The Corner

I’m Starting to Forget It Already

I’ll leave it to others to fact-check the thing. There were more than a few statements that struck me as the sort of thing that wouldn’t bear up well under close scrutiny — particularly on Iran’s nuclear program, women’s pay, and domestic energy — but I’m too tired to do the scrutinizing now.

My general impression was this was a remarkably boring speech, intellectually and rhetorically. Not every idea was terrible. But no idea was particularly exciting, or all that significant. Because it lacked ambition, it was a far less offensive speech that I thought it would be. He soft-pedaled the inequality schtick, preferring instead to talk the more optimistic topic of “opportunity.” I thought this fell flat, at least in part because he tried to make it sound like the economy was going, if not great, then really well. That’s a hard message to sell against the backdrop of Americans’ lived experience, not to mention the White House’s insistence that America desperately needs “emergency” extensions of unemployment payments, etc.

His defense of Obamacare was short and almost perfunctory. I did find his mocking of GOP alternatives nothing less than galling.

“So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice — tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up.” First of all, there are plenty of GOP ideas out there, which he’s been ignoring for years. Second, and more important, the smug insinuation that the math and the serious ideas are all on his side is absurd. None of Obamacare’s numbers have added up as it has thrown American health care into chaos. A little humility — or maybe some generosity toward his critics — would have been well-advised. Given the disaster of Obamacare’s implementation and the extent of his dishonesty in getting it passed, he’s lost the right to mock the GOP about the unseriousness of their health-care ideas.

The highlight of the address was, of course, the tribute to Cory Remsburg. It was a moving and bipartisan moment. But it had very little bearing on his desired policies or his agenda. Remsburg’s sacrifices are heartbreaking and inspiring. But they don’t make me feel any more inclined to support Barack Obama’s stated desire to pull an end run around Congress.

Besides Remsburg and the president’s shout-out to John Boehner’s “barkeep” dad, I think the whole thing will disappear down the memory hole awfully quickly.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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