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Posted at 8:39 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Friday question answered

By Jennifer Rubin

A number of readers came up with excellent advice in response to my question about what the president should say and not to say in his State of the Union address. The single best suggestion came from stevendufresne, who urged Obama to "put Iran on notice that the U.S. under his leadership will not permit a nuclear weapon and that all options are on the table to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons." Our Iran policy is adrift, as sanctions pinch the Iranian economy but fail to bring about a change of heart in a regime bent on becoming a nuclear power. Unless Obama does more than mouth platitudes ("sanctions are working") he will face a horrible decision before the end of his term: use military force or accept a revolutionary Islamic state armed with nukes.

But for purposes of discussion let's take a look at StatistQuo's recommendation:

The SOTU has already been undermined by the new round of recess of appointments. Nevertheless, Obama will probably give rhetorical support for budget cuts, but will keep it vague to draw flak later to Republican-specific reductions. He will exaggerate any sliver of silver lining in the economy (stock market, slight improvement in GDP growth, and saved/created jobs mythology). He may throw a sop at Tea Party types with some boilerplate about no more bailouts and a swipe at Wall Street. He could tout the bi-partisan support for the war on terror, but he'll probably be too squeamish to do so, given fellow Democrats' objections to the war effort.

His "hostage taker" moment would be a riff on immigration reform. That could undermine, if not destroy the bi-partisan template. Self-congratulations regarding Obamacare will put the ol' kibosh on the festivities leading both Democrats and Republicans at each others throats, where we started.

Bonus: four SCOTUS Justices attend: Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer.

I agree with the reader that Obama is likely to employ more moderate rhetoric, but do as little as possible to alter the trajectory of his policies. He, like many liberal pundits, will try to transmute the actual message of the midterm voters (Stop big-government liberalism!) into a mushy message (Let's all get along!) that will bolster his defense of ObamaCare, financial regulation and other liberal wins. Obama will no doubt seek to paint Republicans as "obstructionist" for wanting to "relitigate" ObamaCare or undertake significant cuts in entitlement programs and domestic discretionary spending. He will, as he did with his recess appointments, pledge to his liberal base to consider his left-leaning agenda through regulatory means. If there is a significant policy announcement, it could well be on the issue of tax reform.

As for immigration, Obama's approach has been to stoke the flames on this controversial issue but not to risk any political capital on a comprehensive immigration plan. He's not about to pursue another non-economic issue (as he did with ObamaCare), which will only give credence to his opponents' claims that he is insufficiently focused on the economic issues voters care most about.

With regard to the Supreme Court justices, we'd be much better off if they'd all stay home. The SOTU has devolved into a partisan event, a sort of political boo and cheer event that federal judges should avoid. Unfortunately, I suspect all but one or two of the justices will attend. And once again, Obama will make some jibe about the danger to our democracy from "corporate money" (not George Soros's or labor unions' loot, however).

When the final line has been uttered, there will not have been a single memorable phrase. For in his two years as president can anyone recall any compelling phrase?

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 3, 2011; 8:39 AM ET
Categories:  Friday question  
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Comments

Article II The Executive Branch;
"Section 3 - State of the Union, Convening Congress

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;... ."

Maybe Obama will use SOTU this year to adjourn the House until December, 2012 ...

Posted by: K2K2 | January 3, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

"I won"

Posted by: engdre | January 3, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

You're referring to his speeches, and no, there is not a memorable or compelling line in any of them. They are utterly forgettable because they are designed to say as little as possible. If he allowed his speeches to reflect his true agenda, he'd have been forced to resign some time ago. His speeches are substanceless by design. Forget anything this man says; it is meaningless. Only observe what he does.

He's nevertheless uttered some compelling words. I never looked at him the same after he called his grandmother "a typical white person" in a speech that ostensibly was intended to allay our concerns regarding his having attended a ultra-racist "church" for 20 years.

From that point on, anyone with half a brain knew he was vicious, immature, a political imbecile, and dangerous, both to himself and to the Republic.

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 3, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer, Let's face it, Iran does not take Obama (or you) seriously...

Posted by: Kinesics | January 3, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

State of the Union is an archaic forgettable exercise that means absolutely nothing, no matter what president gives it.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 3, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

So, when all options are on the table, all you folks are going to sign up to fight for our country if we go to war with Iran, right?

Is it lost on Rubin that the Iraq War which she so shamelessly supported created a power vacuum in the region which was filled by Saddam's arch-rival, Iran?

Is it lost on Rubin that many human rights advocates LIVING IN IRAN (ie. not the Iranian neocon ex-pats who have lived in the US for years)don't want the US or Israel to bomb Iran because it will set their movement back and result in most of the country rallying around Ahmadinjad? Most people take their country's sovereignty pretty seriously and an attack on Iran would be a gift to Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs at this point.

I guess it doesn't matter that most experts say that an attack on nuclear facilities would cause only a minor delay in any military program that they have- IF they have an active one. I also guess it doesn't matter that we have less proof of a nuclear weapons program in Iran than we had in Iraq.

But I guess we're just going to go around bombing Middle Eastern countries one by one, without any real debate about the short and long-term consequences. Sure, it sounds good to go around talking "tough" about Iran but the reality is that we could end up making things much, much worse for the democracy movement in Iran, Israel's security and the stability of the region.

I wonder how many of Jennifer Rubin's family members are fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq. I'm guessing about zero.

Posted by: Stacyx | January 3, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh how nice, more saber rattling and another war in the middle east. Just what we need. Because it worked out so well the last time.

Chicken-hawks like Rubin are either useful idiots or morally depraved cheerleaders for the military industrial complex and it's political apparatus that spreads enough loot around to keep us in a state of perpetual war...but they won't send their kids off to fight and they sure as heck won't place themselves in harms way. The benjamins - its all about the benjamins.

Posted by: rgray | January 3, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Stacyx and rgray,

Its clear from your ignorant comments that as much as you try to poo-poo Jennifer about serving in the military or whether anyone in her family served in the military, that neither one of you have served in the military. IF you did really serve in the military then it would not seem foreign at all to be willing to take up arms to defend freedom and democracy in America and around the world.

If we are to take your statements to their logical conclusion it seems as if both are suggesting that Iran is a peaceful nation. That the real nuclear threat is the United States, despite our track record of having the biggest, baddest nuclear arsenal in the world for over 60 years and only using nukes to end the second World War. Since then, there has not been a World War, we ended the Cold War, freeing millions, if not billions from Communist tyranny and since 9-11 ended the tyrannical reign of the Taliban and Sadaam Hussein (no they were not peaceful), which the two of you incredibly believe is a bad thing!

So according to the two of you, Iran possessing nuclear weapons and having missile technology capable of striking Europe and eventually the United States is a good thing. I bet you all would probably have thought it would have been a good thing for Hitler to have nukes because after all we could deter him. He would not be crazy enough to use nukes, right?

No, we cannot allow Iran, with its track record of supporting terrorism around the world through Hezbollah to possess nukes. It would be suicide. The Middle East is not some oasis of peace but a caldron of religious tension fueled by Islamic extremism and the progenitor of Islamic radicalism is headquartered in Iran. The modern terrorism era could be traced back to the Islamic Revolution which occurred in Iran, with the subsequent hostage takings. Remember it was Iran who was brazen enough to take U.S. hostages, storming our embassy in an act of war. And this is the peaceful nonthreatening country that we can reason with to give up their nuclear weapons?

So I am proud JenRu quoted me and yes I am serving in the U.S. military and have gone to the Middle East. We have to stop Iran before the world goes to hell in a hand basket because of these radicals.

Posted by: stevendufresne | January 3, 2011 8:38 PM | Report abuse

stevendufresne has just rocked the Jennifer Rubin comments community with the sweet sounds of Truth and Reason. We thank him for his fidelity. We thank him for his clarity and awareness. We thank him for his service (every day, Steven). We thank him for his bona fide punk rocker glory. And one day, God willing, our children will thank his sons and daughters. For protecting us and the defenseless from evil and venal men, who would destroy the world we and our forefathers have built. Stick that in your bong and smoke it, libs.

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 4, 2011 7:28 AM | Report abuse

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