The Corner

The Obama Show

Like a lot of people, I found tonight’s speech a chore. That’s less of a criticism of Obama than it sounds. I find all State of the Unions to be tedious, particularly this late in a presidency. I do think it was better delivered than most of his State of the Union addresses. I didn’t, however, think it was particularly well-written. “The shadow of crisis has passed”? C-minus.

More telling, the last 15 minutes amounted to Obama’s golden oldies. His real foe is cynicism. We can all work together. There are no red states or blue states. We are all our “brother’s keeper.”

The difference is that the first time we heard this stuff it had at least superficial plausibility because the Obama presidency hadn’t happened yet. Five, six, ten years later, it’s all pretty sad. It’s sad because it shows that Obama still thinks his original material is fresh when it’s actually played out (and some of it was piffle to begin with — don’t get me started on “my brother’s keeper”.)

It’s also sad because it’s all so hypocritical. It’s one thing to claim as a candidate that you’re running against cynicism when you’re a rookie politician. It’s quite another to start the sixth year of your presidency cynically trolling the opposition with proposals you know cannot pass while decrying the political gamesmanship and partisanship of your opponents. He wants to work with Republicans but will veto anything significant they pass. He promises all sorts of “free” stuff out of one side of his mouth and then insists we must raise taxes to pay for it. Oh, so it’s not free, huh? He expresses his well-rehearsed outrage at the notion that the minimum wage isn’t enough to support a family on when that’s not what the minimum wage is designed to do.  

Virtually any State of the Union address in the sixth year of a presidency would be dull. The best you can say about Obama’s performance is he didn’t throw off the curve. 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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