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Posts For: February 24, 2009

Everyone, Back to School!

In listening to President Obama’s address tonight, I thought I heard something a little extreme about education, but then tossed it up to being distracted and a little sleepy. I just went back and looked at the transcript and, sure enough, this startling little passage was actually uttered:

And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option.

Every American should go back to school for at least a year on the president’s orders? Really? Even the ones who have been through school and are gainfully employed? Even the ones who can’t afford to take time away from their jobs in order to get an additional certificate? And the unfortunate kids who need to leave school and take care of this or that responsibility . . . can’t?  I’m sympathetic to the importance of education and support most any effort to get Americans to choose to learn, but this isn’t pro-education; it’s community organizing on a national scale. It’s also unfeasible and creepy. The last time we caught a whiff of anything like this was when Michelle Obama made what I frankly thought was a gaffe a year ago. In a speech at UCLA, she said:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Apparently that was no gaffe. She knows her husband. But, most times, peoples’ “lives as usual” have taken shape out of necessity, not commitment to ignorance or isolation, and certainly not an addiction to “comfort.”

Can a prescribed reading list be far off?

In listening to President Obama’s address tonight, I thought I heard something a little extreme about education, but then tossed it up to being distracted and a little sleepy. I just went back and looked at the transcript and, sure enough, this startling little passage was actually uttered:

And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option.

Every American should go back to school for at least a year on the president’s orders? Really? Even the ones who have been through school and are gainfully employed? Even the ones who can’t afford to take time away from their jobs in order to get an additional certificate? And the unfortunate kids who need to leave school and take care of this or that responsibility . . . can’t?  I’m sympathetic to the importance of education and support most any effort to get Americans to choose to learn, but this isn’t pro-education; it’s community organizing on a national scale. It’s also unfeasible and creepy. The last time we caught a whiff of anything like this was when Michelle Obama made what I frankly thought was a gaffe a year ago. In a speech at UCLA, she said:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Apparently that was no gaffe. She knows her husband. But, most times, peoples’ “lives as usual” have taken shape out of necessity, not commitment to ignorance or isolation, and certainly not an addiction to “comfort.”

Can a prescribed reading list be far off?

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I Wonder

How all those libertarians who convinced themselves Obama would be fine feel about things now.

How much the grand total of all of this stuff costs — $4 trillion?$10 trillion? Is it even knowable?

How far below $250,000 Obama will need to go in order to pay for even half of this.

How the Blue Dog Democrats feel about the direction of their party.

How Sens. Specter, Snowe and Collins feel about the torrent of spending they have unleashed.

How many Republican presidential contenders think the public will have had enough by 2012 and that they might have a shot after all.

How all those libertarians who convinced themselves Obama would be fine feel about things now.

How much the grand total of all of this stuff costs — $4 trillion?$10 trillion? Is it even knowable?

How far below $250,000 Obama will need to go in order to pay for even half of this.

How the Blue Dog Democrats feel about the direction of their party.

How Sens. Specter, Snowe and Collins feel about the torrent of spending they have unleashed.

How many Republican presidential contenders think the public will have had enough by 2012 and that they might have a shot after all.

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Ties of the Night

President Obama had an interesting choice of tie tonight: red with white pinstripes. Traditionally, presidents have worn solids or textured solids. Frankly, I found it a bit distracting — particularly with the red and white Old Glory stripes in the background. On the other hand, my wife liked it.

Then, while delivering the Republican response, Gov. Jindal wore a very similar tie — red with somewhat wider white stripes. That’s no way to make yourself look like an alternative. Seems to me like some aid probably should have had a back-up tie handy.

President Obama had an interesting choice of tie tonight: red with white pinstripes. Traditionally, presidents have worn solids or textured solids. Frankly, I found it a bit distracting — particularly with the red and white Old Glory stripes in the background. On the other hand, my wife liked it.

Then, while delivering the Republican response, Gov. Jindal wore a very similar tie — red with somewhat wider white stripes. That’s no way to make yourself look like an alternative. Seems to me like some aid probably should have had a back-up tie handy.

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David Axelrod

When asked on Fox whether the president would accept some 8000 earmarks in the new spending bill David Axelrod made the preposterous statement that this was “old business” left over from the last Congress. So the president is now willing to accept “old business” and shrug his shoulders? It’s this sort of thing that convinces you the Obama team is deeply cynical — or is banking on everyone being in a coma (after reading their 401K statement or from anticipating the tax bill they are going to receive).

When asked on Fox whether the president would accept some 8000 earmarks in the new spending bill David Axelrod made the preposterous statement that this was “old business” left over from the last Congress. So the president is now willing to accept “old business” and shrug his shoulders? It’s this sort of thing that convinces you the Obama team is deeply cynical — or is banking on everyone being in a coma (after reading their 401K statement or from anticipating the tax bill they are going to receive).

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Old Wine, New Bottle

Jindal’s 37 years-old, but there is nothing about his presentation that struck me as particularly fresh. He primarily repeated the same old lines about the dangers of too much government. He could have come up with a more exciting and appealing way of making this point.

Jindal’s 37 years-old, but there is nothing about his presentation that struck me as particularly fresh. He primarily repeated the same old lines about the dangers of too much government. He could have come up with a more exciting and appealing way of making this point.

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Jindal’s Intonation …

… was brutal. It sounded like he was reading a children’s story to four-year olds. Granted, this will strike some people as folksy, but it did not work for me.

… was brutal. It sounded like he was reading a children’s story to four-year olds. Granted, this will strike some people as folksy, but it did not work for me.

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Gov. Bobby Jindal Response

He has a gee whiz quality that isn’t quite presidential, but he’s not the president nor a candidate (yet). He is restating a fundamental point: growing government beyond our means is “irresponsible.” He is reciting Republican alternatives and reviewing his own record including school reform and tax cuts. As the speech goes on, he settles into a calmer and more composed demeanor. For many people seeing him for the first time, Jindal made a reasonably good first impression, I think. The message of individual empowerment and fiscal restraint are not in fashion. But after a few years, it may be once again.

He has a gee whiz quality that isn’t quite presidential, but he’s not the president nor a candidate (yet). He is restating a fundamental point: growing government beyond our means is “irresponsible.” He is reciting Republican alternatives and reviewing his own record including school reform and tax cuts. As the speech goes on, he settles into a calmer and more composed demeanor. For many people seeing him for the first time, Jindal made a reasonably good first impression, I think. The message of individual empowerment and fiscal restraint are not in fashion. But after a few years, it may be once again.

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Jindal Was Weak

. . . in every sense of that word. He wasn’t forceful, just straining. The attempted folksiness came across as a yawn, and he actually didn’t respond directly to Obama’s address — with its gargantuan spending pledges — but offered a generic GOP narrative to run alongside the generic Democratic one. Thoroughly ineffective.

. . . in every sense of that word. He wasn’t forceful, just straining. The attempted folksiness came across as a yawn, and he actually didn’t respond directly to Obama’s address — with its gargantuan spending pledges — but offered a generic GOP narrative to run alongside the generic Democratic one. Thoroughly ineffective.

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Jindal’s Forthcoming Address

As we wait for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s response to President Obama’s speech, a few thoughts:

1. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of these things. Responses rarely have any impact at all, and typically just make the people delivering them look like sour grapes.

2. For this reason, it’s a strange forum for Jindal’s supposed national political debut.

3. Still, I’m happy that a governor — and not a member of Congress — is giving this speech. Given the financial crisis and the battle in Washington over the bailout, the response would have looked more divisive had it come from a member of Congress. A governor, on the other hand, isn’t expected to work as closely with the president; in turn, a response from a governor doesn’t make things as confrontational.

As we wait for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s response to President Obama’s speech, a few thoughts:

1. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of these things. Responses rarely have any impact at all, and typically just make the people delivering them look like sour grapes.

2. For this reason, it’s a strange forum for Jindal’s supposed national political debut.

3. Still, I’m happy that a governor — and not a member of Congress — is giving this speech. Given the financial crisis and the battle in Washington over the bailout, the response would have looked more divisive had it come from a member of Congress. A governor, on the other hand, isn’t expected to work as closely with the president; in turn, a response from a governor doesn’t make things as confrontational.

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It’s Jaw Dropping

“The spending festival has just begun, ” says Brit Hume.

“The spending festival has just begun, ” says Brit Hume.

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A Speech’s Limits

There are probably two areas of national policy that are largely impervious to rhetoric: economics and foreign affairs. Presidential speechmaking can affect these on the margins by temporarily influencing the feelings of the people, or the calculations of foreign potentates. Rhetoric works best when it complements and reinforces the policy being advocated (e.g., Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate).

But rhetoric on economics and foreign policy yields quickly to reality. It is on the basis of concrete actions and policies that allies are either attracted or estranged, enemies are either deterred or aroused, and an economy either recovers or sputters along in recession.

Obama at least should be given credit in one sense for political bravery. He made a lot of promises and predictions tonight, and tethered them to policies with his name on them. If the economy doesn’t get better — or if his administration does not rise to foreign challenges — he will face a difficult re-election campaign.

There are probably two areas of national policy that are largely impervious to rhetoric: economics and foreign affairs. Presidential speechmaking can affect these on the margins by temporarily influencing the feelings of the people, or the calculations of foreign potentates. Rhetoric works best when it complements and reinforces the policy being advocated (e.g., Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate).

But rhetoric on economics and foreign policy yields quickly to reality. It is on the basis of concrete actions and policies that allies are either attracted or estranged, enemies are either deterred or aroused, and an economy either recovers or sputters along in recession.

Obama at least should be given credit in one sense for political bravery. He made a lot of promises and predictions tonight, and tethered them to policies with his name on them. If the economy doesn’t get better — or if his administration does not rise to foreign challenges — he will face a difficult re-election campaign.

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So Much For All Those Republicans

Who wasted breath and personal credibility arguing and assuring us that Obama was some new kind of Democrat. No, he’s a far left liberal who sees that every problem is the governent’s responsibility and all good things, but no ill effects, flow from the infinite expansion of government. There is not the slightest recognition that the growth of government retards economic vitality or impairs innovation. There is no sense that all that money we are going to spend comes from somewhere — businesses and individuals who will have fewer and fewer resources of their own. This is a fantasyland. There is no responsibility in sight, no mature discipline. It is all just a flood of government goodies.

Who wasted breath and personal credibility arguing and assuring us that Obama was some new kind of Democrat. No, he’s a far left liberal who sees that every problem is the governent’s responsibility and all good things, but no ill effects, flow from the infinite expansion of government. There is not the slightest recognition that the growth of government retards economic vitality or impairs innovation. There is no sense that all that money we are going to spend comes from somewhere — businesses and individuals who will have fewer and fewer resources of their own. This is a fantasyland. There is no responsibility in sight, no mature discipline. It is all just a flood of government goodies.

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Here we go again

Can we please have a moratorium on the gallery of heroes gig in presidential speeches. Yes, I know, Ronald Reagan started it with Lenny Skutnik, but this is getting old and stale.

Can we please have a moratorium on the gallery of heroes gig in presidential speeches. Yes, I know, Ronald Reagan started it with Lenny Skutnik, but this is getting old and stale.

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Expanding Benefits for Veterans

This is long overdue and the most appropriate new spending proposed this evening.

This is long overdue and the most appropriate new spending proposed this evening.

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And Now for the Cuts …

Defense tops the list. Obama’s lack of interest in foreign affairs is starting to look dangerous.

Defense tops the list. Obama’s lack of interest in foreign affairs is starting to look dangerous.

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This is change

There was not a single new idea in this speech. This was warmed over campaign rhetoric.  And he didn’t even deliver it well. He stumbled more times than I have ever heard him before.  It was all platitudes about American can-do, promises that our government would take care of our all problems, and that we wouldn’t have to pay for it, we could simply tax the rich for all America’s needs.  This was a disappointing performance. 

There was not a single new idea in this speech. This was warmed over campaign rhetoric.  And he didn’t even deliver it well. He stumbled more times than I have ever heard him before.  It was all platitudes about American can-do, promises that our government would take care of our all problems, and that we wouldn’t have to pay for it, we could simply tax the rich for all America’s needs.  This was a disappointing performance. 

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Re: Do You Think They’ll Catch On?

Jen, that’s why he pledged to cure cancer in our time. It’s the only way we can afford to pay for everyone’s healthcare.

Jen, that’s why he pledged to cure cancer in our time. It’s the only way we can afford to pay for everyone’s healthcare.

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Don’t You Think They’ll Catch On?

95% of the people will get tax cuts and we’re spending money up the wazoo. And we’re going to not burden our kids with debt. Hmm. Is there some new math he’s going to include in that birth to employment education plan?

95% of the people will get tax cuts and we’re spending money up the wazoo. And we’re going to not burden our kids with debt. Hmm. Is there some new math he’s going to include in that birth to employment education plan?

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Nancy Is Happy Again

When the president talks about raising taxes on business and the rich.

When the president talks about raising taxes on business and the rich.

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“The Debts We Inherited…”

… are apparently hysterically funny. Or at least Chuck “Life of the Party” Schumer thinks so.

… are apparently hysterically funny. Or at least Chuck “Life of the Party” Schumer thinks so.

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