Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some Brief Thoughts on the Speech and the GOP Response

To wit:

- We were reminded again that Obama’s rhetorical talents really are astounding.  Strictly on the basis of delivery, I think that this was the best speech I’ve ever seen from him.  Perhaps the best speech  from an American President since, yes, Ronald Reagan.  Purely on delivery, mind you.

- Alas, Obama was as typically evasive and vague about substance as he was typically stellar on style.  He spent minutes hammering the need for urgent, large-scale health reform, building up to his proposal to … essentially form a commission to look into it.  Moreover, while it was nice that he at least paid some lip service to reforming Medicare and Social Security (getting Democrats just to acknowledge that there are serious fiscal problems with both programs has itself been hard enough until now), there was no mistaking the way in which he got onto and off of the subject as quickly as possible.

- Did I hear the President right?  Did he really assert that we should trust him on the deficit because he has a secret plan to cut $2 trillion in spending? 

- There was one area where Obama sort of approached getting specific: his plans to pump  billions more dollars into a whole host of renewable energy research projects, most of which will wind up having no value beyond their usefulness as pork that congressmen and senators can claim to have won for their constituents. The bipartisan ovation for such projects was, of course, no surprise.

- Speaking of energy proposals, the one word conspicuously missing from that section of Obama’s speech? “Nuclear.”

- Somewhere, there may be a politician less capable of suppressing a contemptuous smirk than Nancy Pelosi.  Maybe.

- I almost desperately wanted Bobby Jindal’s response to be outstanding, the kind of address (like Reagan’s in 1964 or Obama’s in 2004) that helps make a political future.  Instead, … ugh. The first half was just god-awful, with Jindal reading a decent text about solemn circumstances in a cringe-inducing, almost bouncy tone.  Toward the end things got somewhat better in delivery and content, but on the whole the speech was distinctly unimpressive.  Jindal missed a big opportunity to a make a powerful introduction with a whole lot of curious TV viewers; he’ll need to do a lot better with such opportunities in the future.

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