Friday, January 28, 2011

The State of the Union speech

I took a short vacation and didn’t see the president’s State of the Union speech until last night.  I thought he did an excellent job of finally finding his presidential voice.  It was a fine follow up to his bipartisan leadership during the lame duck congress.

I believe losing the House and six Senate seats has freed him from the control of the left wing of the Democrat Party, and this gives him the freedom to create more centrist, post-partisan approaches to his leadership going forward.  He sounded more like the president of the country than the spokesman for the Pelosi left wing of his party Tuesday night.

It is clear that his view is still that of a government led economy, as opposed to the Republican spokesman Paul Ryan’s view of shrinking the government to unleash the creative freedom of the marketplace.  Given the economic calamity of the Bush years of a too unfettered free market, Ryan's argument might not carry as much weight today as he thinks. 

I thought Obama did a good job of arguing that his active government approach had a long tradition in America, from Eisenhower’s infrastructure building of the national highway system to Kennedy’s Sputnik inspired space race.

Ryan was an impressive, bright energy as a spokesman for the Republican commitment to keeping America from becoming another Greece or Ireland, which is a very real danger.  I wish Obama had shown more passion about the hard and painful political work of cutting the deficit, but I think he did a good job of creating a framework for a post-partisan way forward.

As for the tone of looking for cooperation, I was more impressed by Obama, but as to the content, I am more concerned about the dangerous and crushing deficit than I am about creating high speed rail.