.

It was also inadvertently thoughtful of the president to assist likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich by talking so much about ‘winning the future,’ the title of a Gingrich book that Obama’s speechwriters forgot to check for on Google.

We heard an awful lot of keen-grasp-of-the-obvious: ‘That world has changed.’ ‘We have to do better.’ ‘Get rid of the loopholes.’ ‘Level the playing field.’

The man who became an attorney and community organizer to change the world is now advising young people to become teachers. (Never mind teachers’ terrible pay compared to, say, attorneys.)

The president says he knows we’re in money trouble, so he wants to cut everything wasteful and unnecessary, as long as -- listen closely now -- it doesn’t hurt vulnerable people. And since he’s a Democrat, we all know who they are.

Speaking of cutting, here comes a new Gallup Poll this morning revealing that significant portions of Americans are seriously in favor of cutting government spending too, as long as it’s not cutting education, Social Security, Medicare, anti-poverty programs, national defense, homeland security and aid to farmers.

Other than that, though, whack away.

The Republicans control one house of Congress, but a president controls Washington’s political agenda. He’ll try to keep the GOP playing defense as well as his Bears did last weekend. Which is to say, not well at all.

Here’s the scenario Obama is setting up for the next two years, giving him something to campaign on starting this morning, in fact, when he takes his re-wrapped message to Wisconsin:

Obama is indeed hiring a whole slew of Clinton retreads to make the administration appear more centrist, and the D.C. media is buying it. But Obama’s not retreating one centimeter from the activist government agenda he’s always pursued.

The packaging, however, is different. Now, he won’t be ‘spending’ billions; he’ll be ‘investing’ them. Winning the future, etc.

And, let’s be honest, what evil political party of number-crunching austerity psychos could possibly object to investing in the education and the future of any resource as precious as America’s innocent children?

Seriously. After all, without those future workers, who are we gonna stick with the bill to pay for all these investments and their compounding interest?

Related Items:

State of the Union addresses: So many words for so little action

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s response for the Tea Party

Rep. Paul Ryan’s response for the GOP

-- Andrew Malcolm

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