Politics & Policy

Fixing Bathroom Tiles on the Titanic

Rearranging the deck chairs is too ambitious for this president.

The other night, as I watched the State of the Union address, my mind began to wander to more important upcoming events, notably the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth. Frankly, watching President Obama go on, and on, and on, I think all of us got a little taste of what it’s like to feel 100 years old.

Tuesday’s speech was yet another reminder of President Reagan’s greatest gifts. You see, there is a tendency of Ronald Reagan imitators to believe that the power of a speech has to do with soaring rhetoric, voice inflection, head tilts and demeanor, and the practiced turning of the head in tune with the teleprompter. On Tuesday we were reminded that substance, subject, and circumstance count, too.

At a time when the very survival of our nation hangs in the balance for future generations, we saw leadership incapable of playing anything more than small ball. It is hard to inspire the American people to great things if what you’re asking them to do is repair the tile on the bathroom floor of Suite 6204 of the Titanic. Obama actually made Clinton’s school-uniform program sound like the Marshall Plan. While some people were struck by the president’s reference to Sputnik, I thought it served as yet another reminder that we’ll be lucky if we can borrow enough money from the Chinese to buy a good telescope so we can watch their moon landing.

What else are we to take away from the speech?

‐We can still reduce the deficit by spending more money. All you have to do is call the spending “investment.” Then it doesn’t cost anything. Look for taxpayers’ next major “investment” to be the states of California or Illinois.

‐More investment in innovation, education, and infrastructure! Now why hasn’t someone thought of that before? I actually think this is a good opportunity for us to strengthen our ties with China. Perhaps they’d like to “invest,” which will then give them a much clearer and easier path to steal the innovation and buy the infrastructure.

‐Now that he’s locked in a spending rate 20 percent higher than when he was sworn in, Obama is willing to freeze the budget. In other words, “I’ve got what I want and I’m willing to keep it.” And we said Democrats weren’t willing to make sacrifices.

‐He’s all for fixing Social Security so long as current recipients, future recipients, past recipients, and no one else in the United States or any of its provinces will be affected. Everybody else will be called upon to make modest sacrifices.

‐We should put prior legislative battles that the president has won behind us and move on (i.e., health care). On the other hand we should never miss the opportunity to pick the scab when it comes to legislative battles the president has lost (i.e., tax cuts). Those “Top-2-Percenters” are our enemy and we must never forget.

But in all seriousness, was it too much to ask for one honest statement about the most pressing challenge that our nation has faced since World War II?

— Fred Thompson was the U.S. senator from Tennessee from 1994 to 2003. 


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