Watched the President’s speech tonight and came away feeling sad as much as anything. Despite my personal dislike of the President and distaste for his politics and policies, I was hoping that a more pragmatic and conciliatory (I dared not to expect humble!) President would present himself tonight, especially given the recent losses of his party in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and recent polls that indicate the dire straits both he and his party is in at this point in the 2010 election season.
So what did we get? Unfortunately, more of the same in the way of high-falutin’ empty rhetoric and promises that, if history is to be judged, he has little or no interest in keeping. To me, that’s OK – after all, that’s what State of the Union speeches are for. By their very nature they’re long, self-serving and congratulating, partisan, and generally pretty boring affairs, so I get that, and, like I say, that’s OK.
What made me sad and truly fearful of this man’s presidency, was the general angry, petty, and condescending tone of his overall speech. The Obama of the 2008 campaign trail had that “hope and change” mantra going, and he could turn a phrase and offer up a self-deprecating jibe at himself and the powers that be in Washington in a way that made him both likeable and approachable (even if that weren’t true).
One year into his presidency, Obama’s SOTU speech was an uninspiring and critical affair where everyone from George W. Bush, Democrats and Republicans, the voters, talk radio, and, yes, even the members of the Supreme Court (sitting directly in front of him) were subject to his barbs and criticism. In fact, the only one who he didn’t blame for the state this country is in at the present was numero uno. This wasn’t a nice speech; it wasn’t gracious, it wasn’t hopeful, it certainly wasn’t classy, and more than that, it wasn’t presidential.
I think National Review Online’s Yuval Levin put it best:
…But on the whole, this was really an incredibly graceless, self-righteous, and grouchy performance. It had a lot of whatâ€™s bad about Obamaâ€™s speeches (he said â€œIâ€ almost a hundred times, repeatedly referred to his campaign as though it were a great American story we all love, continued to blame Bush for everything under the sun even as he said he was â€œnot interested in re-litigating the past,â€ and piled clichÃ©s sky high) but none of whatâ€™s good about his speechesâ€”the simple theme simply pursued. It was a very Clintonian speech without Clintonâ€™s human charm.
I truly believe tonight’s speech marks the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, and that makes me sad. Not for the person, since I truly believe Barack Obama’s true goal has always been to destroy capitalism and the socio-economic fabric of the United States, and he and the hoodlums and cronies he has surrounded himself with get what they deserve, but for all those people who truly believed the hype and aura candidate Obama’s team created around him. Obama was different. Obama would make everything right, Obama would usher in a new “era of good feeling”.
Sure, he might still be able to turn a phrase when read off a TelePrompTer, but how sad it is that in just a little over two years Mr. “Hopenchange” has revealed himself to be a thin-skinned, bitter, unprepared, detached, aloof, and arrogant politician unwilling to admit his own mistakes and lacking in any kind of graciousness and class typically associated with the office of the President of the United States.
I’m not saying there isn’t room in an individual elected President for those kinds of negative qualities – hell, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter had them in spades. But the difference is how you present yourself in public. Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign presented himself as a uniter and someone who by his very nature could transcend the partisan bitterness left over from the George W. Bush years. Tonight, when a little self-deprecating humor and sense of humilty would have gone a long way, he showed himself to be someone lacking in those most basic qualities that people seek in a leader. Leaders don’t play the blame game, leaders lead by example.
Most people, I think, in the end – no matter what the state of things are in the country at a given point in time – want to feel good about their President and their country, want to believe that things are going to get better, and will therefore give the President some leeway in the hope and desire of seeing him succeed. Barack Obama’s angry, bitter, and condescending performance tonight will only serve to polarize the electorate further and make the task of those who earnestly want both him and his presidency to succeed all the more tougher.