I had not intended to watch the President’s speech last night because I knew I would want to blog on it as I did–and there are other things I’d rather address in these pages. When I flipped on FoxNews, I had hoped to hear Charles Krauthammer offering his opinion on the address and then turn to other pressing matters related to my recent return from my travels.
But, the speech started late, leaving Dennis Miller to quip (on The O’Reilly Factor), “When a 6:00 speech starts at 6:15, that says it all” [about the government running things]. So, I started watching the speech in medias res. And as I feared, after watching the second half and reading the entire text, I have many, many thoughts about the speech. And perhaps the only good ones are an appreciation for the rhetorical crescendo with which the President concluded his remarks, trying to put his plans in a larger context.
While his language was stirring, his remarks were disingenuous. After staffing his White House with partisan political operatives, Barack Obama can no longer even pretend to claim to float above the bitter partisan battles which divide our nation. He may have offered conciliatory rhetoric in his speech, but he also offered gratuitous attacks. And he has allied himself with some of the most divisive figures and organizations in our nation’s capitol.
Not just that, he refused to fault their mean-spirited rhetoric in his speech. While it was his fellow partisans, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who called their adversaries “un-American,” he took issue only with opponents of a government measure (presumably he means those who opposed the statist aspects of his program) who used the term:
And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter — that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges.
It was this type of rhetoric, albeit aspiring to appeal to the best in us, which, even more than his dishonesty and claims that his plan won’t add “one dime to the deficit, now or in the future” which defined what I have called “the hypocrisy at the heart of the Obama Administration.” And perhaps for the first time since Barack Obama took office, I found myself shouting at the television set as the the President spoke to the American people, particularly when he lashed out against the nasty partisan politics that plagues our nation’s capital. For he, his team and his allies have actively contributed to, indeed exacerbated, the problems he rhetorically decries:
But what we’ve also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have towards their own government. Instead of honest debate, we’ve seen scare tactics.
Unlike Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., I was not in the President’s presence, so it was not inappropriate for me to shout out as it was for him. While I certainly share his sentiments, he was wrong to heckle the President of the United States from the floor of the House of Representatives. He should have shown respect for the office even as he disagrees (and distrusts) the man. He was right to apologize.
But, the president can’t act as if only those criticizing his plan are contributing to the disdain Americans have toward government. He — and his allies– have contributed to the growing anti-government sentiment far more than any of his political adversaries. They didn’t create that disdain. They tapped into it.
And so too did candidate Barack Obama in his campaign last fall–and even in his address last night.