Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SOTU* thoughts

It felt like a liberal pep rally... which, as a liberal, felt pretty cool... and seeing him walk in there like a conquering hero, I had one of those "I can't believe he's really President" moments. As someone who rarely watches a SOTU* from beginning to end, there were some aspects of it that were a little puzzling and/or annoying... like why does the Supreme Court and Cabinet enter through a tunnel like they're a sports team? Shaking hands, slapping backs... it's just odd. And while I'm familiar with the "half the chamber leaps to their feat and cheers every third sentence" dynamic of these things, it's really irritating when you want to hear what the man has to say. I found the speech to be pleasingly orthodox in it's liberal nature... but coated in a bipartisan candy shell to make the medicine go down... in a way only Obama can do. The keys to me were the commitment to healthcare this year and cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term (yeah I said it... and so did he). Sullivan has the best round up of reactions as usual.

As far as the rebuttal... I think I'm the only person besides Bobby Jinal's mom who didn't think it was terrible... in fact, I thought it was pretty decent... but since even David Brooks and Fox News panned it, I'm clearly on the wrong side of conventional wisdom... but I'm going to stick to my guns. He did a decent job considering he had to work with talking points that are, essentially, 29 years old and most of America hates right now. Also, when I think of a "terrible speech", I think of this... which is a pretty high bar to pass... I guess I'm just so used to McCain's "speechifying" that even a pedestrian effort seems like an improvement for a GOP with a very short bench. Yeah he sounded like Kenneth and talked to us like we were third graders, but "meh" delivery is fairly typical of politicians who are not Obama... and I don't know who the GOP could have put up there to effectively counter him. I don't think that stylistically it was good by any means, but I also don't think that's why so many people are giving him such terrible marks. Most commentators, I think, are criticizing him mostly because his message was so... well... insane. Look at David Brooks here:

He says that there is a debate within the Republican party about its message, but I think that debate consists of basically David Brooks vs. every other conservative. The "Government is the problem" critique has been the standard GOP opposition to the stimulus... pork, earmarks, and tax cuts have been all they've been saying, so of course that's what Jindal's going to base his rebuttal around. Yeah, it comes off terribly because it makes no sense... but that's not Bobby Jindal's fault, that's the fault of an ideology that is intellectually bankrupt.

But anyway... maybe since 90% of these rebuttals are widely regarded as awful... and Sebelius basically ruined her chances at VP because of a bad one... maybe the opposition party should decline to give it? Or just have some career pol who has no ambition to move any higher?

* Yeah I know it wasn't really a State of the Union Address because... well... because.