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Posted at 8:21 AM ET, 01/31/2011

Friday question answered

By Jennifer Rubin

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.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 31, 2011; 8:21 AM ET
Categories:  Friday question  
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Next: Obama is still behind the curve on Egypt


Perhaps Ms. Rubin needs to read the bits from Egypt experts in the Post's Sunday edition. She needs to relax, and stop the knee-jerk neo-con silliness.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 31, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

“[H]owever, 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”

Huh? The upwelling of the Tea Party almost two years ago was all about how Obama was seriously exacerbating the nation’s fiscal problems. Wasn’t that the turning point?

Posted by: nvjma | January 31, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

As if Ryan is serious, given his pie in the sky proposals that have zero chance of enactment.

Posted by: Observer691 | January 31, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin - I agree that the SOTU should not be forgotten because of foreign affairs. I also agree that Congressman Ryan is serious about addressing the deficit. I do worry that right before presenting a bill to do so, he will be called into Speaker Boehner's office for a private meeting where Ryan will be told, "You know, we all support what you're trying to do, but..." And then we get something not very serious.

Lastly, I don't mind that the President has not "led" on this. He's just the chief executive. It is the Congress, and specifically the House, that must lead. Will Obama paint the Republicans as being heartless and against recovery? Of course. But Ryan, the young, happy, athletic dad, is not going to be cast as Ebeneezer Scrooge. As long as he is the face of the cuts, I believe we will win the argument. Look for the White House to make someone else, anyone else, the face of the cuts.

Posted by: edfactor | January 31, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The SOTU speech isn't forgotten but heavily discounted -- he's painted himself into a corner of a box. He'll be successful to the extent he follows Republican policies, just like Clinton before.

Posted by: aardunza | January 31, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Some colleagues are trying to avoid Ryan, but the guy is proving persistent and earnest. Schumer is preparing the battlefield but I think he’s overlooking the simple fact that Ryan speaks in coherent sentences, not sound bites, and thoroughly understands the intricacies of budget imbalances and the ways out and around them. In fact, Ryan is quick to point out the imperfections in his approach, their lack of ideological pureness. For these and other reasons, Boehner and McConnell selected Ryan to give the SOTU response.

My money’s on Ryan. FWIW, all of our money is on Ryan.

Posted by: SCMike1 | January 31, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

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