President Obama’s State of the Union address and the Republican and Tea Party responses to it were a dismal occasion. From the terminal platitude that all are “part of the American family,” to the likelihood that a girl in Tucson may “have dreams like the rest of us,” which “is what sets us apart as a nation,” it was a groaning farrago of clichés and unlikely undertakings, followed by replies that had been written before the contents of the president’s address were known and had almost nothing to do with what he said. I do not believe that Mr. Obama thinks the United States is the only nation on earth where young people in one region of the country are likely to have similar ambitions to those in other sections of the country. “We measure our progress by the success of our people.” And that progress is partly “thanks to tax cuts we passed,” referring to the Bush tax cuts whose continuation Mr. Obama fought to the last ditch. The president fantasized that “throughout history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists with the support that they need.” It has done nothing of the kind, apart from some World War II military activities. Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, the only inventors the president actually named, did not receive one cent from any government, any more than NASA “created millions of new jobs.”
Claiming the need to “raise expectations for every child,” like promises to “get rid of loopholes” in the tax system, and the promise to “find a bipartisan solution to strengthening Social Security,” while we “make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt,” should be an impeachable offense, as a high misdemeanor, both substantively and stylistically. The speech was largely a tired porridge of the president’s old, time-warped pastiche of leftist postures from his university years. Millionaires had to “give up their tax break.” (They don’t have one.) Millions of clean jobs were out there somewhere. (They aren’t.) And although the president’s imperishable green delusion was down to a commendation of two men who founded a solar-shingle business in vacant government storage space, there was not a word about increasing domestic oil production or transferring much oil use to plentiful natural gas.
The president’s listless delivery and oppressive vagueness robbed of any credibility his jaunty promises of “rebuilding America.” “Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in roads and railways . . . [so] we will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.” (The last time there were intimations of “shovel-ready projects,” all that was shovelable was the horse manure of roseate predictions that accompanied a trillion dollars of borrowed and ineffective stimulus.) The president promised that in 25 years, 80 percent of Americans will have access to high-speed rail; and that he would “in five years make it possible to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless to 98 percent of Americans.” The tepid response of even his own followers did not stoke up much credulity.
Exports, Obama said, will double by 2014. But the only manufactured exports that the country has retained after outsourcing almost everything else to the countries from which it has borrowed trillions of dollars to buy them are aircraft and advanced-technology equipment. There is not the faintest hint of how the exported quantities of these products will double, and certainly nothing to inspire hope that anything that has been outsourced will be repatriated, to be made by the huge numbers of unskilled laborers who will be affected by Mr. Obama’s promise to “take on illegal immigration.” The promised “review of government regulations” is a commendable recognition that the commerce of the country is being strangled; given the president’s status as the most zealous and righteous regulator in American history, the offhand promise carried something less than the fervor of the grace of conversion.