Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The President's Speech

Having been bowled over by the President's Tucson speech earlier this month, I was eagerly awaiting his State of the Union address. He had loaded the bases in Tucson; now all he had to do was hit the ball out of the park. A grand slam, with all the world watching!

It didn't happen. What we got was standard political boilerplate. We're going to attack the deficit (nod to the right), but not by cutting investments in education (nod to the left). And so it went, with the President endlessly talking about investment, without ever acknowledging that investment presupposes the availability of money to invest. The United States is in hock to China alone to the tune of $900 billion and is currently spending a trillion dollars more than it takes in each year. The word "investment" has a nice ring to it, politically, and that's where the President headed last night, and the result was a sad misuse of his rhetorical power.

Today the President flew to Wisconsin, where he commended a manufacturer of solar shingles. The company was unable to get bank loans, it turns out, so Uncle Sam came through. The banks apparently thought the company a poor risk, but the Government knew better.

Cynics might say that a Presidential visit to Green Bay two weeks before the Super Bowl had a political component. How could anyone think that?

The trouble with being a great orator is that your failures as well as your successes are magnified. The State of the Union address was a monumental failure, because so much was expected, and so little was delivered. If the speaker had been George Bush, it wouldn't have been so bad.