Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President's speech sets economic course

President Obama’s Speech to the Joint Session of Congress is being lauded by many, and predictably, panned by those on the other side.


David Brooks said, "I thought it was an excellent speech. It's been a long time since I've really been able to rave over an Obama speech, but I thought this was a speech that perfectly captured the tenor of the country."

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic wrote, "It was a tough speech, threading the needle between sobriety about the times we live in and hope, and between the challenges we're facing (particularly in the economic and political environment) and the policies Obama wants to pursue."

David Gergen, on CNN's Anderson Cooper program, 360 offered, "This was the most ambitious president we've heard in this chamber in decades. The first half of the speech was FDR fighting for the New Deal. The second half was Lyndon Johnson fighting for the Great Society and we have never seen those two presidents rolled together in quite this way before."


Rich Lowery, at National Review Online wrote: It probably sounded good to most Americans, who desperately want Obama to succeed. Whether it's as plausible or credible when Obama comes back to speak to a joint session of Congress next year is the $1 trillion question.

Will Wilkinson, Cato Institute blogger had this to offer: "Oratorywise, so good. Ideawise, so weak. Combination, so dangerous."

Unfortunately, I couldn’t devote my full attention to the speech because after nearly 48 hours of being without power, I was elbows deep cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer of food that had to be thrown out. Since my freezer had defrosted, I took the opportunity to whip up a bucket of soap and bleach and hot water and I became Captain Homemaker. I did have the speech on the radio, however, following along.

The president got off to a rousing start in the second paragraph when he laid out the issue of the economy and those being hurt by it.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has -- a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

I also liked this section:

The fact is our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. (Applause.) Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

I won’t go step-by-step through it. You can read it, however, in its entirety, here.

The Republican response was an interesting one, in my opinion, with the choice of Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal. Just 37 days into the presidency of Barack Obama, the loyal opposition has apparently made a decision to begin their quest to capture the oval office in 2012. Jindal, who political pundits have already identified as a potential front runner for the GOP nomination in 2012 (how the heck can you knight someone as "front runner" four years out?), gave a somewhat dour assessment of the president's speech to congress.

Jindal, to his credit, parsed his remarks as a "philosophical difference" in how to govern, and I totally agree that there are certainly two methods of proceeding through our current economomic morass.

"In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government," Jindal said. "We oppose the national Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.

"In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear -- our party got away from its principles. Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say this: Our party is determined to regain your trust," Jindal said.

The entire transcript to Governor Jindal's response can be read here.

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