Straw Man Walking

by Andrew Stiles

Viewers can expect President Obama to continue his long tradition of annihilating straw-man arguments in the course of laying out his agenda in tonight’s State of the Union address. 

Here’s one example, from an April 2012 speech: “[Republicans] keep telling us that if we’d just strip away more regulations, and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, that somehow we’d all be better off.”  

His State of the Union addresses are usually more measured in tone. But he has another, similar habit of beginning his paragraphs with a statement designed to appeal to a moderate, center-right electorate, and then immediately following it with a “but.” And that’s when he explains why what he just said is a bunch of outdated nonsense. Take away that second part, and Obama could almost be mistaken for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative:

“The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But . . .” (2013)

“Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms — otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations. But . . .” (2013) 

“Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But . . .” (2012)

“Our free-enterprise system is what drives innovation. But . . .” (2011)

“When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But . . .” (2011)

“Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America’s businesses. But…” (2010)

“A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But . . .” (2010)

“These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy. But . . .” (2010)

On an unrelated note, I thought this nugget from Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2012 seemed worth pointing out in light of the situation some two years later. “In Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.”

The Corner

The one and only.