Thursday, January 26, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: State of our Union

I loved Obama's speech on Tuesday night. I loved it for the same reasons I love the Reagan speech above-- it was positive, challenging, and embraced real values (albeit different values than Reagan's in some ways).

When did Republicans become such a bunch of grumps? John Boehner looked like he was passing a gallstone on Tuesday, and his statements were consistent with the All-negative All-the-time template that Republicans seem to have set out for themselves.

Hey, Republicans, we get it: You don't like Obama. Beyond that, what are you for? Here is a list:

1) Maintain low taxes for rich people.
2) Reduce regulations (ie, environmental or consumer protection rules) on business
3) Hating President Obama

Quite a platform!

I'll accept that there is more to Republican proposals than those three points-- but they aren't being heard. It's lost in the waves of scowling and muttering that dominate your messages. Meanwhile, the President did present a pretty broad set of ideas, whether you agree with them or not.

For all the reverence that Republicans display for Ronald Reagan, they seem to have lost any sense of what he was about. If they do not get a handle on that, they will lose another election this year, running as the party of "Get off my lawn!"

Well said, Mark. "Gallstones," indeed -- exactly. Where are the old Eisenhower/Doyle Republicans?
"We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world."

These were the first words spoken by Obama Tuesday night. Lies. There is NO WAY Obama truly believes our military actions around the world have made us more respected and/or safe.

But, after stumbling out of the blocks, I do agree the speech picked up.
You identify three things the Republicans are for:

1) "Maintain low taxes for rich people"

I know this is the liberal talking point, but in actuality Republicans want to maintain low taxes for all people. I was struck during Obama's explanation of "fairness" by the fact that what he actually meant was he wants certain people to pay way more than their "fair share" and certain people to pay nothing.

2) "Reduce regulations (ie, environmental of consumer protection rules) on business"

Obama himself, in his discussion of milk (you know, when he told that awkward and terrible "joke") mocked government regulations. No true conservative is against all regulation, but certainly it is a staple of conservatism that the government has gotten too big, and the regulations proffered by the government have become overwhelming.

3) "Hating President Obama"

I don't hate Obama. I don't think most conservatives hate Obama. I just think he is wrong about a lot of stuff.

But I always appreciate liberals telling us about how we're silly for "hating Obama" when we just got done with 8 years during which liberalism's raison d'etre was hating Bush. Hell, Obama's campaign was premised on hope, change, not Bush. Still is in a lot of ways.

I thought Obama's speech was a mostly boring recitation of the type of class warfare liberals have used to get elected for the past 80 years in this country. How are we supposed to win the "race for the future" when our leaders are still trotting out the same familiar red herrings they have for almost a century.

Oh, except for the part where he asserted the legitimacy of a unilateral and sovereign executive branch, threatening to go it alone against an obstructionist congress. Democracy in action!

Since you followed this blog then, you know I was not a Bush-hater. Shoot, I'm more conservative than he was in some ways that count (ie, government restraint). Bush also had the advantage of being a war president, and people of all stripes rallied around him-- there wasn't much hate in October, 2001.

As for Republicans wanting low taxes for all people, I don't see that-- in large part because of the resistance by Republicans to continuing the cut in FICA taxes.

So, RRL, answer my question: What else is there to the message these days?
I watched the State of the Union the other night. I'm a pretty smart guy and follow politics semi-closely (but less than I used to), but I have no clue what half of President Obama said means. I thought his SOTU was overflowing with handy catch phrases that don't actually mean anything. Great rhetoric, but I don't know what you're actually trying to do.

And it's not just a President Obama problem, it's (almost) all politicos these days. It's the soundbite era of politics. There's no policy any more, it's all high sounding words. Let's win the "race for the future," or "Obama is the food stamps president, I want to be the paycheck president." On and on and on it goes. I want to see the politician who says "I'm going to do this specific action by this date, and if I don't or it doesn't work, then vote me out." But nobody does that.

Oh, and while I may not agree on Osler's specific criticisms of Republicans, I have a hard time taking seriously a bunch of people who spent money on the Nation's credit card for 6 (and really 8) years of the Bush presidency like it was going out of style then as soon as the other guy is in office suddenly decide they're against massive deficit spending.

The real answer is that it's all about power. Gaining power and then keeping it. And when you make high sounding but ultimately empty promises, it's easier to convince people you've done something because there's no objective standard to measure it buy.
Don't forget 4) closing the courts and 5) eliminating unions. That, along with removing governmental regulations will eliminate all three forms the people have of keeping mega corporations in check. Scary times.
I thought the speech was great, granted that may be in part due to it coming after 18 GOP debates that have ranged from bizarre to deranged.

I have to say, I find it disingenuous for Republicans to cry "class warfare" when a chief complaints is the disparity in the tax rates between high earners and low earners. A disparity the champion of GOP politics, Ronald Reagan, thought was unfair and just good common sense to reduce.
President Obama, I believe, is a good man with many fine qualities. But here is the line in the SOTU that makes me see red:

"On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief."

Does it take courage to tell 98 percent of the people what they want to hear and blame all our woes on the other 2 percent? In truth, us 98 percenters need to pay more and expect less--and all these politicians know it.

The silly campaign to blame rich people for our problems is very small. We needed a bigger president in these tough times.
Actually, there is a certain bravery in telling the most powerful people in our society that they need to do more, Farmer. It's a bravery I don't see in the Republican candidates.

When the great portion of our nation's wealth lies with a few, it does matter that they do not contribute to national defense and welfare in proportion to that wealth according to the progressive tax system that every administration in the modern era has ostensibly supported.
Farmer-- I notice that like RRL, you responded without answering my question: What else is there to the Republican message right now than the three things I listed?
The Republican Message: we intend to let up on the accelerator so as not to drive off the cliff as fast as the Democrats, but this much we promise and more, we will get there!

A pox on both their houses.

You are wrong about courage. It takes no courage to scapegoat 2 percent of the population. A segment of society that is really not the problem. You and I are the problem.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and pass the "soak the rich" bill so we could all take a deep breath and feel better. And then we could get down to business and solve all the real fiscal problems that confront our nation. Nothing would have changed (do the math), but at least we would have taken away the demagogic point that so often distracts us.
Ill believe Republicans want lower taxes for everyone when they vote for the payroll tax extension without pitching a fit.
Speaking of grumpy old men, Mark, have you ever watched Tip O'Neil in this clip? He won't even clap for "a nation of free people under God." It was also reported at the time that he hoped that Ronald Reagan would not be reelected.
DWH: I actually thought the start to the President's speech ("this generation of heroes has made the United States...more respected around the world") was brilliant politics, because here is what it led to: the spectacle of Sen. John McCain, his face a rictus, speaking for Republicans on a morning news show the next day, arguing that the U.S. is in decline, that no one respects us anymore, that most foreign leaders think our best days are behind us, etc. Not exactly the message that swept Ronald Reagan into office.
For the record, here is the first paragraph of the official response to the SOTU delivered by IN governor, Mitch Daniels:

“The status of ‘loyal opposition’ imposes on those out of power some serious responsibilities: to show respect for the Presidency and its occupant, to express agreement where it exists. Republicans tonight salute our President, for instance, for his aggressive pursuit of the murderers of 9/11, and for bravely backing long overdue changes in public education. I personally would add to that list admiration for the strong family commitment that he and the First Lady have displayed to a nation sorely needing such examples."

Read more:
Mark, evidently, you asked a serious question, which, frankly, I did not realize initially was serious. I don't speak for the GOP, but they did offer a response with an agenda.

More from Daniels:

“An opposition that would earn its way back to leadership must offer not just criticism of failures that anyone can see, but a positive and credible plan to make life better, particularly for those aspiring to make a better life for themselves. Republicans accept this duty, gratefully."

Again, I don't speak for the GOP--but here is what Daniels says:

1. More proactive energy policy. XL Pipeline for starters. Let's get serious and less political in re energy.

2. Simplify tax system and shut down loopholes. Flatten and broaden.

3. Means-test on Social Security and Medicare benefits.

4. Overall commitment to solvency through growth and simpler taxes.*

*For the record, the GOP is no better than the President on taxes. Both parties are absolutely scared to death to level with the voters.

Mark, were you able to catch the response by Daniels? If so, what did you think about?

Read more:
Hmmm... that is good. Why isn't HE running for President, again? (Though one pipeline won't change our energy situation, and the other suggestions are pretty vague-- at least as vague as Obama's proposals, some of which were quite defined).

As for Tip O'Neil, he's probably my least favorite Democrat of the 20th century, so comparing him to Boehner does Mr. Boehner no favors! (Plus, it is now coming out that Tip O'Neil was drunk many times while he was hosting "The Price is Right.")

All this talk about substance (something you and I for the most part agree about, Farmer, as we have established previously)misses the point of my post, which was about image. (Reagan, after all, was a master of image, and that can be a good thing in a politician-- they can do great things through images and words). The Republicans are projecting the image of grumpy old guys right now, and that's a problem for them and our political discourse.
Obama's energy plan:

1.) "And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use"

He basically said we are already drilling for it, I'm just going to regulate it. Not that I think this is necessarily a bad regulation, but not exactly mind blowing stuff here.

2.) "We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits"

He means MORE clean energy tax credits. There are already a bunch. And the end oil subsidies thing is something a lot of conservatives agree with, and nothing new. More of the same.

3.) "set a clean energy standard"

So, his hot energy plan is to make poor people suffer by increasing the cost of energy. Nice.

4.) "allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."

We will use public lands for unproven technology for 3,000,000 and we will force the Navy to buy it for 250,000 homes. The bill for this will be called the "Very Expensive Drop In the Bucket Bill"

5.) "So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings"

Well, why didn't I think of that?? Upgrade your buildings and voila!

These are the "quite defined" energy proposals of the President. Again, color me unimpressed.
What does the GOP stand for? I think it stands for a lot of things depending on who you're talking about. There are social/Christian conservatives who stand for a variety of social issues. There are a number of foreign policy hawks and neo-conservatives that are focused on foregin policy. There are fiscal/small government conservatives. And, as Waco Farmer points out, there are members of the Republican party that stand for the same things Democrats do, just slower and with tax cuts.

Here is what the right ones stand for:

-lower taxes for all
-less government in every part of your life, and less government in the way of business as a mechanism to create jobs in this country
-strong national defense, but also an efficient national defense supported by the best technology available
-commitment to fostering advancements in science and technology, and doing so by utilizing the government in those areas where only the government can really get the job done (space) but also by fostering partnerships between institutions of higher learning and business
-figuring out what is wrong with our education system, and stopping a system that fails to evaluate the problems or come up with solutions, but just throws money at the problem
-less spending, lower the debt, reign in the proliferation of government jobs and agencies, and get back to sensible levels of government

I mean, the answer is they could be for any of those things and I would be happy.

But I will also tell you this, if all the GOP is right now is the party of "Not Obama" then that is probably enough.
Daniels isn't running, sadly, because several years ago, his wife left him (and their kids), got divorced and remarried to someone else. Then she decided to ditch husband #2 and came back to Mitch Daniels.

The family did not want to have their dirty laundry aired in public.
I'll believe Republicans are for less government intrusion into my life when they support ending the drug war, stop trying to outlaw abortion, and stop pushing the notion that Christianity is the only valid religion in this country.
I agree with you anon. that Republicans have pushed the drug war-- but Democrats have, too, with equal vigor (which is one reason I so dislike Tip O'Neil).

I disagree with you that Republicans have claimed that Christianity is the only legitimate faith. I've never heard a single Republican (or Democrat) make that claim.
this is awesome. one of those days when it's fun to just sit in the front row and take it all in.
Mark: Thanks for reminding us that we agree on most of this on substance. As for image, the GOP is not doing well--mainly because their position on the cure for what ails us is fundamentally dishonest. We need an honest alternative--and the GOP is less dishonest than the Dems but not fully honest. This is a weight around their necks and it is why they are just short of resonating. Of course, none of that means they cannot defeat this president in 2012.

To RRL: let me agree in principle. I want to get serious about taxes (that is, raise revenue / pay more taxes). But I should say that I of course prefer that we shrink government. But, until we do that, we need to pay for the government we have. If we flatten and broaden the tax code, we will have more Americans literally invested in the government; therefore we can make a more studied decision about what size government we can afford. What we have to get away from is demanding more goodies from government and assuming we can pay less.
I agree with Woody, that this is one of those days when it is just fun to sit back and take it all in, but I'd like to add a question if I may: do any of the republicans participating with comments and opinions today see President Gingrich or President Romney or President Paul or President Santorum
fix what all President Obama did not and make us all one happy American Dream? Do you seriously see any one from that [pathetic] bunch rise up to the mighty list of wrongs that have to be righted and accomplish solving it for us all?
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