A Small Speech on a Big Stage

by Rich Lowry

If this is the imperial presidency, it wasn’t a very imperial speech. It was small in every way. It wasn’t eloquent and didn’t even seem to try. Instead it was conversational, including a joke about calling your mother. Because President Obama thematically shifted away from inequality to opportunity, the speech had less ideological charge and interest. It was a series of picayune proposals — high-tech hubs, broadband access for kids, the minimum wage, MyRA — often described with reference to individuals in the audience, which somehow made the proposals seem even smaller. At times, it descended into talk of community-organizing writ large: “And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.” The most passionate policy riff was the old tired chestnut about “equal pay for equal work,” with a vow to veto Iran sanctions the runner-up. I agree with others in here that it was a forgettable speech (except for the amazing story of Cory Remsburg), but still think Republicans need to answer with an opportunity agenda of their own.