Noman watched the State of the Union address last night expecting to be infuriated at the President's cocksure impudence. Thankfully, President Obama left his bellicosity on the cutting room floor and adopted a high and lofty, aspirational tone instead.
He would have made a great black preacher had he decided to save souls rather than America. Regardless, his charms and gifts were on full display along with his rhetorical flourishes worthy of a Jesse Jackson, or Jeremiah Wright.
No bailouts, no handouts and no copouts... [Put-out! Gimme some VAT.]
What he said and didn't say last night, however, was not the issue. By most accounts, at least those by people not carrying water for him, the speech was mendacious and vacuous on its merits.
For instance, the President failed to eliminate oil company subsidies when his party controlled both houses of Congress (rather aggressively). Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rebuffed him; why should he expect different treatment form John Boehner and the Republican controlled House?
He was on stage to look like a serious man with a serious plan, and to play "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" that Americans so want to embrace in a post-racial political milieu. His challenges were to convince the middle class that they can continue to like him though he holds them in contempt, and to trust him on the basis of pearly words artfully delivered.
He was advised going into the speech to play down his first-term deeds by the very thug he employed to muscle them through Congress. Former Chief of Staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested that the President look to the future:
"What you do with the first term is say, 'I inherited a mess, I did what I could to stabilize it, and here's what we're gonna do.' "
That's pretty much what the President has said all along, when he isn't claiming that the sun shines on America due to his brilliance. The trust deficit between the President and the American people stems, however, precisely from his first term, especially its first two years.
While Americans were still bleeding from the financial meltdown, the President viewed his inheritance as an opportunity to be exploited rather than a crisis to be stabilized. And exploit it (and us) he did, as attested to by the expansion of the federal government, a run up in the nation's debt by half during his first three years alone, and an economy frozen in apprehension at what's likely to come, e.g., the kick-in of ObamaCare, higher interest rates and stagflation.
The President and Chief of Staff Emanuel were opportunistic when the nation could least afford to be governed by opportunists, and when it most needed a practical Administration. The escalating debt now stands at an unsustainable $16 trillion dollars--more than 100% of GDP--which affirms what he denied: that this really is about big government v. small government.
More precisely, it's about civil society and personal initiative, which diminish as government expands to assume their province and responsibilities. Government must recede in order to allow citizens and private institutions to assume protagonism for their own lives as befits a free people.
Of course our leaders can always sound appealing by promising more and more goodies, as the President did last night. But, the costs are not so attractive, least of all those associated with habits of dependency.
Aside from the size and scope of government, the issue with President Obama is about not being able to trust a man for whom words detached from reality come so effortlessly. Hearing him implore unity and fairness, one would never guess that just the prior week he violated consciences by forcing religious institutions' health plans to cover treatment that they find morally objectionable, and killed a no-brainer pipeline project that was crucial to the economic well-being of the nation and of blue collar workers throughout the midwest.
Unity, fairness? Noman doesn't trust the President to determine their meaning and set their terms.
Unfortunately for America and the world that depends on its financial strength, the opportunity that the President pursued with maniacal fervor was one to recreate a European social welfare state in the USA. For historical reasons, America is infertile ground for that degenerative species of political economy
The President's vision was quasi-socialized medicine, captive industries, a dependent populace and a larger share of wealth and power in government hands. Even more unfortunate is that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wielded unstoppable and unprincipled majorities in both chambers of Congress, which enabled him to achieve all of the above.
Words matter. And, as the President understands only too well, so does delivery.
Contrary to what the President thinks, however, neither matter in lieu of deeds. Thus far, his actions have Americans contemplating one credit downgrade already, the possible loss of the dollar's reserve currency status--after all, we only won that distinction by virtue of being unlike all the world's big-government states--seething unrest throughout a moslem world coming under the sway of hegemonic fanatics, and a dispirited and divided people at home.
Noman doesn't know if the President's stage performance cast the spell on the electorate that his Party hoped for. He does know, however, that whenever the President displays his silver-tongued, voice-modulating, head-swiveling Thespianism, it reminds him ever the more of Conan the Barbarian's nemesis, Thulsa Doom.