Judging it purely on its rhetorical merits, Obama’s speech was quite fine. Paul Ryan’s goofball of a budget proposal was really a very slowly thrown pitch, which by the time it reached Obama in the batter’s box should have been about as ripe to hit as a full moon. And to Obama’s credit that’s exactly what he did, he hit it, hard.
Hearing Obama emphatically credit Democratic policies and liberal values, and offer strong encomiums to the historical effectiveness of the safety net, and praise for the kind of values that it both represents and that made it possible was stirring. And it demonstrates again exactly how high a mark this President is capable of hitting when he finally is of a mind to do it. A lot of us wish he would do it more often and do it more consistently, but there’s no arguing that the man has some incomparable gifts.
He sketched in recent history very economically, and pointedly laid the blame for the current financial situation where it should go, noting the surplus achieved during Clinton’s last term, and the depths to which, and the ways in which the country was laid to waste in the following years. He carved apart current Republican budget proposals like a Thanksgiving turkey. He stuck it to Paul Ryan, if not by name, gave it up for Bill Clinton and his economic record, and laid into the George W. Bush era on several fronts. And much to my delight, he highlighted again, which as I have said he can never do too often or too much, that Republicans stuck him with over a trillion dollars of deficit before he even gave his inauguration speech. Can’t ask for much more in a speech.
So the speech is good news if he really means it. With “means it” I’m saying if the president’s actions match up to be reasonably close to his words. You can’t blame a liberal from wondering, and hoping that yet again he doesn’t backtrack, deal away, capitulate or head for the hills.
If he stalwartly protects Medicare and Social Security, stands firm on ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and slices real money out of defense, then we’ll have something. Be nice too if he pushed the Republicans around a little for a change in fact, and pressed for greater sacrifice and more on the revenue end from America’s very, very fat cats, and shamed the Republicans appropriately for their savagery toward the vulnerable and the middle class. He might rake them over the coals deservedly for their deficit and spending hypocrisy, and remind Americans over and over of the utter and conspicuous failure of Republican economic policies.
After the speech Republicans were red-faced, rattled and pissy giving their responses…and that’s always a good thing. And if Obama doesn’t want to create that effect on a more regular basis you have to wonder about his ability to have fun.