Over Confidence & Over Kindness

by Jonah Goldberg

I haven’t been poisoned by any of the post-punditry because I watched it all on the web. But I was truly surprised by how lackluster and clichéd Obama’s speech was. My suspicion is that because he had a good month or so (START, tax compromise, Tucson speech, uptick in polls) he thinks he can go back to his comfortable talking points: Investment, Sputnik moment, green energy, high speed rail, etc. One sign of that: he was, I believe, a full ten minutes shorter than last year’s SOTU but it felt twice as long.

It’s not as if this was a speech Obama would give if the Shellacking never happened, but it’s close.

Yes, the mixed-seating of the audience definitely worked against him because the birds of a feather weren’t flocked together. But this simply wasn’t an inspiring speech. I don’t think his naked calls for what amounts to industrial policy excite anybody who won’t get a check if they’re enacted. And the theme “winning the future” sounds even more focused grouped than it did when Newt Gingrich came out with a book by that title a few years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a bump in the polls, but if I were a GOP strategist I’d take some solace in the fact that this is a guy who has, once again,  misread the political moment.

As for Ryan, I thought he was really very good, particularly in the second half of his blessedly brief remarks.

My only complaint is that he was a bit too un-threatening. We are in an awful mess, and a bit more passion would suit me better. 

But that might be my personal taste trumping smart politics. The left — for good reason — is setting its sights on Ryan for the threat that he is. The first thing they will do is try to cast him as a terrifying figure, particularly among seniors. I think coming across as reassuring, even soothing, is probably the right play. Ryan never comes across as a bomb-thrower, but tonight he talked like an ER nurse  trying to talk down a violent hippy from a bad acid trip, which is pretty impressive given the substance of what he was saying.

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