January 27th, 2010

Obama: again with the speech of his life

TNR’s Jonathan Cohn has this to say about Obama’s SOTU speech this evening:

Today Obama faces a dire threat to his presidency: A political backlash threatening to destroy his signature domestic policy initiative and, more broadly, his entire governing agenda. Can he give the speech of his political life–again?

I hope he can. But it won’t be easy.

That last sentence may just be the understatement of the century. What Cohn seems to not understand is the fact that Obama’s words no longer matter.

They never did, actually, except as evidence of his intent. That worked when most of the American public was unfamiliar with his actions. Now we are only too familiar with the profound disconnect between the two.

Whatever Obama says, he is in precisely the position (in the metaphorical sense, anyway) of the alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon a thousand times and promises that this time, this time he’ll really quit for good. Such words are devoid of meaning, because trust has evaporated.

[ADDENDUM: The Anchoress speculates that Obama is in psychological distress.]

33 Responses to “Obama: again with the speech of his life”

  1. kevino Says:

    The MSM will make it easy: they still carry the water for him. Watching CNN spew out the latest Obama talking points as fact every day is sickening.

  2. Gringo Says:

    Why doesn’t he just give Nixon’s Checkers speech?

    ..But then I realized that there are still some who may say, and rightly so–and let me say that I recognize that some will continue to smear regardless of what the truth may be–but that there has been understandably, some honest misunderstanding on this matter, and there are some that will say, “Well, maybe you were able, Senator, to fake the thing. How can we believe what you say–after all, is there a possibility that maybe you got some sums in cash? Is there a possibility that you might have feathered your own nest?” And so now, what I am going to do–and incidentally this is unprecedented in the history of American politics–I am going at this time to give to this television and radio audience, a complete financial history, everything I have earned, everything I have spent and everything I own, and I want you to know the facts…..Then, in 1942, I went into the service. Let me say that my service record was not a particularly unusual one. I went to the South Pacific. I guess I’m entitled to a couple of battle stars. I got a couple of letters of commendation. But I was just there when the bombs were falling…I should say this, that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she would look good in anything…One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don’t they will probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election.

    A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog, and, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was?

    It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers.

    And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.

    Couln’t do any worse, and it was the speech of Nixon’s life.


  3. huxley Says:

    Cohn says further ahead:

    My gut tells me that this State of the Union cries for the same approach–that people will respect and embrace Obama if, rather than backing down, his reaffirms his commitment to the ideals on which he ran. They want to know he’s listening, but they also want him to keep fighting. They can handle the complicated message–in fact, they want it.

    I’m sure Obama’s gut is telling him the same thing as Cohn’s, but I’ll go with neo’s gut, so to speak, that it won’t matter. The messenger has lost credibility, and the the people are no longer listening.

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I think reaction to Obama’s speech will be a bit more complex than expressed in these comments. The left will be frustrated but cognizant to one degree or another that they have no where else to go. The right shall entirely reject anything he says and given his history and positions, rightly so.

    Moderate democrats will be fearful but temporarily hopeful that he will somehow right the ship of state.

    Independents will mirror the above sentiments as they are spread across the ideological spectrum, while maintaining a degree of skepticism that will allow Obama little latitude in quickly delivering results, as they have little patience left to extend to Obama.

    Obama and the left are philosophically opposed to doing the things that will enable the economy to rebound, as those actions ensure inequality of results, thus they shall be singularly ineffective in the coming months.

    Churchill’s concisely describes the conundrum Obama and the left face: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. ”

    The American public have had enough economic misery…once again, it’s the economy stupid!

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Gringo: looking at that “Checkers” speech, it strikes me that, whatever else you think of Nixon and his character, and his strangeness as a person, and his manipulations, and all the other negatives—still, he seemed more human than Obama. Nixon wasn’t as good at hiding his emotions. In fact, he wasn’t particularly good at it at all.

  6. Occam's Beard Says:

    Can he give the speech of his political life–again?

    Um…when was the first time? I missed that.

    My gut tells me that this State of the Union cries for the same approach–that people will respect and embrace Obama if, rather than backing down, his reaffirms his commitment to the ideals on which he ran.

    The extreme distal end of my gut – i.e., the part most like a Democratic operative – tells me that people will do nothing of the kind.

  7. Stark Says:

    Doesn’t behavioral science indicate that once trust is lost between individuals its take eight consecutive acts without fail to rebuild that lost trust? Based on that premise it is virtually impossible for Obama to regain the trust of the disillusioned electorate. Even with the MSM spinning every questionable issue to support the party, BHO is probably just an embarrassing “lame blame duck” until he is removed from office.

  8. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    President Obama is going to pledge to work night and day to create jobs, jobs, jobs. Good jobs in green industries that will clean up the dreaded CO2 and help the oceans to stop rising.

    We, of course, will know the pledge is empty. He and his Congressional sidekicks have no idea that jobs are created by business, which in their eyes are the Golden Geese just waiting to be plucked to make everything morer fair, more equal. They will “bitterly cling” to this idea right to the last tax payer’s dollar and the last dollar borrowed from China.

    He will pledge to freeze government spending for three years, but we know it will be meaningless. They have, in the last year, raised government spending and salaries by as much as 25%. In more normal times that would be five years or more years of increases. Freezing only pledges to continue ruinously high levels of spending. And the freezes only apply to a few areas. So we know the pledge of freezes is window dressing. An attempt to convince us he has converted to fiscal sanity.

    He will rail against the eeevilll banks and financial institutions that precipitated the financial crisis. He believes there is righteous anger at these institutions by the citizens, but he doesn’t want to accept that there is also righteous anger at the Fed, the Treasury, Congress and him because they went way beyond the pale when they bailed out GM and Chrysler.(More so their unions than the shareholders and bondholders.) And when they cooked up the Porkulus spending bill that stimulated no private sector jobs.

    I expect him to pledge to keep working to get a healthcare reform bill that will, in his words, cut the cost of healthcare, extend care to everyone, and prevent the government from going bankrupt. All of which we know is not logical. He, however, “bitterly clings” to the notion that if he says it, it must be true. My guess is he will say he will fight for healthcare reform until there is no breath left in his body because he didn’t run for President to fail.

    It is likely that his SOTU speech will trigger even more democrat retirements and more anger and fear among the Tea Party members. But what do I know? I’m just a “bitter clinger.”

  9. The Anchoress | A First Things Blog Says:

    […] NeoNeocon Again, with the Speech of his life! Vanderleun remembers a president who knew who he was State of the Union Bingo Cards Gateway Pundit: […]

  10. Occam's Beard Says:

    Scoot over, Favreau. Here ya go, Barry. Load this puppy into your teleprompter:

    Half a score and several months ago my handlers brought forth on this continent, a new movement, conceived in political correctness, and dedicated to the proposition that all incomes should be created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great legislative war, testing whether that movement, or any movement so conceived, so dedicated, and so surreptitiously funded, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their political lives that that movement might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave liberals, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract, although not of course our ability to tax. The world will little note, nor long remember what I say here, in Copenhagen, or indeed anywhere, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us those living large, rather, to be dedicated here to the unpopular work which they who conspired here have thus far so perfidiously advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead and doomed incumbents we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead ducks shall not have been relegated to lobbyists in vain — that this movement, under Gaia, shall have a new birth of socialism — and that government of the people, by the better people, for the best people, shall finally be established on the earth.

  11. Occam's Beard Says:

    Alternatively, he could go with “Tuesday, January 19, 2010, a day that will live in infamy…”

  12. betsybounds Says:

    One major difference between Obama and the lapsed recovering alcoholic to whom neo compares him is that, arguably, the alcoholic at least means it when he says he’s really, really going to quit this time. That was one thing, in fact, for which I usually gave Clinton credit (was it really credit? I’m not quite sure): His peculiar twist was that he believed everything he said when he said it. I think Obama knows he’s a liar, he’s damned good at it–maybe that’s part of the “gift” he told Harry Reid he has–and he uses it as a tool. He doesn’t mind lying, it’s just something else he does, accompanied by that glittering smile and the occasional semi-subtle flip-off.

    Nixon–ah, well. No, he was not at all good at hiding his real emotions; neither was he good at presenting false ones. He was a transparent liar, and had equally transparent false bravado–I think he hardly ever fooled anyone. I, myself, was oddly moved when he resigned and spoke of his mother having been a saint, and then he gave that awkward both-arms-up salute of his before boarding the presidential helicopter for the last time–and I say that, having been no particular Nixon fan.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    betsybounds: you make an interesting point about whether Obama believes his own lies. My feeling is that he is beyond thinking about truth and falsehood. He merely says what he thinks is necessary, and doesn’t bother about whether it is true or not.

    Which is a lot more chilling.

    See this.

  14. Gringo Says:

    Occam’s Beard: good one! I’m thinkin’ that when compared to Lincoln, our POTUS is stinkin’.

    I never thought that I could dislike a President more than Nixon. In retrospect, Nixon looks pretty good, especially in comparison with our POTUS. He accomplished more with a Republican minority in Congress than NObama did with a supermajority. Good: EPA. Not so good: affirmative action. Or better said, while both seemed good at the beginning, both need trimming today.

    At least Nixon didn’t take six months to decide on a family dog. That shows a difference in decision making between the two.

  15. Tom Says:

    Thanks for the Anchoress link, Neo. It deserves to be widely and gravely read. It’s all very well to discuss if he’s a this or a that, but let’s never forget he is CIC and could start a nuclear holocaust, much like Hitler wanted Germany to go down with him.

  16. huxley Says:

    betsybounds: I almost miss Nixon too!

    Another difference between Obama and a lapsed recovering alcoholic is that occasionally an alcoholic really does hit bottom and really does change his or her life.

    I see almost no such prospect for Obama. He’s nowhere near a bottom (and for the sake of the country I hope he never is while president) and it’s hard for me to imagine him having the humility to open himself to fundamental change.

  17. expat Says:


    It may go even further than his saying what he thinks necessary. I suspect that he is so confident of his own truth that he doesn’t notice the incoherence. It is all tied in to how he sees himself: infallible.

  18. betsybounds Says:

    Ah, yes, 1984. I remember when you made that post, and found its insights impressive. Obama as an exemplar of Doublethink: Yes, that is most chilling.

    But I still think he lies and knows that he lies, and isn’t troubled by it (is this one of those distinctions without a difference? Maybe). What does concern him, though, is that the people he’s trying to rule should lose awareness of that difference. I sometimes think that’s what he’s about doing: Destroying all understanding of the difference between truth and lies in the rest of us. To do that, and to make it work, he himself must continue in awareness of the difference. O’Brien knew the difference. He was concerned that he be able to erase knowledge of that difference in Winston Smith.

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    But I still think he lies and knows that he lies, and isn’t troubled by it (is this one of those distinctions without a difference? Maybe).

    you mean he has no conscience?

  20. betsybounds Says:

    Artfldgr, he may indeed have no conscience. Although I think there is more involved in conscience than an awareness of truth and falsehood.

  21. expat Says:

    I was just reading the comments on Wretchard’s speech post. There is a funny speech by CF Bleachers #15. But I really want to direct you to the stained glass metaphor made by Darren #23.

  22. betsybounds Says:

    Huxley, it’s true that a lapsed recovering alcoholic may sometimes hit bottom and really, finally, and with desperation, turn it all around. I have seen it in my own family, and it’s impressive in just about every way that matters. One of the greatest things about it, at least in my experience, is that the alcoholic in recovery gains such freedom that he is able to recognize, speak freely about, and be unafraid of the truth. About himself, about his weaknesses, about everything in his life. Kind of a direct opposite to the kinds of falsehood, and their consequences, we’re considering with Obama, isn’t it? This last implies, indeed is partly defined by, a particular and crippling bondage.

    Which is precisely the thing I fear (but am not yet totally persuaded–hope springing eternal, as it will) Obama thinks to have in store for us. The links between bondage and lies are quite striking.

  23. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Sometimes I wonder if he actually believes he makes his lies into truth by telling them — that he makes things so simply by saying they are so. I wonder if he thinks, not just that he’s infallible, as expat pointed out, but that he’s omnipotent.

    Other times I think it’s a little simpler, and that he’s as sunk in denial as your average alcoholic, unable to admit to himself any more where the line is drawn between truth and wishful thinking.

  24. betsybounds Says:

    And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

    And God made man in His own image. . . .

  25. troglaman Says:

    “What Cohn seems to not understand is the fact that Obama’s words no longer matter.” Neo

    What would’ve been a more honest statement would’ve been that they don’t matter to you.

    “Now we are only too familiar with the profound disconnect between the two.” Neo

    What’s rather astounding about what you’re saying Neo, is what you don’t acknowledge – the fact that the right is obstructing The One at every turn. And the fact he can’t overcome it is somehow his fault, not the fault of the right.

    The hypocrisy here is that Neo, in an over-under-sideways-down sort of way, implies Obama’s fighting the good fight. He says, “(Obama’s words) worked when most of the American public was unfamiliar with his actions. Now we are only too familiar with the profound disconnect between the two.”

    If Obama had acted, he would’ve passed health care reform, regulated banks, regulated lobbyists, regulated Wall Street, funded green energy projects, repealed Bush tax cuts, funded infrastructure, funded education, repealed DADT, legislated gay marriage, etc.

    This is what Neo’s critical about – the fact Obama didn’t get this agenda accomplished…in 12 months. And, at the same time, Neo’s ideological com padres, in lock step, oppose everything he does. Everything.

    Neo’s playing both sides of the street. And any of you who don’t get that are dumbasses.

  26. troglaman Says:

    “Other times I think it’s a little simpler, and that he’s as sunk in denial as your average alcoholic, unable to admit to himself any more where the line is drawn between truth and wishful thinking.” Mrswhatsit

    I know. Deja Vu.

  27. ahem Says:

    Put a fork in him; he’s done.

  28. Jamie Says:

    troglaman, that was truly insightful. Or it would’ve been, anyway, if Neo had been saying what you say she was saying.

    She wasn’t, of course: she was taking note that in the SOTU, President Obama was (as usual) staking out MODERATE, sometimes even CONSERVATIVE ground… which his efforts over the past year clearly showed he had no interest in occupying. The fact that he hasn’t been able to advance the agenda revealed by his actions (not his words!) is all to the good.

    The President campaigned in large part as a moderate – gaining huge swathes of “independent” voters on the strength of his words; please remember that the majority of Americans consider themselves to be relatively fiscally conservative – and quickly revealed himself to be something very different indeed. (For some of us, his meager record had already clarified this point.) And this speech seems to follow the same pattern: President Obama says “Go nukes! Let’s drill offshore! Clean coal!” and domestic-energy buffs cheer (I know; my husband is one), but we’ll see whether his administration either introduces or backs any effort to bring these words to fruition. You can perhaps forgive us for being skeptical.

    But since you’re on the other side, apparently, your ends would be better met by his being, again, a lying liar who lies. (If I’ve misread your leanings, I apologize.)

  29. foxmarks Says:

    the fact that the right is obstructing The One at every turn

    Barry made this claim in his speech. Where’s the evidence that this is a fact? Or, do we have to work through the definition of “obstruct”?

    Of course the righties oppose Barry’s (and Congress’s) initiatives. That’s what I expect from a deliberative process between camps that have different perspectives and philosophies. Is it somehow implied that to advocate against the majority view is obstructive?

    And this claim of obstruction ignores the Congressional majority Barry had to work with for his first year. Again, yes, the righties can contest, but they could not block or prevent the lefties from doing anything.

    How is the opposition-party “obstruction” Barry faces any different from any other President? It seems it must be less given the (super)majority in Congress.

    Ultimately the claim of obstruction is an attack on the character of the opponents: They’re behaving badly, like petty spoilsports in time of genuine suffering.

    It’s ad hominem wrapped in nationalism to advance a socialist agenda. Goebbels would be proud, but Hitler would mock Barry’s shaky delivery last night.

  30. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    OB, very clever.

    Let’s look at some revealing language in Cohn’s essay.

    “Backlash.” The left sees the opposition to Obama as a snap-back reaction to all these good changes coming upon them too quickly, and reacting reflexively. This is because they always knew that Obama was an essential leftist and what he wished to do. They are ticked that it’s not happening. Outside that 20% of the population (Pew Survey), however, Americans – even many who voted for Obama – don’t believe that’s what they signed onto at all. They are not snapping back, not lashing back, in that way. They are standing firm and saying “No, this is what we wanted, which you said you would do but are not.” This is not backlash, it is limit setting.

    “…That “people” will respect and embrace Obama if…” No. The people who will respect and embrace Obama for doing that are the genuine progressives, as mentioned above. Most of the rest of the country will emphatically not respect him and embrace him for that. That Cohn believes that his people are the people, as in The Real People, The Right People is the old frightening formulation of the far left peeking its head out again.

    Thread note: Please don’t offend and insult troglaman too much. He’s going to be amusing.

  31. Tatyana Says:

    Due to the law of blog parallels, I thought of a blog post I read recently in Russian LJ, by a writer Marta Ketro.
    The subject of her post was certain type of a person in gender relationships, who “lives in the moment”. In that moment he says what “feels right”, not because he lies consciously – no, he strongly believes in what he says, at that moment. She than concludes (sorry for imperfect translation):

    “Most importantly [for him] – not to stop, not turn to see those drowning in the swamps of [his] lies up to their necks. To continue live happily from one “feels right” proclamation to another. And I don’t know, what could cure this person, addicted to injections of happiness, to doses of ideal perfect theoretical “truth” in vacuum…When not even sex with a new object is the purpose, but a revelation of sorts.
    I mean, I do imagine what is it to be done – stop collecting shots of adrenaline from live people, and look for it in other things. But we all know how “easy” it is to quit a pleasant, easy and habitual high, don’t we?”

    I think the mechanism here is the same: addiction. He will not stop drilling for applause, and it means absolutely zilch, what he has to say to get it.

  32. Occam's Beard Says:

    To strike a more prosaic note, I thought of Obama as Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House unsuccessfully trying to cheer up the disconsolate Flounder by smashing a beer bottle on his head. The stuff that used to work no longer does.

  33. ytba Says:

    “…Obama’s words no longer matter. They never did,…”

    And Cohn still can’t wrap his mind around that.

    I don’t know what is more painful to watch, Obama pretending he knows what he’s doing, or his sycophants desperate contortions to avoid dealing with that all too obvious fact.

    It’s so surreal, it’s almost Kafkaesque.

    ASIDE – anyone else notice that Firefox spell check STILL doesn’t recognize “Obama” as a real word?

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