I watched the State of the Union on CNN and heard some of the instant responses. When it comes to the strength of a speech, what you come in with determines what you take out of it. It was almost like we watched different speeches. For someone opposed to the President, all you heard was the failure to tick certain boxes. This should come as no surprise since the politically aware spend so much of their time identifying differences in priority or policy.
The President’s priority is to get a hold of problems and fix them and believes that every problem has a solution. Republican priorities, if I can claim them as “Republican,” is to cut spending, cut regulations, and be pro-business, pro-entrepreneur, and pro-growth and believe that these solutions are in fact the problem. To my eye, one of these sides is realistic and the other is woefully stupid.
Stupid is a harsh word in political analysis and I use it advisedly. The President laid out a clear cooperative message. You can call it the closest thing to an outright lie we’re likely to experience, but the message (on a number of topics) was, “Send me that bill and I’ll sign it with pleasure.” That will resolve his priority. Difficult and requiring a good deal of compromise in the details, it’s true. To resolve the opposition’s priority requires a re-imagining of this country on the scale of a new Constitution. That is to say, a great deal of work with almost no possibility of compromise to create a system based upon a singular ideology. The details are nonnegotiable. I take great joy in pointing out to these self-styled Constitution lovers that the whole system requires (by design) cooperation and compromise to operate. I admit that it allows, with relish, the resulting inaction. But that is a measure of the time and is anachronistic in the modern day where delay is incredibly perilous.
It is an unfortunate aspect of the current thinking on the Right that their theories are absolute—set in stone like Moses’ tablets (but apparently destroyed before the details could be transferred to a more mobile medium). It is impossible and pointless to negotiate with an absolutist. Yet they represent absolutists, so perhaps the finger wagging should be directed at that portion of the electorate who so desire this foolishness. That is to say nothing of the core ideology that requires government operated with such jujitsu or lateral thinking as to make it virtually faith-based.
But, this is a review of the State of the Union address and not those moronic legislative despots and their crackpot schemes. Still, I called them stupid (for so they are) and that required an enjoyable deviation.
Oh yes, the man who killed Osama bin Laden. No option off the table in dealing with Iran. “We can do this,” he said with a conviction that spits in the face of my earlier analysis. Obama said he will work with anyone, but “[he] will fight obstruction with action.” Action is the word. Simplify is another word. Simplify the bureaucracy, simplify regulation, simplify the training programs for people to join or rejoin the work force, and simplify the tax system so that those who earn over one million a year pay at least 30%. Take that Mitt “14%” Romney.
Invest is the biggest word of them all. Invest in science, research, education, entrepreneurs, military veterans, energy. Was that a defiant “No” he hears from Republicans? Well, I’ll do what I can do—and that’s use federal lands because I’m the landlord of this here estate and there be fuel. Did he mention that natural gas acquisition—that double edged, but profitable sword—is thanks to thirty years of public funding of research? He did. Then he suggested that we should stop subsidizing something already profitable (oil) and subsidize something that might just save us all (not oil). Let’s take half of what we spent in Iraq and do some serious good building up our own infrastructure.
Taxes. Oh, taxes. You want to deal with the national debt? Well, there’s cutting spending and then there’s raising taxes. The President suggested that the correct response was rather obvious to ordinary people. I guess we’ll have that answered in the coming months. If you think that the guy who couldn’t tell Newt Gingrich that leveraging companies is how you buy a company is going to win an explanation contest against the President, then I await the proofs with glee.
But, beyond all doubt, the President is best when he’s talking about his absolute highest value—compromise. Actually working together, across party lines. What metric caused the (ultimately meaningless) downgrade in credit rating? Was it unemployment figures? It was a debate on whether the United States would pay its bills. “Who benefitted from that fiasco?” he asks. Some of the intransigence is based on money, so let’s stop insider trading by members of Congress. Only Democrats standing—are you kidding me? Is that really a point of contention? He asked that Congress please stop playing this game where a majority isn’t even enough to do anything. I don’t care who started it, we’ve both been wrong, now we’ve got to end it. Let’s “turn the temperature down” in Washington. Mutual destruction is all we ensure when we should be building consensus. We can’t bridge every gap, but there are plenty of things we can do.
“When we work together, there is nothing we cannot achieve.” I wish he stopped and expanded on this. He certainly evokes the idea throughout, but the words needed to be rammed home. We have the power of the US economy behind us. If we want to destroy the world, we can. If we want to end world hunger, we can. He nailed it—absolutely nailed it—at the end with the SEAL team analogy (also invoked at the start). These guys go in and everyone knows their job and everyone trusts the other to see it through. Their lives are literally at stake and they trust—because you have to. And look at us, he implies, look at this miserable waste of life in front of me that can’t even agree that we should probably not profit from our knowledge as legislators.
If we trust like they trusted, we will always do well. But can we ever trust when there’s a campaign around the corner? It doesn’t look like it. And the problem with DC is that it’s made of corners.