Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 25, 2009
POLITICS: State of Obama

Ten thoughts on last night's State of the Union speech; I'll stick for now to the domestic-policy parts, as Obama had little enough newsworthy to say about national security and foreign policy (sample of Obama's fresh thinking: "To seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort."):

1. I listened on the radio, tuning in after Obama had already started, and my first thought, honestly, was: hey, that's Rush Limbaugh! Obama's and Limbaugh's voices aren't really that similar, I think it was the cadences, Obama projecting his voice over the room the same way Rush does into the mike, and the tone that brought the counterintuitive parallel to mind.

2. This was a blisteringly partisan speech, more a campaign speech than a SOTU address, making it clear that the archly partisan approach of Obama's first month in office was no accident. The word of the day was "inherited." Of course, all presidents seek to contrast themselves with, and shift blame to, their predecessors, but even so, this was a bit much:

[W]e 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.

Of course, characterizing letting people keep a little more of the money they work to earn as a plot to "transfer wealth to the wealthy" is extremely revealing of Obama's economic mindset; after uttering those words, I think he owes an apology to Joe the Plumber for calling this what it is.

I will predict this now, as I've been saying privately since at least October: by 2012, Obama will still be talking more about Bush than about his own record. Obama's cagey enough to recognize that his economic policies will only drag down any recovery; he's going to keep focusing on rewriting history to shift blame. Then again, that will be easier for him than for Congressional Democrats; Obama can rail about a "trillion-dollar deficit" and "the massive debt we've inherited," but the fact is that the deficit for the last budget passed by a Republican Congress was below $200 billion (1.2% of GDP); Obama has added multiples to that just in the last month. And of course, as I always note, the really important thing is the overall size of government, since that comes out of all of our hides sooner (taxes), later (debt), or usually both. And there's really no mistaking that Obama will greatly expand the size of that. The contest for most baldfaced lie of the night has to be between his assertion that he is pushing the big-government policies he has pushed at every point of his career "Not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't" and his claim about a bill containing vast numbers of district-specific pork-barrel projects that "we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks" (you can call a pig kosher but you can't make it so).

3. Probably the strongest part of the speech was where Obama explained how the credit crisis affects ordinary Americans. Of course, this was nearly the exact same explanation President Bush gave back in September. And this was hilarious:

It's not about helping banks -- it's about helping people. (Applause.) It's not about helping banks; it's about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend. And if they can get a loan, too, maybe they'll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more.

A major concession for Obama to admit that the health of companies actually affects ordinary people, but of course it was swiftly discarded as he went back to talking about jacking up taxes on corporations during a recession.

4. Sacred cow watch: Obama somehow managed to discuss the troubles of the U.S. auto industry without mentioning the unions once. That's like discussing Wall Street's problems without mentioning bad loans.

5. Obama's "nobody messes with Joe" line about Biden was presumably intended - as it was taken - as comic relief. Dick Cheney actually had a hard-earned reputation as a man you messed with at your peril; there's nothing in Biden's four decades in Washington to suggest anyone has ever feared to cross him. Obama's saddled himself with a Vice President who is a punchline.

6. Obama's discussion of higher education was strong, but a plan to send everyone to college is absurdly wasteful, especially when - as he noted - many of the people starting college today with federally subsidized loans don't finish. There are still many jobs that don't require any college education and many people ill-suited to such an education who nonetheless have other skills that can make them a good living. The end-product of overextension of federal credit for college, as with overextension of federal credit for housing, tends to be program fraud by fly-by-night providers.

7. Promise I will believe when I see it: "end direct payments to large agribusiness that don't need them". Obama is as good a friend as the ethanol business, for example, has ever had; he did well in places like Iowa and Indiana by specifically breaking with McCain over farm subsidies, especially ethanol. He supported the horrible farm bill. Converts are welcome, but I'd like to see him back that one up and have the stones to stare down massive Congressional opposition.

8. I'll be here all day if I get into Obama's health care and entitlement talk, but a few things are clear: Obama has basically guaranteed that he'll tackle health care this year, and he didn't spend any time last night laying out a plan to do so, suggesting that his campaign proposals will take a backseat, yet again, to what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy come up with. His focus on controlling costs while extending more coverage, though, inevitably means rationing care and cracking down on the profit motives of doctors and pharmaceutical companies, with inevitable long-term implications for the supply of physicians and life-saving drugs. And this passage suggests that, despite his slam on delaying problems down the road, that's exactly what Obama will do on entitlements, in stark contrast to Bush's effort to deal with Social Security:

Now, to preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Begin? We've had a debate about Social Security in every election year I can rememeber, we've had more bipartisan commissions and think-tank reports than I can count.

9. Another amusing yet horrifying passage came when Obama suggested we follow China's energy policy (which of course involves massive consumption of coal), then in the next breath announced he'd be proposing carbon emission caps. I hope irony left a will, the funeral will be held shortly.

10. Obama's reading of American history fits neatly in what Jonah Goldberg has described as the literally fascistic tendency to demand the peacetime permanent military-style mobilization of civilian society, the endless search for moral equivalents of war that has been a unifying theme since the days of Woodrow Wilson:

History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle class in history. (Applause.) And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

(I'll get some other day into my review of Goldberg's book, which details the history of this sort of thinking in the U.S. and Europe between the rise of Bismarck in Germany and Hillary's "politics of meaning" in much greater detail).

Obama has chosen his course: push a left-wing, big-government, big-spending agenda with little more than rhetorical window-dressing, and then blame Bush when it doesn't work. Last night formalized that plan. We'll see how long he can keep it up.

PS - Dan Spencer lists the factual errors in Obama's speech; unsurprisingly, there are plenty.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (43) | TrackBack (0)

Let me get this out of the way.

"What you've written here is a partisan attack of The One, who you never supported. I don't have a single example to show you've misrepresented anything. I'd criticize your opinions if I had the candlepower. Stick to baseball."

That should cover it.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 25, 2009 1:11 PM

A couple things to emphasize:

1) The line about "transferring wealth to the wealthy" is so absurd that it's really tragic. One, Bush's tax cuts benefited everyone, all taxpayers. Millions of taxpayers were taken completely off the federal tax rolls. And two, as you pointed out, how is there a transfer of wealth when one retains their own freakin' money?? And three, Obama's proposals are the ones literally transferring wealth, i.e. refundable tax credits. The problem is that the left has bought this lie and many in the center have as well.

2) I truly believe that a major problem we face that nobody realizes is the over-emphasis on college education. This is worth an extended serious look. Frankly put, college is not necessary for most people. Many college graduates don't use their education at all. Many jobs don't require a college education. Overemphasizing the importance of college education has sent tuition costs through the roof. It has made a high school nothing more than a 4-year, college-prep course, with little focus on useable trades and skills, which discourages the students who want nothing to do with college, so they end up just checking out, or worse, dropping out. There is a lot more to be said on this issue, but that's enough.

Posted by: per14 at February 25, 2009 1:26 PM

Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, . . .

Obama delivered a meaningful, thought-out speech that contained complete sentences (probably why spongeworthy had so much trouble with it).

For delivery, I thought it was a "B," not his best work, but better than the Inaugural.

On substance, I thought it was an A-. For the first time in decades, since JFK really (although GHWB did a little), we have a president unafraid to tell the citizens that they have responsibilities and accountabilities. Bush, Clinton, Reagan never pointed out the sacrifices required. He faced up to the need to go after entitlements, even -- heaven forbid, corporate entitlements.

Last, and it is clear why Crank steered clear, the Boy Wonder totally bombed. He looked and sounded juvenile and his "arguments" were nothing more than tired, discredited GOP dogma. He's lucky so few people watched.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 25, 2009 1:58 PM

I didn't bother commenting on Jindal's speech because I missed it, only read it on paper. No point commenting on other people's opinions of the delivery. I will note that every SOTU response I have ever seen from either party was horrendous, as I noted back in 2003.

Oh yeah, Bush never talked about entitlement reform? Really? Reagan never talked about individual responsibility? Please.

Posted by: Crank at February 25, 2009 2:05 PM

Just reiterating my 1984 point:

Tax cuts for everyone are tax cuts for the rich only.
Cuts in tax rates are the same as cuts in tax revenue.
I am a deficit hawk even though I have just added or am planning to add over a trillion dollars to the defict this year.
I will stop the out of control growth of health care and education costs that have been fueled by federal government spending over the last 40 years by spending even more federal government money.

Do people actually believe this nonsense?

Posted by: dch at February 25, 2009 2:17 PM

Bush's idea of entitlement reform was privatizing social security and forcing prayer in schools. That would have worked out well. As for Reagan, he wanted responsibility for his apocryphal "welfare queen," but somehow absent for the officials in his government who traded arms for hostages.

Seriously, watch the Boy Wonder on youtube; Dukakis for the GOP.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 25, 2009 2:17 PM

Privatizing Social Security was proposed by FDR and supported by other presidents including Clinton.
The current estimated future deficit is over 13 trillion-please tell me all the ideas the left has had and proposed regarding that impending crises.

Forcing prayer in schools?-please provide all the factual evidence for your assertion.

Iran/ Contra refernces-lol-is that the best you can do? BTW-are you aware that under federal law that was mentioned during the iran/contra hearings that the presidents powers dealing with hostage takers is basically unreviewable? It goes back to, I believe the early 1800's and legislation passed dealing with the Barbary pirates. Gee, maybe thats why despite all the noise basically nothing came out of the "Iran/Contra scandal". I can't even remember if at the end of the day anyone was even found guilty of anything. Ollie North's convictions were, I believe, thrown out and I forget what happened to Admiral Poindexter

Posted by: dch at February 25, 2009 2:32 PM

It was a pretty quick turnaround for Magrooder to shift gears away from his wholly indefensible assertion that past presidents like Reagan and Bush never discussed personal responsibility or entitlement reform. (Most recently, I'd recommend re-reading Bush's speech on the financial crisis).

The entitlement problem is simple: we and much of the rest of the developed world have unfunded future liabilities that grow with each passing year because there is no link between the system's income and its obligations. There's no way to easily deal with the already-accrued liabilities, but individual accounts are the only way to ensure that future liabilities are fully funded in advance; at least they would stop the process of digging an ever-deepening hole.

Posted by: Crank at February 25, 2009 2:39 PM

Crank I agree with you about your diagnosis and solution for social security. After you awake from fainting I hope you do get a chance to watch Jindal's speech on youtube or something. My God, he sucked.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 25, 2009 2:44 PM

So the concensus from the Left is that Jindal was less than stellar. That's a crushing blow, as, based upon history, I had such high expectations of a governor of Louisiana.

It's a shame folks like Jindal and Palin can't live down to the standard set by the celebrated Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden. "What is the name of my website?"

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 25, 2009 2:57 PM

After spongeworthy's initial post, I did not see that the liberals could post anything since it was already covered. But they did! Their nonsense is unreal. The "Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, . . . " is delusional.

Socialism under the Lord Obama's dictatorship has now has been pretty well layed out for us to see. While he still has some more hidden for later unvieling, I think we now can see what should have been uncovered during the campaign. That is, Obama is a socialist. He hates those who actually work for a living-since he did not actually ever work for a living himself. He feels that Capitalism is corrupt and must be stamped out.

Class warfare here we come! We now don't have racism; rather discrimation based on success. Those who work hard and succeed will pay for those who sit a home an collect their Obama-dollars.

Gird your loins!

BTW: Nice try to turn the conversation away from the Lord Obama's pathetic ideas to Bobby Jindal, Regan, and other non-topics. As usual the liberals can't keep to topic due to liberal attention defect disorder (LADD).

Posted by: Lee at February 25, 2009 3:06 PM

Sponge its not just the left, its Erik Eriksson on redstate and forbes coming after Jindal. Politico does a good write up on it. I mean cmon man, you really saying he was some brilliant pitchman last night?

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 25, 2009 3:07 PM

Gee, when did this topic become a critique of Jindal? The original post was about the Chosen One. Get back on topic!

Posted by: Lee at February 25, 2009 3:13 PM

I just want to make sure I have this right. You have an empty suit putting forth ideas and programs that have repeatedly failed the world over and we are talking about Bobby Jindal's rebuttal speech which basically no one watched.

At the rate we are going, and what obviously is going to happen, we could put Cheney against Obama in 2012 and win.

The people that decided this election certainly did not vote for this I really want to see a poll done of the 20 percent of people in the middle of the electorate who went for Obama 13% to 6% for Mc Cain and see what they think and if they regret their vote in light of the unbridled socialism that is now being rammed down their throats.

Posted by: dch at February 25, 2009 3:18 PM

Magrooder writes: "Bush's idea of entitlement reform was privatizing social security..."

Was that a forced or voluntary plan he pushed? Was it a complete or just a partial privatization plan?

Posted by: Maryland Conservatarian at February 25, 2009 3:20 PM

Agreed that people on the Right seem mostly to have been disappointed with Jindal's delivery. He has a reputation as a good speaker and is a brilliant guy, so maybe he just had a bad night, like Bill Clinton at the 88 Convention. Obviously he didn't hit a home run the way Palin did in her first big national speech (giving set-piece speeches is one of her strongest suits). On paper it wasn't a bad speech - the Katrina story is a great one - but strategically wasn't the direction I would have gone in.

Posted by: Crank at February 25, 2009 3:36 PM

I mean cmon man, you really saying he was some brilliant pitchman last night?

I am saying I am not interested in the governor of Louisiana. Sorry, just not interested.

I know you folks love to point to the approved failings of second-tier GOP politicians, but that isn't going to rescue The One this time. You guys finally got one of your pandering ciphers elected and it's plain he's overmatched and sinking fast. He may just take us all with him and we have you, his Kiddie Komintoern claque, to thank.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 25, 2009 4:13 PM

What is the Vegas over/under for Obama resigning from office because "it is just too hard"? After his approval ratings sink to the level of the Democratic congress and Obama is no longer being worshiped by the MSM; any bets that he will resign from office under his own free will?

Less than 47 months to go!

Posted by: Lee at February 25, 2009 5:19 PM

In the Crank echo chamber, we hear the same tired claims about the President; basically that he is all fluff and no substance. All of which ignores the substance of what has been enacted since January 20 and the substance that he explained last night. Oh, and according to the early polls, the people -- you know, the ones who vote -- liked the speech.

You Wing Nuts should just keep pi****g in the wind and blaming the federal government for hurricanes. Just so you know, in the real world, Katrina was not viewed as an example of GOP competency.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 25, 2009 5:19 PM

"Hi, I'm Bobby Jindal and I just made a goofy ass entrance and am wearing an embarrassing tie. Happy Mardi Gras! I will now segue into kissing Obama's ass for a while since he has high favorability ratings before I launch into a self-promotion biography that has nothing to do with the state of our Union. In conclusion, I offer a tepid uninspiring defense of conservatism well over half way into the speech. Now I finish".

Posted by: robert at February 25, 2009 5:36 PM

The only good thing about off-topic comments is that they reveal the racists among us. Robert, Bobby Jindal does not speak like that. He uses complete sentences and correct tenses. You've caricaturized him because of his race, you racey-ist of racists.

You need to take a long look inside yourself, buster.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 25, 2009 7:00 PM

Me: (reading spongeworthy's last comment) Speechless.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 25, 2009 8:27 PM

It's 8:25 Central Time on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009. Right now, is Obama too negative or too positive? Forgive me. I didn't get the RNC Talking Points.

Posted by: Berto at February 25, 2009 9:32 PM

Me: (reading spongeworthy's last comment) Speechless.

That's a huge improvement. See, Robert, sometimes it's best to just stick a cork in it. Otherwise, something racist might pop out. Magrooder could teach you and Chris Matthews a thing or two.

You racey-racist liberal haters.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 26, 2009 8:53 AM

If I thought you actually understood the import of your comment, I'd label it hypocrisy. Instead, I can conclude only that it is obtuseness.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 26, 2009 9:38 AM

You made a lot more sense when you were speechless. "Obtuseness"?

You're just babbling now.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 26, 2009 11:52 AM


Funny how Jindal was 75 miles away from the impact of katrina, but he still told a great story. Why no fact checking on the boy wonder?

Posted by: javaman at February 26, 2009 1:26 PM

You are obviously unfamiliar with what Jindal was doing during Katrina and its immediate aftermath.

That said, someone does need to be fact-checked.

Posted by: Crank at February 26, 2009 1:37 PM

Obtuseness -- the quality of being obtuse; lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect. Your picture is right there in the dictionary next to the definition.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 26, 2009 1:55 PM

Pin a rose on you--you've babbled a word that's actually in the dictionary.

While you've got it out, why don't you look up "racist" and see if Robert's post fits the definition?

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 26, 2009 2:32 PM

Liberals can make fun of Jindal all they want. But take a second and compare his pre-2009 experience and political accomplishments with Obama's.

Posted by: per14 at February 26, 2009 3:50 PM

Per you're tilting at windmills present only in your mind. Who cares about Jindal's pre-2009 experience compared to Obama's? Obama is now president and moving his agenda along rapidly while Jindal came across as a lawn jockey last night. It's time to quit the petty comparisons and focus upon creating an affirmative conservative agenda translated into modern terms. The more you eat your own bile on blogs the more the conservative dawn gets pushed farther into the future. Nobody cares about such a comparison, the election is over.

Posted by: dante at February 26, 2009 4:51 PM

lawn jockey?

Oh, you gotta be kidding me. I am seriously not going to tolerate racial slurs on this blog.

Posted by: Crank at February 26, 2009 5:30 PM

please fact check Jindal's story, don't link to another blog for your facts. His story is playing very loose with the facts. But I don't want you to lose hope in your boy wonder.

Posted by: javaman at February 26, 2009 7:37 PM

You're smoking something, javaman. You have the burden of knocking Jindal's story and you need to get to it.

I'll tell you right now that you will only waste your time and look like a bigger ass than you do now, but go crazy. I await your results with stifled laughter.

In other news, I wonder how Crank ended up with all these racist lefties? Is it because all lefties are racist or because the racist segment is attracted to this blog. Is it the baseball? Is there something about baseball that attracts racist lefties? Hard to see that, but what else explains it?

Oh yeah, all lefties are racists. That sounds more likely than baseball so that's what I'm going with.

Get help with your racial fears, you panty-wastes.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 27, 2009 8:54 AM

Seriously, at what point does that get too much? There is little entertainment value in that, no informational value and it's just plain rude and ignorant. Sorry Crank but when you let BS like that fly here it diminishes what you are allegedly trying to do.

Posted by: jim at February 27, 2009 12:32 PM

Screw all you Conservative clowns!

Socialism was laid out neatly by the prior Administration.
They socialized the losses on Wall Street (while keeping the profits privatized).
How anyone (including the oh so delusional Right-wing) can look at the facts and not realize it is stunning.

The country isn't center right, it's bulls-eye stupid!

Posted by: Berto at February 27, 2009 1:12 PM

Mission accomplished. When Jindal gets called a lawn jockey your dander gets up. But when Obama gets compared to a murdered chimpanzee we are treated with articles about liberal fear mongering and legitimate political satire. Water flows both ways.

Posted by: dante at February 27, 2009 1:13 PM

spongeworthy (due to the drool hanging from your mouth),
Not all Conservatives are racist, but all racists are Conservative.

Posted by: Berto at February 27, 2009 1:14 PM

You don't have the class to apologize and withdraw your comparison, do you? Geez, where do I sign up to be a lefty and hang out with racists like you? Better question, how can I raise my children to be just like you? I'm sure your own parents are so very proud.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 27, 2009 1:38 PM

You don't just sign-up to be a lefty. You have to be born with common sense.
Alas, no soup for you!

Posted by: Berto at February 27, 2009 6:39 PM

Soup is for people who are sick or cannot chew real food.

And you don't have to convince me that you people are using the intellect you were born with. Infants are narcissists, and lefties are infantile narcissists. This is not news.

Posted by: spongeworthy at February 27, 2009 9:04 PM

all racists are Conservative

You really need to get out more, Berto. Travel to Boston some day, for example.

Posted by: Crank at March 1, 2009 9:53 AM
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