Updated: March 17, 2013 6:12PM
It says something about the quality, substance and seriousness of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message that the most talked-about moment of the night was, well, Sen. Marco Rubio’s needing a sip of water to ward off nervous-induced dry mouth during his Republican response to the president’s oratory.
Obama’ speech — except at the end when it rose to an emotional pitch talking about the victims of gun violence — was flat, uninspiring and long. He droned on and on — giving new meaning to the phrase “drone attack” — as he played politics, laid down his liberal agenda and massaged reality.
Obama complained about a Washington plagued by “manufactured crisis” caused by — guess who? — those wicked Republicans. He groused about the latest “manufactured crisis” — the so-called sequester mandating $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years — but artfully ignored that he was the manufacturer of said crisis, if that’s the proper word for it.
In 2011 when his negotiations with Congress over increasing the national debt ceiling floundered over his habit of raising the ante with demands for more revenue, Obama proposed the sequester as a way to get approval of raising the limit on the government’s credit card. The idea was that the spending cuts would be so severe they would force a “super-committee” to find a way to control federal spending — it turned out it couldn’t — rather than let the reductions go into effect. The pressure would be particularly high on Republicans, the theory went, because half the cuts hit defense. Obama had made the GOP a deal it couldn’t refuse.
Except that the deal Obama’s now offering in exchange for the sequester is another tax hike and more spending, or “investments” as he likes to label it. Suddenly, the sequester looks like the only real reduction in government red ink that Republicans can count on from this president. There may be short-term negative consequences for the economy, but long term the sequester represents fiscal restraint and offers a degree of governmental economic certainty to business leaders and investors who have seen little of it. And Obama will be the one who has to find a way to manage the cuts in a way that’s effective and does the least damage to the economy and defense.
As his speech dragged on and on, Obama offered up a laundry list of new “investments” on education, climate change, green energy and other issues dear to liberals and declared they wouldn’t add a dime to the deficit. That’s pretty hard to swallow from a president who ran up the national debt more in one term than free-spending President George W. Bush did in eight years.
In further shape-shifting of the facts, Obama claimed credit for the nation’s boom in oil and natural gas exploration, one of the few bright spots for the economy in recent years. But, as Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, notes, the Congressional Research Service found 96 percent of increased oil production coming on non-federal lands in places like North Dakota, currently experiencing fossil-fuel-driven economic prosperity. “Something is very, very wrong with the president’s energy programs,” says Pyle.
With the exception of immigration and gun control through expanded background checks, little of what Obama offered seems to stand much chance in Congress. The reason for that is his refusal to admit the nation has a spending problem and to do something about it, and his preference for battling and scapegoating Republicans instead of finding a way to work with them.