So President Obama’s speech was so riveting it failed to keep his vice president awake. This video shows Joe Biden catching a power nap while the president talks about winning the future.
It’s easy to make fun, but this is the sign of a successful Obama budget speech. His goal was to lull Americans into a state of supreme tranquility regarding what is actually a pressing crisis. How else could he sell a plan to bring down the debt via increased spending on high-speed rail, high-speed Internet, and universal healthcare? Hypnosis is just about his only shot. So, if you don’t want to face up to our national fiscal catastrophe, make like the vice president. Focus on the soothing sound of Obama’s voice, let your eyelids get heavy, and drift off to calming visions of an infinite American safety net.
Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to both the elder George Bush and Gerald Ford, is the quintessential Middle East “realist.” For decades he has advised that Israel be forced to make concessions to the Palestinians in the vain hope of achieving a grand settlement of all the region’s problems. The spectacle of a veteran analyst spouting the same failed formulas that have been disproved by events time and again is more pathetic than sinister. But since Scowcroft’s tired mantra remains popular with the chattering classes, the onetime mover and shaker does not lack opportunities to rehearse these patent nostrums in prominent forums.
Scowcroft’s article in today’s Financial Times takes account of the “Arab Spring” and the fighting in Libya as well as recent developments on the Arab-Israeli front. But it might as well have been written at any point since the Nixon administration. It repeats the demand that the president get personally involved in the Middle East peace process and summon the leaders of the two sides and persuade them to accept a peace deal that will make the Saudis happy and remove a threat to American security.
What this essay really accomplishes is to show that experience and settled belief in an outcome is no substitute for paying mind to events on the ground.
As Barack Obama was delivering his speech on the nation’s long-term debt crisis, word came that JP Morgan has radically downgraded its projection of the nation’s short-term prospects for economic growth. Morgan now thinks the economy will grow at an annual rate of 1.4 percent this year. This comes hard on the heels of Macroeconomic Advisers lowering its growth projection for 2011 from 4 percent at the beginning of the year to 1.7 percent today.
These aren’t just horrible numbers for the U.S. economy. They are a potential death knell for Barack Obama’s presidency. There is no way tepid growth of this sort is going to make a dent in the nation’s overall employment numbers—and it stands to reason that if unemployment is higher at the time of the 2012 election than it was when he took office in 2009 (7.6 percent), he is exceedingly unlikely to win a second term.
Jake Tapper, the best White House correspondent in the business, provides a devastating comparison of Barack Obama, Then and Now.
President Obama at the GOP House retreat, January 2010:
“We’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that’s—the other party’s being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.”
President Obama today:
“One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates. . . . This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.”
No commentary was provided by Tapper. None was needed.
President Obama’s speech today was both outrageous and insulting, a practically perfect combination of demagoguery and shallowness. It was not a serious substantive speech; it was a political missile whose intention is was to destroy, through libel, the House Republican’s 2012 budget. It was not an effort to engage in a serious discussion; it was an effort to create a cartoon image of Obama’s critics.
But precisely because the president’s speech was so intellectually weak and transparently brutish, I rather doubt it will be effective. If anyone had any doubts what we’re dealing with when it comes to Obama, those have been allayed. He is a deeply irresponsible and arrogant man whose thirst for political power is overriding virtually every good and decent instinct he might have.
As expected, the conference held today in Brussels for donors to the Palestinian Authority, endorsed the idea that the PA “is above the threshold of a functioning state.” This statement echoed the opinion rendered by the International Monetary Fund last week and the United Nations yesterday. According to Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, this all amounts to a “birth certificate” for a Palestinian state.
This birth certificate will add more fuel to the PA’s campaign for a UN General Assembly vote endorsing a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank, Gaza, as well as eastern Jerusalem. While such a move would trash the peace process, the best that Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy of the diplomatic quartet of the European Union, Russia, the UN, and the United States could muster today against this development was to assert that a Palestinian end run around negotiations would split the international community even though he admitted that such unity on the subject was “a rather misplaced hope.”
While the reforms and the efforts at better governance of the West Bank championed by Fayyad are worth supporting, the idea that his administration has somehow miraculously transformed Palestinian political culture is unrealistic.
On occasion, work I do for the U.S. military requires me to travel to Europe—often to Germany, Spain, or Portugal. I wish I could see more of each country but, invariably, I end up simply getting off a boat to take a taxi to the nearest airport before flying home, or in the case of Germany, driving back and forth to a military base.
Like any person traveling on U.S. government business, I must get country clearance—an antiquated practice in which the U.S. embassy in each country I visit must approve the fact that I will step foot in that country. The amount of manpower hours involved on both sides of the country clearance process—not only my own, but also the administrators who format and prepare my request, and then the secretaries and diplomats on the other side who must sift through clearances—is immense. Denying (or not answering) the country clearance request, in practice, means that the visiting official must abort his or her trip. The thinking behind country clearances is that the American ambassador in each country should be aware of what other Americans are doing there. That might make sense in a country like Syria, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, or Laos, but it is a tremendous waste of energy in Western Europe.
Alana notes that Beijing has employed the “I am rubber, you are glue” defense against the U.S. by releasing its own report on human rights in the U.S., in response to American criticism of China. Much of it is malarkey, and to the extent the left takes it seriously—and Alana compiles some depressing evidence on this score—it is yet another indication that “rights talk” on the left is more about contempt for the West in general, and the U.S. and Israel in particular, than it is about standing up for basic standards of decency.
Of course, after the long, sorry saga of the Goldstone Report, more evidence to this effect is superfluous. Still, China’s complaints are interesting nonetheless, for while they tell us nothing about United States, they reveal a lot about what worries China. It is particularly revealing that one of China’s leading complaints is that the U.S. promotion of internet freedom is just a ploy to advance American hegemony. A Wikileaks cable in December revealed that China turned against Google when a leading Chinese politician did a vanity search on his own name which turned up articles criticizing him. The Chinese “human rights report” demonstrates yet again that China fears U.S. leadership on human rights issues more than anything. The Chinese seek naturally, therefore, to employ the ever-reliable tool of Western liberal guilt to encourage the U.S. to give up that leadership.
Although the line appears only once in the transcript of his budget speech, President Obama liked it so much that he used it twice on his audience at George Washington University: “I don’t need another tax cut,” he said.
Why this strikes him as a knockdown argument against cutting taxes is open to speculation. Aside from the fact that the president is a government worker whose salary represents little in the way of increased productivity or profits, his self-regarding snub of tax relief is a special variation of the argumentum ad ignorantiam or appeal to ignorance. Since he does not know why a tax cut would do any good (for him), he can’t see how it would do any good for anyone. The argument may be false, but at least it makes the president looks smug.
How can Obama say in one breath that he “truly believe[s]” that “Republicans want to do the right thing,” and in another that Republicans want to make seniors pay more than $6,000 in lost medical benefits in order to “pay” for tax breaks for the rich?
He can use all the flowery rhetoric he likes to describe the America he believes in, but the fact is he believes that Republicans are morally bankrupt. He has no interest in taking on the difficult issue of stopping the flow of red ink. He’s clearly done some polling that shows his only hope of reelection is to turn around independents and older voters by making them believe that rich Republicans want to rob them. It has worked well for Democrats in the past, and he’s betting it will again.
“I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today,” says Obama.
Of course he doesn’t. He hasn’t even made it clear what his approach is, nevermind what the details are. There were some vague allusions to raising taxes on the rich and cutting wasteful spending in defense. But as expected, it was extremely short on specifics.
The Daily Caller’s Jeff Poor sums this up perfectly on Twitter: “So like did I fall asleep during the plan part?”
So if the medicine Dr. Obama propose doesn’t work—he’ll double the dose of higher taxes and more defense spending cuts.
[B]y 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy – or if Congress has failed to act – my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.
This speech is all about him:
I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without. That some of you wouldn’t be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.
What is new here? This is more of the same.
[B]ut I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs. We’ll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We’ll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education and job training. We will do what we need to compete and we will win the future.
The one area he seems comfortable cutting is defense:
We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete.
After spending the bulk of his speech playing the demagogue by insisting that soaking the rich can eliminate the deficit, the president is posing as the moderates by claiming he occupies the middle ground in between conservatives who oppose any tax cuts and liberals who oppose any cuts in entitlements. But liberals have nothing to worry about in his plan that eschews reform of entitlements. So long as his rhetoric concentrates on portraying his opponents as kicking sick grandmothers to the curb, the notion of his being a moderate, let alone a uniter, is absurd.
Earlier in the speech, Obama says: “As far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon”—a clear swipe at Reagan.
Later in the speech, he cites Reagan’s budget director as a respected source on budget issues: “As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing ‘serious’ or “courageous’ about [the Republican] plan.”
For all of the president’s pose of being above partisan considerations, his approach to the budget crisis is just the same recycled liberal rhetoric we’ve been hearing from decades. He’s for raising taxes on the rich and cutting defense. He’s against touching the entitlements that are the real source of our problems.
This may be the most demagogic speech Obama has ever given. Republicans are simply evil: they want to take money from old people and poor people and give it to their rich friends:
Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President,
This speech is not a serious attempt to deal with the looming crisis of debt but the launch of the president’s 2012 campaign.
“A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s what [Republicans are] proposing. These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren’t the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in.”
Exactly so. The America that President Obama believes in solves all human problems by government spending.
President Obama just accused Paul Ryan of “spending a billion dollars on tax cuts.” Leaving aside the fact that Ryan attempted to do what the president began his speech demanding that Americans do: make the hard choices. But taking less of the people’s money is not spending. This line reflects again the president’s belief that the money in our pockets, whether we are rich or poor, belongs to the government, and not to us.
“Politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse—you’ll hear that phrase a lot,” says Obama. “The implication is that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or politicians will suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.”
Really? Which politicians were actually arguing this? This is Obama trying to play the “reasonable” fiscal hawk, by attacking arguments that nobody serious would actually make.