State of the Union Open Thread

Shortly after surviving the Republican drubbing in 1994, former President Bill Clinton began a pragmatic shift to the center, eventually working with Republicans on such centrist–and even borderline conservative–ideas as welfare reform and promising that “the era of big government is over.”  Fast forward to late January 2011 and we have a new Democrat in the White House, who himself survived what he called a “shellacking” in the previous midterm election, who himself is preparing for a pragmatic shift to the center surely as uncomfortable to him as it seems as unlikely to us.

Expect this State of the Union address to begin a new era of faux cooperation and false bi-partisanship and as much pragmatism as empty words will allow.  Expect the president to talk about how the country is suddenly aware that we need fiscally responsible policies.  Expect the president to talk about how he wants his Democrats to work together with Republicans — the same Democrats who used mechanisms like reconciliation and “deem-and-pass” to force through legislation without Republican input.  And expect the president to talk about the importance of civil discourse in American politics, remarks that media outlets the world over will interpret as directed toward the American right, even though it is the left who has proven itself anything but civil.

6:30 PM

At a little after 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, the folks at National Journal released a smattering of prepared remarks from tonight’s State of the Union Address:

With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Wrong.  With their votes, the American people determined that they want to put the “representation” back into our representative republic.  With their votes, the American people put forth a referendum on the expansion of government and relentless onslaught of contra-constitutional policies coming from inside the Beltway.  With their votes, the American people repudiated ObamaCare, and said a resounding “no” to increased government involvement in their daily lives, all in the nebulous name of “reform.”

At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

Long on words, short on substance.  It’s easy for the president to talk about fostering growth, but it’s hard for the president to reconcile his agenda and explain how.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.  That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

“By the jobs they can find?” So far, the only growth industry in terms of employment has been in government.

“By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise?”  This, from the president who fought against a tax policy that would have provided those small business owners with the breathing room necessary to innovate and grow and employ others?

“By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children?”  Has anybody seen the debt clock lately?

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.

This, from the guy who is putting the Space Shuttle program on blocks and leaving NASA and our astronauts at the mercy of the former Soviet Union to blast off into space.  How are we going to unleash a wave of innovation without jobs?  How are we going to create jobs without creating a nation where business and industry are welcome?

This IS our generation’s Sputnik moment, in that the signal from Sputnik has long since faded and the empty shell of that satellite broke apart on re-entry.

7:10 PM

Earlier today, Mike Pence took to the House floor and issued an open message to the president about tonight’s speech.

Mr. President, we will not win the future with the failed economic policies of the past. As you come into this hallowed chamber tonight, we urge you, Mr. President, to give not just a new speech. Give the American people a new direction.

Click HERE for the video.

7:18PM

As it turns out, the folks at National Journal have a full draft of the president’s speech tonight.  In violation of a White House embargo and all.  Hold on for a moment, and I’ll go looking for some highlights.

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we are also mindful of the empty chair in this Chamber, and pray for the health of our colleague – and our friend – Gabby Giffords.

It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I expected the president to begin with something about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I’m glad that he did not artificially inflate long-term hopes of her recovery — perhaps he saw the same thoughtful and thought-provoking article in New York Magazine that so many others did this past week.

Nevertheless, cooperation comes from trust, and trust cannot simply be manufactured because of a single speech, no matter where people are seated. The Democrats no longer in power did everything possible to shut Republicans out of the debate over the past two years — reconciliation, deem-and-pass, Christmas Eve votes … you name it, they tried it. Are we supposed to forget?

The Republicans over the past two years practiced the Doctrine of Constructive Constructionism, proposing ideas while explaining why the alternatives were not feasible. Are we supposed to embrace this new call for civility and, in doing so, play the part of the battered wife who swears that, this time, her husband will change? I don’t buy it.

I believe we can. I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

Work toward a better life for our children?

Perhaps we should start by addressing this nation’s mounting debt.

I heard Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee speak for a few minutes today in opposition to a Republican proposal to draw spending back to 2008 levels. She spoke about how we must ensure that America “keeps moving forward,” as if government spending is the only fuel for American innovation and greatness. It’s the same attitude that people have with regard to schools (and, often, the two issues run hand-in-hand) — somehow, if we throw money at our children, the money alone will translate to better grades and better futures.

It takes more than money to guarantee results in the classroom, just like it takes more than government spending to keep America “moving forward.” We need to dial back spending, whether it be through a spending limit amendment like that proposed by Reps. Mike Pence and Jeb Hensarling (the former and current House Republican Conference chairmen) or whether it be through a more policy-targeted approach like the “roadmap” proffered by Rep. Paul Ryan.

That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

Never mind that the Democrats were absolutely a-okay with allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset if the Republicans did not acquiesce on extending unemployment benefits.  Those steps were taken by Democrats only because they knew that, if the tax cuts were not passed, it would be political suicide for the Democratic Party.  Those steps were taken by Democrats only because they knew that the Republicans would put forth legislation to retroactively extend the Bush tax cuts only weeks later after the 112th Congress took office.  (Frankly, I wish they would have avoided the compromise.)

But we have more work to do. The steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession – but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful.  I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts of once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear – proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.

They’re right. The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100.  Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an internet connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.

China and India will only catch and surpass the American economy if we allow those nations to do so.  We need to make America attractive for business and industry again — that means lower corporate taxes, that means the end of irresponsible environmental legislation only put into effect by the EPA as a extra-legislative back door to cap-and-trade legislation.  We are actively killing the coal industry.  We are actively preventing innovation.  Meanwhile, China and India are glad to be on the receiving end of a global market in which the United States is no longer the most attractive place to do business.

So yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember – for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We are home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any other place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here.  It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still.  As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

The very concept of “shaping our own destiny” is an inherently conservative ideal.  Risk and reward.  Bootstraps.  Everything this president and his party have advanced goes in the complete opposite direction — coddling, regulating, stifling.  If Barack Obama and the new left had their way, we would leave the destiny-shaping up to the government.  Ninety-nine weeks of unemployment, for example, has a destiny-shaping effect on those who rely upon it.

Achievement, too, is an inherently conservative ideal.  Everything this president and his party have advanced goes in the complete opposite direction — affirmative action, collective bargaining agreements, opposition to merit-based pay, opposition to school choice.  The pooling of server tips recently made news in Oregon — how does that foster achievement?  What incentive does your waiter have to be quicker, nicer, or more attentive than his counterpart in the section next to yours?

All right — I got as far as I could before the speech, and I intend to resume Bar Exam study afterward.

For the full advance text of the president’s speech, click HERE.

For the full advance text of the Republican response, click HERE.

From this point on, take a look at the America’s Right Twitter feed:

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Comments

  1. Randy Wills says:

    Not a word was spoken that will help the American worker stand a chance of competing with China and India. Just a few common sense actions, like lifting the ban on domestic oil supply exploration and development, would have cheered me up a little, but no, the President insists that we focus on alternative energy sources while our industries face escalating foreign petroleum prices. That will certainly help us to be competitive, now won’t it? China will be happy to build all of those solar panels and wind turbines as the cost of energy “skyrockets”, as the pre-candidate Obama admitted would “necessarily happen”.

    And haven’t we been investing in a failed public educational system for decades. If we want better educated children, fire the teachers unions, put the ciriculum in the hands of local school boards, and tell parents to get off their duff and start fulfilling the role that only a two-parent, stable, home environment can provide.

    But I almost forgot the choicest nugget of wisdom from our President regarding the moral accomplishment of his administration; a person can now serve openly in the military “regardless of who you love”. Splendid. Who could possibly be against such a policy. Having lived in a barracks environment for a couple of years, I can just see how wonderfully that will work out. Sexual harassment court martials will surely be the glue that bonds the fighting unit together, don’t you think?

    Nuts! I’m going take something for this headache and go to bed. Maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.

    Randy

  2. Dee says:

    I wish Paul Ryan would run for President. He is intelligent, well spoken, and looks natural when giving a speech (ie, does not look like he is reading teleprompters). The SOTU speech gave me a headache and had me yelling at the TV. BO is the one who cut our space program. He keeps harping on “high speed” rail trains, when the government can’t even run the slow speed Amtrak efficiently. I agree with Randy that using our domestic oil resources would help immensely in freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil. BO wants to do away with coal mining and has no intention of expanding our nuclear energy plants.
    Also, as Randy points out, why do we keep pouring money into education when the teachers unions take most of it and keep paying poor teachers. The education system needs to run more like a private company where, if you do a poor job, you get fired. No tenure! I would also like to see a review of how our “roads and bridges” projects are run and how that money is being spent. Once again, unions have a stronghold here and nothing changes. I have seen roads blocked off for miles due to construction and when you come upon the work site, it is only the size of a football field with either 2 workers on site or 42 workers, 2 of whom are working and the other 40 are standing around. I saw one worker who was on crutches. Now tell me how much work was he going to get done. This was on a weekend so I am sure he was being paid time and a half or double time.
    I don’t believe that BO will change much. He wants what he wants and will do what is necessary to get it. I have one final question. Why did it take the shooting of a congresswoman to get congress to realize they should be more civil and work together? Why did this not happen when the military people were shot in Texas or when the ordinary citizen is shot? Just asking.

  3. Gail B. says:

    Randy, you’re right — re “alternative energy sources.” I head John Kerry give a speech a few days ago (had to grit my teeth). He was talking to people in the audience after he spoke, and he told one somebody that global warming didn’t go over very well with the public, that “we” would have to make cap and trade more attractive by focusing on the economy, jobs, and environment. (It’s commmmming baaaaaack!)

    Jeff, excellent job, as always. Thank you!

    I noticed two things that I haven’t heard anyone else mention —

    One was when he mentioned Joe Biden. Forgotten the exact wording, but something like, “Who would have ever thought a man from Deleware would be sitting in the chair behind me?” The audience LAUGHED. Obama continued with something about “a man who swept the floors in his father’s bar, and became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.” The audience did not laugh. They gave Speaker John Boehner a standing ovation and applauded him.

    The other thing was when Obama declared that every person could serve in the military “no matter who he loved.” The camera was focused on a row of highly decorated military personnel who DID NOT MOVE THEIR HANDS to applaude that statement. Their hands remained in their laps as people around them applauded. To me, that was worth its weight in gold, as far as the opinion of the military of DADT.

    The bottom line was that he tried to sound like Reagan by professing to take measures to reduce the national debt, but he also reserved the right to “invest” (read: SPEND) in the economy.

    Obama’s lips were moving; I didn’t believe anything he had to say. (Biden was born in Pennsylvania but his family moved to Deleware; Speaker Boehner himself has said he swept the floors in his father’s bar.)

    In the words of Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-2), “You lie!”

  4. Gail B. says:

    Paul Ryan’s response was just out-damn-standing! The Republicans DO need to do something to give the responses a bit more decorum. If nothing but SHOW a room filled with staff members of some of the Representatives, there should at least be the theatrics that SOMEBODY was there to HEAR what he had to say…and to APPLAUD when he finished!

  5. Gail B. says:

    Randy, I didn’t finish reading yours before my thoughts had jelled in my head. I went back and finished reading your comment after I’d finished writing mine. (Sorry about that, but I’m happy that I wasn’t alone in my observation.)

    And, I hope your headache is gone.

  6. WTF says:

    Winning The Future….. that was done by our Founders… we have squandered it.

  7. WTF says:

    Obama, a sarcastic tee shirt designers dream come true.

  8. Gail B. says:

    Delaware.

  9. Anonymous says:

    READERSHIP we can believe in. Talk to the screen.

  10. Anonymous says:

    High speed trains. Sounds like a target dream come true for a terrorist and/or nutjob…. not to mention totally not needed.

  11. Dean says:

    I am sorry to have to say this, Jeff, but you really seem top be getting more and more strident in your opinions and more fixated on Obama than ever before. I have normally agreed with you, but if this growing “hatred” for the Dems is not attenuated a bit, you are going to end up sounding JUST LIKE THE DEMS when they took over the government a bit more than two years ago. Come on, man! You are way to smart to let that happen. If the Republicans and Tea Partiers just elected begin to try to run over everyone else like the Dems did, this country is going to be in the same mess now as we were then. Civil discoursec give and take, and trade offs are all necessary to run this democratic Republic of ours in such a way as to keep it the leading nation in the world.

  12. Danny Reiter says:

    I remember the first time, and only twice, in my whole 47 yrs of life that I applied for unemployment benefits. I believe the max allotted time was 6 weeks and then you were cut off, done, finito! What the h*ll is going on now with people getting over a years worth of payments. Has our government gone crazy?

  13. graypanther says:

    Randy, I don’t often find egregious idealism in your posts, but I just caught this.

    tell parents to get off their duff and start fulfilling the role that only a two-parent, stable, home environment can provide.

    “only a two-parent…environment?” As of 2009, 34% of this country’s children live in single-parent households; and of those, almost two-thirds are in poverty by Federal standard. There are things that can be insisted on to improve education in this country, but two parents ain’t one of ‘em.

  14. Randy Wills says:

    Good morning, “graypanther”.

    Yes, I know that that was an idealistic/unrealistic thing to say, but I am so tired of people – supposedly adults – who consider the children that they bring into the world as “throw-away” items when it comes to satisfying their own egos or uncontrolable sexual urges.

    As far as I know, there is no dispute that two-parent (after all, it DID take two “parents” to conceive them) households, regardless of economic considerations, provide the best environment for the maturation and education of children. Bringing a child into the world is, in my opinion, the highest order responsibility that an adult can undertake and yet they often are treated as the detrius of the conceiving person’s sex life.

    Sorry for throwing my personal convictions at AR’s readers. It’s just my disgust for parents who act in their own self-interst at the expense of the child and my compassion for those same children who deserve better.

    Randy

  15. graypanther says:

    there is no dispute that two-parent…households, regardless of economic considerations, provide the best environment for the maturation and education of children.

    nor will you find any dispute on that point from me, as I have been closely involved with several single parents at times when they were making epic efforts to assure stable environments and good educations for their children. My question is, rather, how – given the reality that roughly one-third of this country’s children live in single-parent families – can it be assured that they receive good educations in spite of this abiding disadvantage?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Well said, Randy.

  17. Individual mandate? says:
  18. Randy Wills says:

    To “graypanther” @ 3:43 PM:

    And now we come to reality; there is no top-down solution to this, or for that matter, any one of society’s intertwined ills. It’s a personal, moral, ethical, problem that all of the money in the world will not solve – at least not in a free society and one that respects life. It can only be solved at the personal level when individuals realize that their responsibility is to the God of the universe. His ways are right and true and it’s futile to try to replace them with the laws of secular man in the form of a their secular government. (And please do not interpret that as an appeal to a theocracy, which I would oppose with all my strength.)

    If one wants to make sense of all that is going on, all one has to do is analyse, from the perspective of the words of Jesus Christ, any problem that they can think of which derives from the mind and actions of men and therein you will find the solution.

    Rejection of this reality, born of rebellion against not only the Word of God but also the words of our Founders, invariably, historically, and inevitably, leads to a dead end. As it says, “there is a way that seems right unto man but the end thereof is destruction”.

    Sorry to go all “religious” on you, but there really isn’t any other honest answer. I’m not a preacher or religious “fanatic”, but rather I’m a rational person steeped in professional business/technical issues, coupled with a strong interest in history and politics. If I thought that there was another answer, I would say so.

    Randy

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