Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union 2010: President Obama delivers another eloquent call to action... but will there be any action?

Minutes ago, President Obama finished delivering a beautifully crafted, endurance-themed State of the Union Address that called on Congress (but perhaps more specifically, the Senate) to fulfill its Constitutional obligation to responsibly govern our United States of America.

The speech was very unlike either of the past two addresses the President made to Congress (January and September 2009). It touched on several major policy directions, from healthcare to economic security to national defense.

Notably, Obama asked Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, provide thirty billion dollars of repaid TARP money to help community banks make loans, and a vaguely-defined National Export Initiative to help farmers and small businesses reach untapped markets around the globe.

Like past State of the Union addresses, this one was heavy on platitudes and light on concrete details, but it was nevertheless uplifting.

One of the more subtle aspects of the speech that stood out for me was that the President deliberately made the effort to single out and praise the House of Representatives for acting on his administration's priorities.

He did this not one, not two, not three, but four times:
  • "The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same. People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay."
  • "The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back. "
  • "I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families."
  • "And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. "
Not surprisingly, he got spirited cheers from the House Democratic caucus at each of the moments where he spoke the words excerpted above. The White House cleverly took advantage of the speech as an opportunity to create a juxtaposition between the House (which has been moving legislation to better the country) and the Senate (which has failed to accomplish much of anything during the past year) without explicitly condemning the Senate for seemingly endless dithering.

Although Republicans allowed their lack of enthusiasm for the President's agenda to clearly show during the first half of the speech, their resolve to stay seated eventually withered, and many of them were joining in on the applause lines by the end. There were no shouts of "You lie!", although there was grumbling and mumbling when the President talked about needing to solve the climate crisis.

The speech ended up being more sobering than soaring. It managed to be both optimistic and realistic about the challenges that confront our country. It was, to be sure, an eloquent call to action. The question is, will it lead to any action?

President Obama has spoken eloquently before, to disappointing results. If 2009 taught us anything, it is that great speeches do not equal great legislative achievements... or even substantial progress. The White House is simply going to have to provide some parental supervision in the Senate if it wants to get Congress' dysfunctional half to confront our nation's challenges.


Blogger Sarajane46th said...

What shocked me was the President's unequivocal support of more nuclear plants, despite having no waste depository, and support of "clean coal."

January 28, 2010 12:25 PM  

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