In a previous post, I quoted my pal Sonicfrog’s (rhetorical) question on the president’s speech last week in Osawatomie, Kansas, “OK, so what is your solution to fix the problem of the diminishing middle class?”. His comment is particularly telling because unlike most conservative critics of the speech, Sonic thought it a “good speech“. Even as the Democrat defined the current crisis, he, the blogger observed, “has absolutely no idea what to do about any of it… Except campaign.”
In a similar vein, libertarian law professor Richard Epstein, in his commentary on the question wrote:
The substantive question is whether Obama has proposed a reform agenda that has any chance of achieving his stated goal of restoring to the middle class the prospect of decent wages that will allow them to educate their children and provide for their own retirement. That kind of analysis is always difficult to do on Obama’s speeches because he flits from topic to topic with such rapidity that it is next to impossible to get a fix on his substantive positions.
Via Instapundit. While other pundits faulted the address for what Epstein might calls it “demagogic” tone, Epstein found the real problem was its intellectual incoherence:
As a matter of high principle, the president announces his fealty to markets. As a matter of practical politics, he denigrates and undermines them at every step. It is a frightening prospect to have a president who lives in a time warp that lets him believe that the failed policies of 1935 can lead this nation back from the brink.
The speech seems almost a paean to the policies which had long since been repealed, as if we no longer had an aggressive public sector, indeed, as if the speaker had spent the last three years in the political opposition and not as the chief executive who had succeeded in enacting many of his spending proposals and cherished initiatives.
As the Democrat lamented the state of our union, he has as Charles Krauthammer put it on Friday, avoided “addressing the underlying structural problems, which would require modernizing the totemic programs of the New Deal and Great Society.” And just as Obama creates the false choice between Democrats who support such programs and Republicans who oppose them, in the real world, Republicans, notably House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and various GOP presidential hopefuls, have put forward proposals to reform them.
The Democrat, by contrast, has, in Krauthammer’s words, “spent three years on signature policies that either ignore or aggravate ” the nation’s structural problems. Moreover, the sage pundit added,
on the one issue that already enjoys a bipartisan consensus — the need for fundamental reform of a corrosive, corrupted tax code that misdirects capital and promotes unfairness — Obama did nothing, ignoring the recommendations of several bipartisan commissions, including his own.
So, in Osawatomie, the incumbent president set up a false choice, demagoguing his partisan adversaries, many of whom have put forward reform proposals, without putting forward a solution of his own. This speech becomes a defining moment for this president who enjoyed virtually unprecedented political power in his first two years in office.
Once again, Obama attempts to leave by speech-making, but only succeeds in attacking the opposition. And fails to put forward a real roadmap for change.
Some new kind of politician. Some commitment to changing the tone in Washington.
ADDENDUM: Perhaps this is not the defining moment, but one of many such moments, the first such being his terse response shortly after his inauguration to Republicans concerned about the size of his “recovery” plan. Or his FY 2012 budget forecasting at 1.62 trillion dollar deficit. Or his April 13 speech effectively renouncing that budget without offering an alternative.
I trust some of you are aware of other defining moments.