Empty Rhetoric: Nothing Has Changed

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January 27, 2010 | Comments

The President’s first State of the Union just ended, and all I can say is that it was a disconnected mess. This confused President, rattled, perhaps, by the events of the last several months that culminated last week in Massachusetts, ping-ponged back and forth in his speech like his head ping-pongs back and forth to catch the messages transmitted by his twin teleprompters.

It began with his grand entrance, heralded with applause that was noticeably more muted than the applause that greeted him when last he addressed both Houses to discuss health care. He reached his exalted perch, and for the next hour or so we watched him bob back and forth between his teleprompters that, on my television at least, remained visible for the duration on both sides of the screen.

First, the President blamed George Bush, a tactic, though tired and worn, continued throughout his convoluted diatribe. Next stop: the stories of American doom and gloom always heartily embraced by the democratic party — the doom and gloom that for so many years this President has witnessed in this wasteland we call America. I have watched “the struggles,” he said, that are “the reason I ran for President.” But then he just as suddenly changed gears in a lame attempt to summon the spirit of Ronald Reagan (who, we learned tonight, was apparently a proponent of America’s nuclear disarmament), singing the praises of American optimism and extolling, without a hint of irony, the joys of accountability and transparency.

Sifting through all this ping-ponging was a challenge, punctuated as the speech was by the incessant standing Os (86 in all), Nancy Pelosi’s jack-in-box-like bouncing from her throne, and Joe Biden’s big, goofy, electric smile, reminding me of the current Walmart commercial, where the dad clown impales his foot on a unicorn (or Bozo, take your pick).

But once all was said and done, the message was clear: Nothing has changed. The President is staying the course, disappointing those who predicted so ardently that he would move to the center. As other, more realistic, pundits predicted, he instead double-downed on his agenda, taking no responsibility for our nation’s catastrophic debt, and reaffirming his devotion to cap and tax, the same ol’ health-care agenda, bigger government, the punishment of banks and Wall Street, an increase in government spending, and a vague, touchy-feely approach to national security (avoiding the issue of terrorists and Miranda rights altogether).

Perhaps the greatest shock for me began when he proclaimed, “We cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans!” How? Really? But tax cuts are “unfair,” right? To the inevitable applause that followed, he smirked, “I thought I’d get some applause on that one.”

This segued into mention of the runaway success of the recovery act – “also known as the Stimulus Bill” – that apparently made all this possible. Really? In bread-line America? And all the stimulus-caused jobs he proceeded to list: Do those include the jobs created in congressional districts and zip codes that don’t exist? How does this dovetail with the unemployment rate? I’m so confused. (Where is Joe Wilson when we need him? Even Bill Clinton at the height of Monicagate was not so brazen).

When the speech ended, I felt kind of sick, kind of empty – as though I had just spent 70 minutes watching a desperate man, having been betrayed by his own self-importance, grasping for the essence of his identity. With squishy rhetoric and a decidedly unpresidential demeanor, a meandering flip-flopping speech, and hollow attempts to summon emotion, the President tried to speak of America’s strength and to praise her military, while at the same time laughing at those who would question the veracity of global warming and blasting the Supreme Court Justices seated before him for daring to rule in support of our Constitutional right to free speech.

But this man’s true essence came through when he spoke of health care, using direct excerpts from the countless speeches he has given on the subject since last summer. Staying the course on this one, he claimed to understand the frustration of the American people who are fed up with all the wheeling and dealing that has gone into the passage of a bill that two-thirds of Americans oppose. He revealed who he is, when he said that this process has “left most Americans saying, ‘but what’s in it for me?’”

And I say, you are wrong, Mr. President. Once again you have severely misread the citizens of this nation. Contrary to the people to whom you apparently try to appeal, we the people did not ask what’s in this bill for us, and we resent you’re implying that’s who we are. As we have made evident in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts in recent months, you and yours have us asking instead, “What are you doing to our country?” And, upon learning your intentions, we have said, “No!”

You don’t understand us, Mr. President. You don’t know who we are, and I fear you never will. As you stated clearly tonight, you are still pledging allegiance to “change we can believe in.” No thanks, Mr. President. We don’t want your brand of change. And we never will.

Betsy Siino | Comments