Impressions from Obama's speech and the republican response:
Frak it, lets go big. I mean the guy is gonna cure cancer, halve the deficit, and fix energy, healthcare, education and the economy. I applaud the boldness with which he makes these statements. Now is a time for boldness. But damn! Its big stuff and Obama runs a real risk of massively overpromising. You can credibly make the argument that the stimulus bill did not go far enough. So if he promises way beyond his ability to deliver, he's going to be punished for that by the electorate. But I like that he says it like he thinks he can do it. Now Mr. President, stand and deliver.
The republican response:
Bobby Jindal was charged with the republican response. I've heard good things about Jindal and I'm inclined to like him because he is a wonky sort of a guy. Tonight was his introduction to the national stage and to a large number of people who have never seen or heard of the guy. It was not an auspicious beginning in my view.
The opening few seconds of his rebuttal were jarring for me. First, he comes walking out and he's this skinny brown skinned guy and he looked quite nerdy and geeky. Then, to make it a tad freakier, he starts talking and this Louisiana accent is coming out of this skinny brown nerd face and he's trying to be folksy while he reads from the teleprompter and it did not quite work. So his tele-mojo was not really clicking. So he gets no points for style.
On content and theme, I have to say it was a miss for me too. The theme was an old GOP favorite. Government is bad, government is the problem. I'm sorry, but I don't think that old saw is adequate to the rhetorical challenge of Obama nor the concerns of the electorate for action. I think that when the GOP says government is the problem, government is bad, what the electorate hears is "do nothing". The problems confronting us are perceived to be huge and require something as huge to address them, and in this case, thats the federal government. There is a role for the government and to talk as though there is not I think is a big miss.
On content, some real missteps too. For starters, the emphasis on race and talking about Obama as the first black president. His blackness is evident to us all, we just got finished being cheesed off by Holder's ham fisted comments on the subject and Jindal comes out leading with some schtick about how glorious it is that we have a black president? I think the country has already pretty much absorbed the novelty of that and is trying very hard to get on with business. I think the country regards him as "the President" and is rapidly permitting his color to fade away into the background. I think much of America already finds the non white reality of the President to be routine, unremarkable and not particularly worthy of comment. Its America, we have a black President....and?
Why do I call Jindal a liar? Because of this statement:
"A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover — or that America’s best days are behind her."
The President did not say, nor did he imply that the US cannot recover or that America's best days are behind us. Simply never did. It was a lie. Jindal's use of this phrase along with his repeated assertion that "Americans can do anything" was an attempt once again to rhetorically paint Obama as un-American. There is no shortage of legitimate issues upon which to disagree vehemenently with the President. This continued insinuation that Obama is un-American as a political tactic of opposition is quite dissapointing and angers me. We don't have time for it. And considering that the use of such tactis resulted in the GOP's defeat in the election by a margin of 192 EVs, I'm waiting for somebody to get the frakking memo. Being a liar in your national introduction is not great
As he was closing, Jindal also said the following:
"You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust — and rightly so."
Michael Steele made a similiar statement about trust while on the Glenn Beck show recently and hearing Jindal say it gave me an epiphany about why the GOP's time in the wilderness may be long indeed. Republicans were running the show for six of the last eight years and in that time, did not distinguish ourselves as the party of fiscal discipline whatsoever. Now, we rail against the profligate spending of the One and the democratic congress, but we've lost all authority and standing to criticize the democrats on this issue. It simply rings hollow. We have been exposed as being nothing more than politicians who will spend the taxpayer's dime just as easily as a democrat will, making us therefore indistinguisable from them and it renders our attempts to be a unified opposition on spending and fiscal prudence very empty sounding. Bottom line, we are simply not believed on these issues, because when it was our turn, that is not how we behaved. And that is why we fail to get any major traction with such arguments against the One.