Even though I’m billing this as a personal reflection, I doubt I will use the first person singular pronoun in any of its declensions as often as did the president in his speech last night. I guess that given my “job” as a blogger, I was expected to watch it so I could blog on it, but, well, I kind of spaced it.
Perhaps, it was my psyche speaking telling me I had had enough politics for the day. In fact, so much had I spaced that it took a look up at the CNN monitor while I was doing my cardio to realize that the speech was only 35 minutes and 42 seconds away.
So, I prolonged my workout, waited and watched. As the House chamber filled, some of the Democrats who appeared on screen made my skin crawl. Biden looked the village idiot, his lips turned up in a perpetual smile as if he were aware of no other facial expression. Pelosi looked like someone whose time has come, as if her act were over, but she were still lingering on stage. Watching her, I realized that even if Republicans don’t recapture Congress next fall, she won’t be up there for the next such address.
Rahm Emanuel seemed strangely solitary as if his colleagues were steering clear of me. The fetching Stephen Green helped express the inchoate ideas in my head, “I couldn’t quite make out what Rahm was saying, or who he was saying it to, but the expression made me think, ‘Fredo, I knew it was you.’”
The president himself looked good. He strode down aisle, confident, seeming in command. The peevishness that he has displayed in recent interviews was not present. He seemed like the kind of guy with whom you’d like to have a beer–or play a game of hoops.
Then, he began to speak. He lost me at with the recycled campaign rhetoric. I stopped following the speech after reading this line on the close captioning: “They [the American people] are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness.”
“You mean,” I said somewhat sotto voce, “they’re tired of the way you blame Bush, treat Republicans and react to criticism and setbacks?”
Perhaps, if I were paid to cover politics, I would have remained to watch the whole thing–or would have completed my cardio well before the address began.
After I stepped down from the machine, I chatted amicably with an acquaintance in the gym, then returned home, passing apartments where neighbors had their TVs on, but the voices I heard were not the president’s. Had he had already finished up and they moved onto other things? Or were they just not interested, or, even perhaps not aware of tonight’s talk?
For most Americans, politics is not all there is, indeed, it doesn’t even make their “Top Ten.” And sometimes even those of us who take a significant interest in politics tire of the topic.
It was seven o’clock when I flipped the TV on, eager to hear what Krauthammer had to say. But, that sage pundit was not yet on; the president was still speaking. My niece called to thank me for her birthday present and we talked for about ten minutes, but I still had time to see (and hear) the end of the address and agree with John Podhoretz that there was some “good speechifying” there.
This time, however, the visuals did not match up with the rhetoric. There was no sparkle in Obama’s eyes when he read this uplifting words (as the Gipper certainly would have as his countenance shifted and his speech quickened). Obama seemed sometimes to snarl. And some of his rhetoric was at odds with his record this past year.
I have since skimmed the speech and listened to the talking heads on FoxNews. I doubt I would have done so were I not a blogger, would instead have been preparing to write the section about Perseus for the “testosterone” chapter in my dissertation.
I agree with Krauthammer that the president’s rhetoric and policy proposals have changed little in the past years, wondering whether we should praise him for his “tenacity” or fault him for his “stubbornness.” He still sees government as the means to address our nation’s economic problems. Obama may have embraced Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric, but has not appreciated his ideas.
In fact, there were no new ideas there. He just provided the same old government-driven solutions that, in the past, have failed to promote the economic growth they promised. Tenacity to his principles he may have, but it’s just imagination he lacks.
His liberalism is no different from the failed ideas of the past.