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Posted at 11:59 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Obama's State of the Union: bipartisan and ideological

By Michael Gerson

This was a smooth, sober economic speech, which took advantage of President Obama's skill at explanation -- describing the economic
changes of the last few decades and making his case for government action to catalyze private economic activity. Obama appealed to
business people, elevating them as heroes of the American recovery. He
 placed an appropriate emphasis on education and innovation. In the great State of the Union tradition, the speech offered something for everyone -- from high-speed rail to better cell-phone coverage. In
this way, it resembled State of the Union addresses by Bill Clinton -- which, it is worth remembering, were often popular and successful.

But there was one difference from Clinton: Obama offered few ideological concessions in his speech. He did not declare the "era of
 big government" to be over. Obama was positive, upbeat, future-oriented -- but also unapologetic about the need for government
 activism.

So the evening resulted in a paradox. A speech that was bipartisan in tone revealed a stark ideological divide. Paul Ryan and many Republicans believe that America has entered a fiscal emergency that
requires a fundamental reconsideration of the role of government. Obama disagrees. His proposals on the deficit broke little ground. His five-year spending freeze resembles his three-year spending freeze from last year's State of the Union speech. His support for higher taxes on
the wealthy dates from his primary campaign. Obama's references to Social Security and Medicare were purposely vague. He is telling Republicans, in essence, "You go first."


I am not sure where the American people are on these matters. Immediately following the November elections, it seemed they were prepared for Republican emergency measures on spending, deficits and
debt in order to avoid the fate of Greece. Now their mood seems to have mellowed -- to Obama's benefit. But tonight, the contrast in
 approaches between Obama and House Republicans could not have been
more clear.

By Michael Gerson  | January 25, 2011; 11:59 PM ET
Categories:  Gerson  | Tags:  Michael Gerson  
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Comments

Michael,
This voter tells the Republicans who want to cut my cirrent and future "benefits" - You go first. Give back your first-class medical benefits, so you can enjoy the same quality as your constituents.
Give back your salary, so you can enjoy the same benefit as your unemployed constituents.
Give back the unfunded mandats in Afghanistan and Iraq. Give back the tax give-aways to the wealthiest 2% of americans. Give that all back and then lets talk about medicate, medicaid and social security - and not one second before.

Prove you mean business about cutting the deficit.

You first.

Posted by: gonzo3d | January 26, 2011 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Gerson swoons: "This was a smooth, sober economic speech, which took advantage of President Obama's skill at explanation -- "

the only economic thing about this long winded musing by the POTUS was its frugality of substantive leadership.
He was all over the map; it was repetitive, ok, we know now the polling on your Apology Tour were taken seriously and you are on the record saying America is exceptional. BOORRING...yet it was a good cigarrette break from his usual progressive radical moves. Said nothing, does nothing. Gauche move to squeeze more out of the bereaved Tucson families.

Posted by: realitybased1 | January 26, 2011 2:41 AM | Report abuse

There is a disconnect between Republicans and the President. He has not spent the past thirty years trying to "Starve the Beast" with massive debt in good times. And now, he doesn't want to make cuts with a meat ax, but a scalpel.

The GOP has yet to offer more than platitudes on how to deal with a debt that came from tax break for big biz and their CEO's. We must deal with healthcare. No plan from the GOP. We must make education better. No plan from the GOP. We must encourage development. No plan from the GOP. Just platitudes about cutting taxes forever, cutting all programs but the military and turning business loose.

Republicans blame the government they've had the bigger share of running for the past 30 years. And they still don't have a plan for the future other more of what went wrong and a meat ax for the rest.

Posted by: kcbob | January 26, 2011 6:05 AM | Report abuse

All dreams and no leadership. It is easy to dream and hard to do the hard work of containing soaring healthcare costs that are eating close to 20% of our GNP and destroying our ability to compete and create jobs. It is not popular to talk about containing costs and balancing the budget. Clearly Obama is planning on borrowing from China indefinitely.
The pathetic thing is that the Republicans, for all their bluster, plan on doing exactly the same thing as Obama and the Democrats. No cost containment anywhere.

It is left for the bond markets to force the US to get their economic house in order. The bond market crisis will soon be upon us.

Posted by: jsands2 | January 26, 2011 7:05 AM | Report abuse

What's the matter, Gerson, space bar broken? Who's the copy editor over there, e. e. cummings?

Posted by: dougpaulod | January 26, 2011 8:12 AM | Report abuse

A washed up bipartisan speech writer for George the Dumber (who needs a new copy editor by the way) calling the kettle "bipartisan."

Posted by: areyousaying | January 26, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

lest we all forget - this was a 'state of the union' speech - meant for the ENTIRE NATION - nothing more and nothing less.

in such a speech, there can be no specifics about the budget, troop withdrawals, infrastructure improvements, energy independence, the proposed changes in the tax code, line item cuts or program modifications.

this was the presentation of an outline for the present condition and 'compass settings' for this year's direction of the nation by it's president.

all the complaints and criticisms focus around the idea that he was not specific enough and not 'concerned enough' about dealing with the long term debt.

overview is all that can be accomplished in an hour. in light of the time spent, i believe he outlined the 'state of the union' quite well and left MOST CITIZENS feeling optimistic.

on the rebuttal - financially alarming , stress inducing, but w/o a planned way out of the highlighted problem. in the future - a word to the wise for the GOP - if you are going to present a serious problem that you want to address - present viable, sustainable solutions along with the problem(s), lest you leave your audience feeling fear induced stress. and NEVER do it at a time right before people are getting ready for bed - your timing for this speech could not have been worse.

Posted by: boblesch | January 26, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

This speech was inspiring, it reminded me of why I voted for him in the first place. It was a visionary, optimistic road map for a united America, making sensible decisions about where we need to go as a country.

Dropping the oil subsidies to invest in clean energy research and development was the most significant thing in the speech. Moving away from a fossil fuel economy, which rewards the worst countries in the world (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuala, etc.) will provide us with the next major technology boom and millions of jobs, solving two problems at once - national security and the economy.

Posted by: mandelm2001 | January 26, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Mr Obama seems to have "mellowed" but so has Mr Gerson. He has come down some distance from the top of the Conservative mountain he used to sit atop.

Posted by: Geezer4 | January 26, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

As with most State of the Union addresses it was promising everything, and committing to nothing. But on the fringes there may be some hope of some compromises which will achieve some needed results. Was he serious about re-engineering government to consolidate functions? Will he attempt to perhaps consolidate the food part of the FDA with the Ag Dept., and NOAA to deal with food safety in one place. Will he attempt to deal with export consolidation? How about regulatory reform? Every President has promised that, but none have delivered. He is the head of the Executive Branch, he can delete regulations by Executive Order without Congressional approval. Lastly, tax simplification. Reagan took that on and actually raised taxes. But if he would sign onto some sort of a flat tax or a consumption tax, with a marginally lower rate, he would find that revenues would increase and then in later years, the debate could be about raising or lowering the rates instead of changing rates and then adding a loophole. Those would be welcome areas to see some changes. Then we could tackle entitlements and again, there is already a blue ribbon blueprint to follow.

Posted by: genericrepub | January 26, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

When the money runs out, all the President's pretty words don't mean a thing.

The President proposed tens of billions of dollars of new spending for his voting groups: teachers unions, alternative energy investors who made bad bets, unemployable liberal arts professors and railroad hobbyists.

One question:
Why did the President say no pat downs for railroad travellers?
Why are rail travellers exempt from the harsh security measures air travellers suffer?
Terrorists have made many attacks worldwide on rail roads and subways, but ever increasing time-wasting security is strangling the airline business. The Goverment is increasing waiting times at airports to make train travel more competitive on a door to door analysis. Just another example of the President using Governmemt policy to favor his voting blocks.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 26, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

When the money runs out, all the President's pretty words don't mean a thing.

The President proposed tens of billions of dollars of new spending for his voting groups: teachers unions, alternative energy investors who made bad bets, unemployable liberal arts professors and railroad hobbyists.

One question:
Why did the President say no pat downs for railroad travellers?
Why are rail travellers exempt from the harsh security measures air travellers suffer?
Terrorists have made many attacks worldwide on rail roads and subways, but ever increasing time-wasting security is strangling the airline business. The Goverment is increasing waiting times at airports to make train travel more competitive on a door to door analysis. Just another example of the President using Governmemt policy to favor his voting blocks.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 26, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Here's something I noticed: The President spoke in positive terms about the invaluable contribution to our society, rich and poor, made by business. Business means businessmen, and like other humans they like their sacrifices (believe me, they sacrifice) and contributions (no one contributes more) to be recognized occasionally.

In this the President is out ahead of most liberals, especially politicians and journalists, who seldom speak of the businessman except in terms of the richest Americans who don't want to pay taxes so that the poor can stay where they are.

The President, a brilliant and well-intentioned man, who didn't have much of a chance to grow up in the circles he moved in most of his life, seems to be growing up. It would be nice to see others in the public domain follow suit.

Posted by: Roytex | January 26, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

leadership for many here would be defined as doing things YOUR WAY. Many Tea Partiers seem to feel that no legitimate concern or opinion exists that isn't one of theirs. Wrong, your version of democracy. Shout out your POV and demonize any dissenting thought eliminates the ability for thoughtful discourse about this or any issue.

Posted by: chuck2 | January 26, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

It was a good speech. What is important is that he did emphasize the need to work together. He did make clear he will compromise, a necessity of governance in a democracy. (A one-party rule is not democracy, it is closer to what was seen during WWII - in Italia under the Republican Facist Party and in Japan's Imperial rule.)

Love the idea of a government reorganization - Science needs to be represented at the cabinet level.

Yes, we do need government and, yes, government INVESTMENT in basic science and in infrastructure were primary causes of a lot of the wonderful economic growth in this country. We do, however, need to redo how funding for education is handled and we need to measure the effectiveness of for-profit education mills and get rid of those who soak up tax dollars (think student loan guarantees) but don't produce people who can get jobs and/or people who can't get jobs that pay enough to pay off the student loans. What are the stats on the percent of student loans guaranteed by the government that are actually repaid? Is it up to 50% now?

Good speech and I think it did not emphasize the political divide but emphasized the need to meet in compromise.

Posted by: amelia45 | January 26, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"I am not sure where the American people are on these matters. Immediately following the November elections, it seemed they were prepared for Republican emergency measures on spending, deficits and
debt in order to avoid the fate of Greece."
************************

Let me help you out there, Gerson. The American people are looking forward to Obama's emergency measures to avoid the fate of the UK.

Posted by: abqcleve | January 26, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Gerson nothing IDEOLOGICAL about it..

Republicans are trying to convince the Public there is a Valid Morality for thei Greed..

Posted by: pdq5 | January 26, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's references to Social Security and Medicare were purposely vague. He is telling Republicans, in essence, "You go first."


Republicans already went first ... republicans want to eliminate Social Security,Medicare and health care reform sooo ... now were waiting for their plan.

Paul Ryan's dismal reply left it clear ... the U.S. is broke but there is just enough money left for more tax cuts and more republican wars.

Interestingly,
Ryan did not try to explain why tax cuts for 2%'ers had any value to the economy.

Ryan did not touch on cheney/bush's two wars and how the wars have devastated the economy.

Nor did Ryan explain why republicans gave him the sole power to cut spending from last years budget, is it legal for him to do so??

http://www.apttax.com/ to replace the current income tax.

Posted by: knjincvc | January 26, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Well, Earth to Obumbler, the House isn't going to write checks for your INSANE spending. Can't veto what isn't delivered to your desk...

Posted by: illogicbuster | January 26, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

A sober speech for a crucially important period in the existence of our country. But even in its sobriety, the speaech was inspiring. We want to continue being the first Nation on Earth, right? Then let's work together on bringing our deficit down while also investing in our future ... our children, our entreprenership and our quest for discovery and innovation. Only by doing both -- responsibly cut where cuts are needed [from the economic point of view not political] and responsibly invest. The president threw a challenge in his speech --- to all of us. Let's take it, without pontification and quibbling. Time to roll up sleeves is here, so let's start NOW working together on the issues he outlined [tax code, streamlined government, debt reduction, crucial investment], for the benefit of our country and each of us individually. If we do, then the State of the Union will be perfect.

Posted by: nitellub | January 26, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Use the tax cut for the top 1% and the cut on defense spending to fund Social Security and Medicare, then 99% of American would be more happier and the world would be a better place to live.

Posted by: LarryOwen1 | January 26, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I'll believe the Republicans really want less government involvement in business affairs when they vote to do away with the massive subsidies we give to oil companies.

Supposedly we give these billions per year so that oil companies will do more research for more efficient oil exploration.

But aren't they already making billions a year in record profits?

If they can't afford to fund their own research, who can?

This is a great chance for Republicans to 'starve the beast'.

Posted by: TheHillman | January 26, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

America's ship of state is sinking. There is a huge hole in the hull called "lack of sane trade policy". As the ship takes on more and more water, the Republicans and Democrats continue to argue about how to rearrange the deck chairs. The whole nation is caught up in "the great deck-chair-arrangement- controversy", paying no attention whatever to the fact that we are all drowning.

Posted by: Jihm | January 26, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The Pelosi-Obama-Reid (POR) economy kicked in during the latter part of June 2007, when its Congressional architects — Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid — decided that starving the economy of energy by refusing to allow more offshore drilling in the face of $4 gas prices was a winning political position. Pelosi claimed that because we couldn’t totally “drill our way out of this,” we shouldn’t increase drilling at all. Reid put an exclamation point on Pelosi’s stubbornness by insisting that fossil fuels are “making us sick.” Well, the only thing sickened by their policies was the US Economy.

FDR tried massive public works programs during the Depression. All he did is prolong it for seven years. Japan tried government stimulus for 10 years running in the 1990s. It only resulted in “the lost decade.”

What Barry and Harry should support is expanding the tax cut element of the stimulus plan to include ALL incomes, ditching almost all of the (alleged) “green investments,” opening up oil and gas exploration, and (eventually) watching the royalty money pour in.

That's why Obama's Best Line was;

“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas... To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”

*Drill*Baby*Drill*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 26, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

genericrepub posts January 26, 2011 9:49 AM
“Lastly, tax simplification. Reagan took that on and actually raised taxes. But if he would sign onto some sort of a flat tax or a consumption tax, with a marginally lower rate, he would find that revenues would increase and then in later years, the debate could be about raising or lowering the rates instead of changing rates and then adding a loophole. Those would be welcome areas to see some changes. Then we could tackle entitlements and again, there is already a blue ribbon blueprint to follow.”


Of course republicans will propose a lower marginal tax rate “AND” a flat tax or a consumption tax because it will hit the 75% of Americans who earn less than $77,000/year the hardest.

Paul Ryan’s road-map is not about fairness it is a Libertarian view of reducing taxes as much as possible and as Ryan said smaller government.

If you want a “FAIRTAX” then adopt a transaction tax , http://www.apttax.com/

The extreme republican right sees one purpose for taxes … supporting the military industrial complex.

The new TP senator from Utah believes the federal government has no responsibility to assist states when there is a natural disaster such as flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, horrific forest fires etc.. In other words get rid of FEMA!

As for “Then we could tackle entitlements” … entitlement are not part of the current problem, entitlements are a republican smokescreen.

SS and Medicare are both self funding, eliminate the cap on SS earnings and the issue is moot.

Republicans realize all the IOU’s that were stuffed in the treasury to replace borrowed SS payments can only be redeemed by raising taxes on 2%’ers which is why republicans want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

I’m still waiting for congress to lead the way and voluntarily take a pay cut and give up their life time health and pension benefits. Put congress on a 401K plan just like the rest of government workers.

http://www.apttax.com/ read it … you will like it.

Posted by: knjincvc | January 26, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Republicans have twelve months to prove to Americans that they have Americas best interests as their agenda and not the interest of the banksters and corporate elite who got us into this mess.

If they don’t republicans will spend the first six months of 2012 defending their do nothing agenda and then trying to remain in control of congress.

It's all about jobs and reducing debt and deficit "NOW" not in 2080 or whenever.....

Posted by: knjincvc | January 26, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The Pelosi-Obama-Reid (POR) economy kicked in during the latter part of June 2007, when its Congressional architects — Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid — decided that starving the economy of energy by refusing to allow more offshore drilling in the face of $4 gas prices was a winning political position. Pelosi claimed that because we couldn’t totally “drill our way out of this,” we shouldn’t increase drilling at all. Reid put an exclamation point on Pelosi’s stubbornness by insisting that fossil fuels are “making us sick.” Well, the only thing sickened by their policies was the US Economy.

To whoever wrote this bit of rubbish and followed it up with even dumber theories:

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAH Good luck in 2012...Americans voiced their dissatisfaction with our economy and put the foxes back in the hen house. You now have about a year to clean up your own mess without pointing to Obama. Never going to happen by fighting the HCR battle all over again through 2010.

If only we would've opened up drilling permits our housing market wouldn't have collapse. Jesus H Christ

Posted by: theobserver4 | January 26, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The Obama-friendly Washington Post Editors wrote: “The reality… is that the country is headed for fiscal catastrophe “… “Mr. Obama knows this, but last night he did little to prepare Americans for any of it.”

A liberal BIG Government Obama delivered the SOTU.

Abandoned his own Deficit Commission modest cuts. Embraced another half-trillion in spending since well heck that last trillion or two did so well !

Proposed tweaks only to job-killing unsustainable ObamaCare. Nodded to Hispanics again on citizenship… someday ? someway ? Thanks for that vote !

Cut defence. Withdraw troops everywhere. A handshake to Iran. No mention of Korea or Lebanon.

Ignored "fiscal catastrophe" and public support for major cuts (77% according to CBS poll)

Is Obama going to finish his historic Presidency as a failed partisan leader ? I fear it is so.

Posted by: pvilso24 | January 26, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

The GOP counter response was to shout FIRE!!!!

The right wing responses here would be hysterical if they weren't so pathetic and stupid.

BIG RAIL is getting handouts, Pelosi collapsed the economy, S.S. increases our deficit, drilling for oil fixes our problems and other silly rewritings of history.

Posted by: theobserver4 | January 26, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

UPDATE: Holy Moley! The reaction from MSNBC Morning Joe is “flat”.

When you hear them talk “substance” vs the “optics” on MSNBC that tells you that this is an epic fail.

Andrea Mitchell says: ” He didn’t mention gun control”, Dean answers: “He didn’t mention Abortion either”

REWRITE!

Update 2 Even worse they showed a clip of Michelle Bachmann’s speech and not a single word of snark from the panel. If they can’t snark Bachmann on MSNBC this is panic time for Democrats.

Update 3: They complement Republican Paul Ryan, the White House is calling Comcast to ask them to get Olbermann back on the air STAT!

Update 4: Not a another word about Michelle Bachmann’s response. I suspect they will continue to avoid it, after reading her speech I see why. If her delivery was as good as the speech then they HAVE to keep it off the air. When you spend months trying to spin her as some kind of violent nut you don’t dare show video that proves you wrong.

Now they are talking Backmann and their big critique is the tea party feed.. If this is the best MSNBC can do for the White House then they are in real trouble.

Posted by: pvilso24 | January 26, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

If you want the State of the Union as seen from outside the beltway in DC, go to www.acenteredview.blogspot.com. This fellow did his own version as if he was the prez. It is a legitimate take on what is at stake in America in a fashion that is far more frank than the president's version and probably more compelling. Pass it on to your friends.

Posted by: Centerman | January 26, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

If you want the State of the Union as seen from outside the beltway in DC, go to www.acenteredview.blogspot.com. This is an alternate State of the Union speech. It is a legitimate take on what is at stake in America in a fashion that is far more frank than the president's version. Pass it on to your friends.

Posted by: Centerman | January 26, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

how about means test everything, go to a 15% flat tax with no exemptions or sweetheart deals, and how about to show the true mesure of obama care instead of waiting for the benifits to kick in at 2014 lets have them kick in tommarow and for every dollar it goes into debt be a dollar tied into a socal welfare program like i dont know food stamps and educationb im pritty sure it could get repealed then .either that or the department of ed and fda would be closed down in a week

Posted by: wech0201 | January 26, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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