Friday question answered
In answer to my question about whether the president's State of the Union address or the response by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was more effective, a number of readers said "neither," arguing that both would be forgotten within days, especially in light of the tumultuous developments in Egypt. Normally, I'd say that is true. In this case, however, the State of the Union was a turning point for Obama -- the moment the country realized he's not serious about addressing our fiscal problems. The Post Editorial Board on Sunday asked: "Mr. Obama has chosen not to lead on the deficit. Is there a Plan B?" I think Plan B is ceding leadership to Republicans.
Among those commenters who chose one of the two speeches, gilliesproust wrote:
The most important moment in either speech was President Obama's embrace of American exceptionalism. As night follows day, if he sticks with this theme, he will embrace free enterprise and a strong defense. All else is noise.
Yes, Obama, in responding to conservative critics, certainly is amping up his use of that phrase. Unfortunately, his foreign policy approach, as exemplified in Egypt, shows a lack of understanding about America's importance in the world and our ability (I would argue, responsibility) to shape events.
On the domestic side, as I've written, Obama hasn't yet grasped that what makes the U.S. economy "exceptional" is not mimicry of Europe, China or South Korea, but our faith in the free market and in limited government. Obama suggested in his Saturday weekly address that the cuts aren't there to reduce the debt but to pay for more spending: "We have to reform our government and cut wasteful spending, so that we eliminate what we don't need to pay for the investments we need to grow." I wish I could be more optimistic, but I see no evidence that Obama is doing anything more than mouthing a buzz phrase.
Among those commenters who picked Ryan as the superior effort, scmike1 had this take:
Ryan rightly focused the nation's finances, but it appears that Democrats plan is to let the Republicans propose solutions and then blame them for the consequences, real and imagined. Whether the Dems cynicism proves successful in the short term depends on their approach. The current trend is not sustainable, the question is whether Republicans can maintain the discipline required to change the trajectory. Ryan's speech gave them the start and may prove seminal.
I agree that Ryan's speech sets the groundwork for Republicans to build on. A number of critics say Republicans won't rise to the challenge. But Ryan is the House Budget chairman and will produce a budget that, I predict, will have significant cuts in domestic discretionary spending and will set forth some dramatic steps toward entitlement reform. Anyone who thinks Ryan is going to punt the ball hasn't been paying attention to his methodical and consistent effort to educate the public and his party about the need to get our fiscal house in order.
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