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SOTU: The Morning-After Let Down

category_bug_politics.gif In the end, Crabby Old Lady surrendered to the State of the Union address on Wednesday evening. It's difficult for a hardcore Washington watcher to ignore big political moments, and it's just easier to see it live than play catchup in the morning.

What's not to like about President Obama when he turns on the rhetorical charm. Plus, he shares with Vice President Biden an irresistible smile that makes Crabby Old Lady feel good. Most of all, behind his public face, there is evidence of actual thought which has been an ongoing relief for Crabby after the eight years of the previous administration.

It was a good speech – as far as it went. He touted his modest successes, scolded Congress and both political parties, said some of the right words about middle class hardship and jobs and, the best moment of the speech for Crabby, bit the ankles of the Supreme Court – six of whom were sitting directly in front of him - over their corporate personhood decision. Privately, Crabby gave him a B minus.

So why did she wake up Thursday morning feeling dejected about the state of our union?

. . .

Crabby wrote that sentence at about 10AM yesterday. This one is being written at 4PM. In between, she has wandered around the house doing a few mindless chores while trying to find the answer to that question. (Talk about writing yourself into a corner.)

Six hours later, Crabby may have found it:

None of the proposals in the president's speech are bold enough. Although he seemed to be trying to empathize with the hardships under which the country is struggling, it felt tepid. Crabby did not sense that he understands the rage and anxiety pretty much everyone has been living with every day for nearly two years.

That's the short version.

This is the harshest era of economic difficulty since the Great Depression. We all know unemployment is twice the official number. Millions have lost their homes to foreclosure. Newly minted graduates cannot find their first jobs. No one, including the president, mentions anymore that the collective savings of Americans were decimated by more than ten trillion dollars in the 2008 crash. (On that point, elders have been particularly hard hit because they have no hope of recouping their losses.)

Additionally, salaries have been flat for more than a decade while the cost of essentials has steadily increased. Out of curiosity, Crabby checked some current employment ads for the kind of work she was doing the last few years before she retired; salaries are about half what she was paid.

After nearly a year of work in Congress, health care reform is still not finished and what exists on paper has been so neutered, it can hardly be called reform. Millions of kids in the U.S. go to bed hungry at night. And untold numbers of adult children, having lost their jobs, would be living in the streets if mom and dad hadn't welcomed them home.

Anyone not living in the bubble of the Washington political scene can feel the anxiety in the air. On Wall Street, the numbers crunchers tell us the recession is over; on Main Street, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop, suspecting it will hurt even more than the first one. Is it any wonder seething rage at multi-million dollar bank salaries and bonuses is also everywhere?

Crabby is not telling you anything you don't know. Her concern is whether the president knows - he lives a long way from Main Street.

Or, maybe the problem is that for all his soaring rhetoric, Obama cannot connect, in the style of President Roosevelt's fireside chats, on a visceral level that Crabby, for one, wants to hear. She also believes that if he could make that leap, his proposals and actions would be the bolder, bigger and stronger ones the country needs.

But he can't do that by clinging to the fantasy of bipartisanship. The Republicans have no intention of working with the president; they prove with "no" every day in Congress. As to the Democrats, Obama is the leader of the party and it's time to take charge. It might be useful to read up on Lyndon Johnson.

Even if the president can find the outsized courage for the audacious moves our times call for, it will be years before there is equilibrium again - when there are enough jobs to go around, banks return to reasonable lending practices to keep the economy on an even keel and people can again plan for their futures. Whatever the president does or doesn't do, our patience is called for.

We elders know a lot about that. The oldest TGB readers grew up during the Great Depression. Those of us who are a bit younger heard the stories from our parents who did and we learned how to scrape by in hard times.

Our troubles are every bit as deep as during the Great Depression and need a much greater effort than Crabby Old Lady heard from the president Wednesday evening.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Quotes


I read yesterday of Howard Zinn's death. Zinn, a left leaning historian, has said of Obama that he will be a mediocre president and that given our times, that is dangerous. Or something along those lines. Sounds like Crabby is worried about that very thing. Me too. More reliance on nuclear energy, off-shore drilling, and "clean" coal is not my idea of a strong position on climate change.

Again you speak for me, Ronni, and do a better job than I could do. I was very angry as I listened to the speech, even shut it off at one point. (Then turned it back on again. Don't think I missed much.) It took me awhile to fully understand my anger; he was still pussyfooting around. Thank you again for putting my thoughts into well crafted words.

I think that our President was so accustomed to being able to bring people with divergent views and problems together and have them work together for a common purpose, that he hasn't yet realized that this is not going to be possible with the legislature. Republicans have absolutely NO interest in working together with Democrates for the good of the country. And even Democrats are so focused on being re-elected that they are unable to do what is needed and what is right.

It is so very discouraging and I am disheartened and disappointed in Obama. I wonder when/if he will rise to the challenge and show some "guts." He is being chewed up and will soon be spit out if he doesn't face reality. God help him; he sure needs some supernatural strengthening and enlightenment.

Looks like we are about ready to draft Hillary by what I'm hearing. :) or :( ?

My sincere condolences for my friends that thought we were on the road to Utopia.

However, I personally like Obama very much and I'd love to see him for two terms. However, I also love divided government which allows we the people to get the job done, as we always do.

I would be so sad to see this fine man go after only one term. Go easy on him, please. We need him. Thank you.

Job creation proposals are tepid and will not have the needed impact on the lives of the people who are hurting.

Yes, there is a need to address the long range deficit but immediately there are desperate people who need work. But the only energy out there is the teabaggers. We need structural change that is unrelated to the economic cycle.

What was proposed by our President? Hummm...only fiddling with those parts of the economy that do not have massive lobbyist attention. Farm policy was not even mentioned I see.

Health care unsustainable expenditures,
farm subsidies and multinational consolidation of food delivery, energy
independence are not on the radar.

In the face of a Republican policy of "NOPE", the Whitehouse seems to not have learned this. The schoolhouse bully does not back-off until someone takes him down.

In the republic of mediocrity genius is dangerous. - Robert Ingersoll

I, too, am ready to see Obama wield a little danger in his approach to a dispirited and ailing America.

Lyndon Johnson's early years were tremendous - he mastered the trick of inclusiveness between the parties, passed over 200 pieces of important legislation and saw the Kennedy vision of Civil Rights into fruition. If his adminstration had ended in 1965, he would be far more readily remembered as a great president. Alas, that little place called Viet Nam changed Johnson's legacy forever.

I keep hoping that Obama is just gathering steam, but I have this uneasy feeling that he is letting too many opportunities slip past him. At some point he is going to have to rise up above the mediocrity his administration has been mired in.

Some days you just have to be the nail to get soemthing built.

"As to the Democrats, Obama is the leader of the party and it's time to take charge. It might be useful to read up on Lyndon Johnson."

You are so right,Crabby, President Obama is nowhere near as effective as President Johnson was.

Perhaps we were too hasty in electing a politician who does not have enough "Arm Twisting" experience or,better yet, does not know where all the bodies are buried the way LBJ did....

I wish he would get off his rhetorical a** and be a leader for a change. He has the power to make decisions, he has the power to repeal DADT, instead he keeps pussyfooting his dance card to the Reps. and sending more troops to invade sovereign countries while his country sinks into a depression that will make the last one 80 years ago look like a church picnic. As to health reform? The long deep pockets of the insurance industry made sure he didn't do it, even to the extent that there was no REAL campaign in Mass.
Crabby? I'm even crabbier. But totally realistic. Mark my words.

Thank you!!!! You eloquently said what has been nagging at me since I heard his speech. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We need that.

I watched the State of the Union address with the sound on and off. As I watched Joe Biden’s continuous nodding and smiling and Nancy Pelosi smiling away, my thinking was—what’s there to smile about? But, then again, if I had what they have, I guess I’d be showing my (non) pearly whites too.

And yes Nancy, we probably were too hasty and more likely too hopeful.

wisewebwoman—you are wise!

The president has and has had a massive job in front of him. The previous administration drove the country into a ditch and left the oxcart to the next guy. This mess will not be turned around in a year and it's unrealistic to expect differently.

The reality is that it may not get turned around is people don't start waking up to the way things are. On NPR recently, I heard some workers in a Chillicothe, Ohio, truck factory calling more manufacturing jobs. Nobody can deliver those: They're gone and they're not coming back.

I'm simply not going to carp at Obama when he's not the enemy. Draft Hillary in 2012? Why don't we just commit suicide and turn the government over to the Republicans now?

I am still ambivalent about Obama. I am willing to give him more time. I saw a glimmer of the fight he needs to take on. I hope he is ready to follow through. He has enemies in his own party and the Republicans are united against him. He can't do it all overnight.

I am watching and hoping that Obama will get angry enough to knock heads. He is not a fighter and sometimes pragmatism is a negative trait.

I never thought I'd be defending a President, but I'm not quite willing to give up on this one. He may be too complex to survive American politics -- but on its face no one would have expected him to get elected at all.

I'd recommend this interchange with the Republicans to get a more nuanced sense of his capacities. If like me you can't stand to watch video on the internet, there is a link to a transcript there at Ezra Klein's as well.

Also, by the way, I think it is fair to say that Howard Zinn had a complex view of how we should handle Obama. I reproduced a bit of that here.

The way I see it, if he doesn't begin to knock a few heads together he's going to be another one-term president, just as the Republicans intend. So he has little to lose and everything to gain if gets more aggressive and forgets seeking support from Republicans--just get the Democrats' heads together for goodness sake!

As to the Democrats, Obama is the leader of the party and it's time to take charge. It might be useful to read up on Lyndon Johnson.

So true and I like the LBJ comment. As Cowtown Pattie points out, there was a man who knew how to get things done.

Post Speech Syndrome:

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender
Pretending that I'm doing well
My need is such; I pretend too much
I'm lonely but no one can tell.

He's one of the best campaigners- almost as good as JFK but as far as "gettin' down to business" on the Beltway, it pains me to say it but Hillary might have done a better job

I'm afraid that people will get so disgusted by the President's inability to turn this mess around quickly that they'll give up on him and elect more Republicans to Congress and a Republican president in 2012. Then the party of No, No Taxes for the Rich and No Good Ideas will be firmly in charge, and heaven help our country.

In America, a president does not have the power to turn a mess like this one around in one year. In one whole year in a row, a good president might be able to facilitate a step back from the brink. I think Obama has heard his party about calling out the Republicans. His Q&A with the House Republicans today was far less eloquent, but far more impassioned and personally confrontational than the SofU speech. He's willing at last to let them sound like oppositional impediments to recovery...and they rise to the bait so well. I ask, again, what can we do to empower him, to support and strengthen him at any level? Because that's what I think will enable him best to act in our behalf, to the extent that a president can. Anybody can complain.

I voted for Obama because he was the most articulate candidate. I also hoped that his background as a constitutional scholar would help us restore our rights in this country after the abusive wire tapping of the previous administration.

I still think Obama is a smarter politician than 90% of the other politicians of either party, but I think that he still views the game from the community organizer filter. He needs to take off the gloves and realize that he isn't going to win over the republicans. Today's visit with the republican caucus today shows that he can easily handle the opposition. Now he has to figure out how to graft a backbone onto the democrats in the senate and house.

The senate democrats need to find a strategy to bypass the filibusterer. Democrats 57, republicans 41, independents 2. They have the votes. They also need to just say no to the Ben Nelsons of this world. Deal making (Bribes) like that are why independent voters are disgusted and why Massachusetts now has a republican senator.

Count me in with those who stand by Barack Obama. I've been regretting my cheap shot at him in the comments on this blog the other day.

I read "Dreams of My Father." There was nothing easy about "community organizing" - it was a constant uphill slog in mud. It might be the best possible training for the job he's facing.

I don't see any reason to think that Johnson--or FDR--could have been successful in today's America.

All in all, I think he's doing the best he can with who he is at the time he's living in. I'm standing by the guy because of his intelligence and his grit.

*As an aside, Ronni, I read the same gloom-and-doom reports that you do, but I am not seeing them in my world. No one I know personally has lost their home or even their job...and I'm in Buffalo. I don't doubt the numbers for a minute, but I can't make sense of them.

Okay -- I was very refreshed watching the President interact with the Republicans the other day. I thought he did a great job and I was thrilled that the American people could watch him. More of that, and maybe the Republicans will be forced to work with him by their constituents.

I haven't given up on Obama; I just want him to start kicking some a**.

Reading all the comments were extremely interesting to a political luddite like me. I just like President Obama and wish him success in all his endeavors to Change for the better the USA. There is a saying in the Ethics of the Fathers that states that the work is geat and should not be postponed and if not now did not take one year to make this certainly can't be repaired in just one year. Ronnie - thank you for allowing me to read Crabby's Repartee and the comments of your readers. They have truly been enlightening to me, plus having the place to write, a bit, is an exercise that I enjoy despite my lack of political savy.

No problem ever was solved by a State of the Union message. The exercise is pure window dressing. President Obama played it just right--walked right down the middle knowing that's where most Americans live. His meeting with the Republicans was more instructive. I think he now will take off the gloves and ram some reforms down legislative throats. I like Obama's intelligence and his analytical approach to problem-solving. He won't win 'em all, but he'll win quite a few.

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