Thursday, January 28, 2010

SOTU: Why Obama Is Doomed

Last night, Obama gave the single worst State of the Union speech I’ve ever heard and the worst speech of his career. There was nothing inspiring or memorable. His canned applause lines stunk, his “off the cuff” jokes were poorly scripted, and the rest of the speech can be summed up thusly: anger, accusation, blame shifting, political payoffs to interest groups and “admissions” that everyone else has served him poorly. This speech was meant to hit the reset button. . . it missed. It also tells us that he is doomed to failure.

Obama has a serious problem. Unlike other presidents whose approval ratings have risen and fallen with events, Obama’s have been on a steady downward course. This indicates a man who has lost the public. Thus, his objective last night was to reconnect with the public, to pull a mea culpa, to assure the public he will change, and to convince the public to give him a second chance. He failed. Instead, last night just highlighted why he lost the public in the first place.

Technical Problems: Lack of Inspiration
Obama is a poor speaker and his speech writers stink. He has yet to give a memorable speech, and last night was no exception. There were no memorable quotes, no incredible moments of truth, no compelling arguments, and no moment where he made a genuine call for all of us to come together. Instead, his speech was bland, with angry emphasis substituting for passion, half-hearted praise for America substituting for inspiration, an abundance of “too-perfect-to-be-true” letters from widows and orphans that felt like blatant manipulation, and “I” substituting liberally for “we.” He was snide, unpleasant, insulting and combative. He read poorly. His self-deprecating jokes were all backhanded slaps at his opponents, and he just wasn’t presidential at any point.

The contrast with Virginia Governor McDonnell could not have been starker.

Obama’s failure, by the way, was obvious in two facts from last night. First, the leftists hired by CNN to act as analysts were amazingly subdued. “He did what he had to do” was about the highest praise they could muster (even David Axelrod was subdued). They questioned his priorities (or lack thereof) and even scoffed at some of what he said. Not one person suggested this was a great speech or a memorable speech or that he’d “hit a homerun.” When your own PR people can’t praise your speech, something is wrong. Secondly, CNN’s instant poll showed a 20% drop in the number of people who gave this speech high marks compared to last year. Given that this poll would likely include a higher proportion of Democrats than last year’s, this was a horrible result for Obama.
Political Payoff Smorgasbord
Aside from poor writing and delivery, the main reason Obama’s speech will not resonate with the public is that it ultimately was not meant for the public, it was aimed at his special interest. As I’ve said before, the Democratic Party is no longer a party, it has become an alliance of tribes, each of whom want their share. Last night, emphasized that:
• Unions: Obama promised a second stimulus, aimed at putting “America” back to work. . . targeted at unionized jobs. Further, while he seemed to talk about free trade last night with South Korea, Panama and Columbia, he never said he would push the free trade deals already negotiated with those countries that are languishing in Congress. Instead, he talked about “enforcement,” which is the same anti-free trade garbage his side has been spewing about imposing environmental and labor regulations on our trading partners.

• Environmentalists: Obama promised to get a carbon tax, i.e. cap and trade, even if he had to bribe a handful of Republicans (like Lindsey Graham) to get it, by offering to include subsidies for nuclear power and limited off-shore drilling.

• Gays: He promised to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and he promised “increased” civil rights office enforcement, i.e. more lawsuits.

• Feminists: He promised to fight for the feminist panacea “equal pay.”

• Blacks: He promised a national hate crimes law.
The middle class? You get to pay for these promises, and he repeated the silly plan I discussed the other day -- though he shifted the blame on that one to Biden. (FYI, that plan is actually aimed at feminists and college students and the poor, not the middle class.)

To cover his giveaways, he paid lip service to the public’s complaints. For example,
• Obama’s Deficits: He acknowledged the deficit problem, by blaming it on Bush. He then promised a “total spending freeze.” What he did not say was that this would only cover 17% of spending and that Pelosi has already said it won’t get through the House. He then tried to make this sound impressive by talking about the savings this would generate over the next TWO decades. Wally from Dilbert tried this once, claiming his plan would save the company one million dollars. . . over a million years.

• Job Destruction: Obama acknowledged that people remain unemployed, a problem he blamed on Bush. First, he tried to lump the 6.3 million jobs that vanished under his policies on Bush by claiming that the economy had lost seven million jobs in the past two years. Then he blamed lobbyists (which made no sense). Then he bragged about his stimulus bill creating two million jobs -- a well documented lie. (See here and here.)

Now he’s promising targeted tax cuts for small business “for job creation.” No one has any idea what he’s talking about here -- he probably doesn’t even know himself -- but if this is nothing more than a “one time tax cut for hiring” (a new favorite among Democrats) then this is doomed to fail.

• Terrorism: Obama acknowledged that terrorism exists, a big step for him. But he blamed the failure to stop it on Bush, and he specifically blamed the Detroit near-bombing on policies put in place by Bush. Yet, while he acknowledged Bush’s failures he offered no plan to address terrorism other than more of the same. He then, amazingly, made the childish claim that he had “killed more terrorists” than Bush did in 2008. This brought near eye-rolls from the Joint Chiefs.

• Health Care: Obama also whined about the opposition to his health care bill, which he blamed on obstructionist Republicans, corrupt lobbyists, and cowardly Democrats who are worried about elections, i.e. public opinion. Then he said, “I’m no quitter” (another demonstrable falsehood). He then reformulated his plan as “health insurance reform” because no one likes insurance companies, and he challenged anyone who would oppose him to come up with their own plan -- something many have done, though he wouldn’t know that because he refuses to listen. But he waited 27 minutes into his speech to raise this issue, leading one CNN pundit to declare: “he won’t give up on health care, but he’s signaled that he won’t fight for it either.”

• Iran: He acknowledged that Iran hadn’t been fixed yet, which he blamed on the Iranians and prior administrations, i.e. Bush. He then swore that there would be real consequences if they didn’t comply this time. Of course, he couldn’t think of any consequence to mention, nor did he say who would bear them.

• Iraq: He promised again to bring home all of the (combat) troops from Iraq at some point in time, it’s just taking longer than expected because the “three” (formerly “two”) wars Bush left him were such disasters.

• Corruption: Recognizing that most polls put corruption at the top of the public’s concerns about his administration, he (1) promised “to fight corruption”. . . in Afghanistan, (2) he demonized lobbyists and claimed to have kicked them out of his administration -- another lie, (3) he talked about undoing the Supreme Court’s decision that allows corporations to donate money to causes, something recent polls show the public considers a matter of free speech, and (4) swore he would highlighting earmarks to the public. . . as compared to his campaign promise to stop them. He made no mention of his awarding a no-bid contract to a supporter (something he once called “corrupt”) or of the massive amounts of corruption in his administration and in Congress (see here, here and here).
In other words, he paid lip service to the public’s concerns, and he showed that he refuses to accept any responsibility for the public’s concerns and he doesn’t intend to actually address them except with more lip service.
Angry Obama Gives Way To Nasty Obama
Finally, we come to Obama’s biggest problem: his paranoid hatred of “those who oppose.” In a nod to Rodney King’s “can’t we all just get along,” Obama mentioned the word bipartisanship and he spoke of the need to change the tenor in Washington. But then, like a petulant child, he set about settling scores.

He attacked the Republicans over and over, using any falsehood he thought would help him. He tried to blame them for his own failures and then, like a cartoon villain, he incredibly warned them that they would be held responsible for any further failure on his part. He called his own party cowards for trying to hear the message of the people. He blamed Bush for every single one of his faults and failures. And, as noted before, he petulantly tried to sound tough by claiming that he killed more terrorists than Bush did in 2008.

He demonized bankers and lobbyists, in ways not heard since the 1930s -- all the while ignoring the fact that they are his biggest contributors, that they are his closest advisors, and that he appointed them to serve in his cabinet and to run his treasury department.

He even tried to play the self-pity, phony-acceptance-of-responsibility game by taking “my share of the blame” only to twist that into accepting the blame for being stopped by the self-interested and politically motivated acts of others.

Incredibly, he made a highly inappropriate attack on the Supreme Court, in their presence. It is not that he criticized a court decision, but that he attacked the court personally, when he angrily accused the court of destroying “a century of settled law” in favor of special interests (impugning their motives). This caused Justice Alito to mouth the words “not true”. . . giving Obama a second “you lie” moment in as many trips to Congress. And, indeed, it was not true. By the way, as an active attorney, his attack on the Court is an ethics violation and he should be sanctioned.

Finally, he thanked no one for anything.

This man is a child. He knows nothing, and it shows. He out hates Nixon as a paranoid gatherer of enemies and a serial assigner of blame. He out wimps Carter as an effete warrior. He makes the obviously stupid Bush II look like Einstein, and the smarmy insider Bush I look like a zealous reformer. And he makes the dishonest and dishonorable Bill Clinton look like George Washington.

Obama is finished. Not because he doesn’t have time to change, but because he’s not willing or able to change.


JG said...

Know that I am applauding you right now. This is the best, most detailed analysis of SOTU I've read, as per Commentarama usual.

It's only a year in, and people have short memories. We had a great Congressional takeover in 1994, yet the country re-elected Clinton in 96. Granted, it can easily be blamed on the fact that Bob Dole was the only other choice. But I keep hearing, "Give him a chance, give him more time," not from the talking heads, but from the man on the street. What are the chances, do you think, of us not only repeating '94 (which seems likely) but also '96?

AndrewPrice said...

JG, Thanks! We do our best! :-)

I think there is a very good chance of a 2010/1994 sweep by the Republicans. The polls (as I write about this coming Sunday) show us making gains, but not taking over either chamber -- BUT they don't account for voter intensity, which is going to be worth 3-5% points for the Republicans.

So I think we have an excellent chance -- especially if the Democrats continue to treat the voters with contempt, which seems to be their plan.

As for 2012/1996, on the one hand, Obama has shown no ability or desire to change his approach. He's just getting nastier and digging his heels in more. That's exactly the opposite of what Clinton did to save himself.

On the other hand, if the Republicans take over the Congress, then they could force him to the center, which might actually benefit him. However, winning back the voters will be difficult at this point without an attitude change -- which seems highly unlikely. At this point, I would say he's finished at one term, barring either (1) a horrible Republican candidate or (2) some dramatic event that he handles extremely well.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I saw the speech in only a slightly different light, though I'm very much in agreement with your points. The one thing I saw differently from you is the way the speech was received from his supporters. Though you and I find his delivery and content obnoxious, and lofty meaningless speeches as wasteful of time and air, up until last night, Obama captivated a huge portion of Americans (and Europeans). His empty speeches put him into office, and maintained his popularity for months. The magic started to fade, and though his policies started dropping precipitously in popularity, his speechifying kept being described as "inspiring," "soaring," the best presidential speech since . . . "

This time, not so much. He was angry, disjointed, hesitant then bold, and insulting when irony was called for. If full of sound and fury, signifying nothing in the past, his speeches resonated with far too many people. Last night is the end of that cave-in to charisma. I'm just hoping that those who were mesmerized by his canned garbage and staged remarks in the past will go back and look at those speeches to see just how vapid and empty they actually were. Until last night, his lies and obfuscations got lost in the welter of awed admiration for his style. I think that magic, whatever it was, has left him behind.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think his speeches failed him long before last night, as evidenced by his lack of a bounce after any of them and his inability to sway voters in New Jersey, Virginia or Mass., or even the public on health care of Afghanistan.

Though, I agree that his PR people kept trying to talk him up as the greatest speaker of all time. That seemed to end last night.

Moreover, what truly amazed me last night was that he couldn't even get a rousing ovation from the Democrats in the building!! That's a very bad sign for a man who has little else to offer.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I was actually discussing his speeches qua speeches, so I'm really very much in agreement with you. The actual effects of the speeches have been on a downhill slide for some time now. Up until last night, the flacks always had glowing descriptions of the speeches, even when public reaction to them went from "brilliant" to "good" to "huh?" to "WTF?" I'm happy as a clam to see some very liberal pundits describing last night's speech as anywhere from flat to meaningless. They've been devoid of content for far longer than that.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree.

DCAlleyKat said...

I keep hearing my old granny's voice saying, 'you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear'...Obama is what Obama is, a great orator he is not, a great statesman he is not, an experienced leader he is not, a successful entrepeneur he is not, what he has he has not earned, and what this country needs in a leader he does not have to give, nor can he acquire at this late date. All we as a nation can do for the next three years is endure, and prepare to send him on his way - a real nowhere man back to his nowhere land where he belongs.

AndrewPrice said...

Well said DCAlleyKat, very poetic! I agree entirely.

StanH said...

My first complete Barry speech was very painful! As I laid in my bed in horror, shortly after his screed, my three dogs stared at me with concern, staying by my side, until I thankfully passed out. As I drifted away the dreams came of Old Glory blowing in the breeze, cookouts, the 4th of July, the moon landing, friends and relatives who have come and gone, my children, wife, apple pie…when I was startled from my blissful slumber by my wife screaming at the TV, “you lie you SOB,” and I realized I was still in the time of the Obamanation…darn.

I enjoyed the live blog that was fun. The speech really sucked, he didn’t change any minds and lost more people, with his crappy attitude. I always look for Barry to double down on stupid, he’s an ideologue, and in his feeble eggheaded brain this all he knows to do, cause he read it in a book…sheesh!

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Nice dream -- very patriotic! :-)

It was fun doing the live blog and having everyone participate. It was pretty obvious how much frustration Obama manages to bring out. That's not a good sign for him at all. Thank God for the internet -- it let us see that it's not just us who thinks this way.

I think you're right that he's an ideologue, though I think his problems run deeper. I think he's one of those people who never learned to deal with rejection, never learned to treat other people as equals, and never learned how to listen to or relate to the people around him. And I don't think he can suddenly learn how to deal with rejection or people if he hasn't ever learned to deal with that before.

BevfromNYC said...

News Alert***
Obama has ordered the Justice Dept to find a new location for the NYC/Terrorist KLM trial. Kudos to our Governor, Mayor (yes, Mayor Bloomberg!), Police Commish Ray Kelly, and the people who live in Chinatown for convincing him how stupid it was!

MegaTroll said...

Great review. Thanks. This fits with what I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Great summary. I think your right.

Individualist said...


The economy voted on the Big O's speech today. It dropped over 100 points.

They are evidently not so certain that the speech was as meaningless as you say. They are drasticly trying to push this "let's get the Wall Street" banks nonsense. They think that by setting up the banks as the straw man they can shift the blame.

AndrewPrice said...

Mega & Anon, Thanks. Glad you agree.

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, I definitely do not say this was a meaningless speech, quite the contrary. This speech shows exactly what Obama is planning -- interest group payoffs before he disappears into the sunset. That can cause a lot of damage if he gets away with it, though the Dems would be fools to follow him.

This speech also tells us that he's planning to become more combative and angry. That can be damaging as well.

But mostly, this speech tells us that he doesn't have a clue how to regain the public.

Finally, the market fall actually has more to do with China cutting its stimulus plan than anything Obama is threatening to do.

Individualist said...


I hope you are right about him not being able to win the public back but I have seen a lot of people that will succomb to the notion of "getting" Wall Street.

By the way "They" meant Obama's administration not Wall street that is my mistake. I have been watching the market the last couple of weeks after Obama led into them with another speech. I thought this caused the 500 drop last week. It started to recover yesterday and the day before so when it dropped 100 points today I thought there ya go.

Obama said he was going to be transparent on the TARPS. Maybe he could explain this...

Oh that's Tiny Tims fault I forgot.

Writer X said...

Excellent, Andrew!! I agree with JG: I haven't read a more detailed analysis of the President's desperate speech.

While some on the fringe left will still appreciate his anger, I think most saw it as obnoxious, childish, and certainly unpresidential. He was nothing but defensive the entire speech. That's not exactly inspiring. I think this speech (and tone) put the nail in the coffin on any of his big changes/policies.

Tennessee Jed said...

interestingly, to me anyway, I have seen no polls coming out of SOTU, not even a liberal push poll. Now maybe I haven't looked hard enough, but that is a sure sign he didn't even hit a sacrifice fly let alone a home run.

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, I agree that a lot of people fall for demonization, but in this case, he's been after the banks for several months now and it hasn't helped his numbers or gained him enough support to get anything passed. I think he's simply lost touch with the public and until he can reconnect by showing us that he likes us and wants to help us, any attempt to demonize will simply look like blame passing.

The whole market problem began when China tightened it's credit. It's been made worse by the Bernanke question (which was finally resolved late yesterday), and we're do for a drop. I don't think this is the big double dip -- that's still coming, but not yet.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Thanks. I agree entirely, I think that the fringe left will continue to love him -- especially since he is promising to give them their pet issues.

But the rest of the public isn't buying it. And the fringe left is only a few percentage points, so they can't help him (or the Democrats) in any election.

Not to mention that he can't focus on them but also regain the public -- that's the problem. He could get some of their issues if he had the public, but he can't win the public by giving the fringe their issues.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, CNN had their instant poll, but nothing since then. As I note in the article, he lost 20 percentage points from last year in their poll, and this one likely had even more Democrats in it than the last one -- his viewership was down again as well.

Tam said...

I thought Kevin McCullough in his article on Fox summed it up pretty well too:
"It was messy, incoherent, disorganized, and most regrettably defiant.

Which I guess when you think of it, defines the state of our union pretty well."

I am baffled at some comments I read by some women who are still swooning. Somehow, this speech reminded them "why they fell in love in the first place." Blech.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I have long said that the problem with liberals is that they don't see politics as being about policy, they see it as being about personality -- they are looking for someone to guide them. . . to become their savior. That's why they want to know what these people eat and drink and wear, and why they have to vote them the most beautiful and talk about how smart they are -- they see them as idealized parents.

That's also why, when they realize this was the wrong leader, they turn against them so nastily.

I think many of them are still in the "idealized father" phase, but that it's starting to change for the majority of them -- and that many are also already in the "we were betrayed" phase.

CrispyRice said...

I, too, agree with JG - this is the best analysis I've seen or heard, Andrew. Good work.

I also hadn't thought about it, but Jed is right - where are the polls repeatedly telling us how fantastic the speech was?

And yet, on another board I frequent (non-political based, but it comes up now and then), the libs there are still happily blaming Bush right along with O. Total kool-aid drinkers. It's insane.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Thanks! It's always good to hear that people like what we do.

Jed does raise a good point. I see it as the same thing like the totally subdued atmosphere on CNN after the speech -- no one is trumpeting this speech.

In terms of the KoolAid drinkers, they will always be there, but you should start to note a much more desparate tone in most of them -- as they are trying more now to convince themselves that they were right than they are trying to convince us to believe in him.

patti said...

i held my breath for parts of this, then burst out laughing from sheer relief. wow, how he has fallen in ONE year. thank the good lord.

you hit on it all. what a asswipe(almost said turd in place of a patti description!). he is laser focused on what he wants and has no idea that he is dooming himself. again, thank god.


AndrewPrice said...

Patti, I agree -- he's decided to go full speed ahead no matter what the people want. That just doesn't work in a democracy.

Individualist said...

Thanks Andrew,

I was not aware of what was going on in China.

I am actually concerned about Obama's drop in popularity. I think that Obama may find himself in the postion of th little boy who cried wolf and congress is in n better situation. Truthfully their arrogance hurt Obama worse than his actions. With no political capital they cannot even handle an "event" so let's pray it does not happen.

I think the Dems are going to try to do what FDR did back then or will fall into Jimmy Carter's malaise. Neither prospect looks all that good in the next three years. I don't know I just am not able to be all that optimistic. It's like every day Obama plays political Russsian Roullette except he points the gun at the American people. Listening to the clicks is unnerving.

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, No problem.

I actually agree with you. I like the fact that Obama is likely to lose the next election no matter who we run, BUT a weakened president is an invitation for foreign countries to do bad things. It also means that we can't achieve the good things that we could do.

By the way, I absolutely agree that Congress, not Obama has been the disaster. Obama's failure has been simply abdicating responsibility to Congress without any guidance or control, and the fact that his personality is very grating and his "leadership" style is obnoxious.

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