Last night, President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union Address to Congress, the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored guests, and the American public. I thought that the address was decently delivered in terms of speech, but it contained too much of Obama’s now-trademark arrogance and hyper-partisanship that is ruining his efforts at real reform and losing Democratic political seats around the nation.
What really bothered me was how Obama used his position like it was a bully pulpit. There were some reports early on in Obama’s Presidency that he didn’t treat the actual Oval Office with the respect that all of the previous Presidents had (i.e. not wearing a jacket while working in there, not following certain protocol). While I don’t particularly care whether he wears a jacket in the Oval Office, I do think that these actions, his hyper-partisan political activities since taking office, and the words that he used in his speech last night show a true lack of understanding about the American system of government.
For example, how dare he use the State of the Union to scold the Supreme Court? Who does this guy think he is? And don’t answer, “Duh! He’s the President!” because that’s not a good enough answer. Our Founding Fathers intended for the Congress to be the powerhouse of our national government, not the President. It was a few national crises and the ever-decreasing attention span of the American public that made the President more than a figurehead.
I’m beginning to grow weary of the arrogance that this man is showing as President. He thinks he can scold the Supreme Court? Does he think that because he lashed out at them like a stupid schoolboy that they are suddenly going to reverse their decision or change their political stripes? Did Obama ever take Civics 101 and learn about the separation of powers in this country? I was really offended by that portion of his speech and I was glad that Justice Samuel Alito shook his head in disagreement and mouthed the words “Not true” when Obama scolded the Court. That was a disgusting display of arrogance by Obama – something that this country doesn’t need. This is what Obama said:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.
No one is going to deny that we don’t want foreign influences in our elections, but – again – we see Obama framing issues within his own world view and not those of the American electorate.
Another example of this arrogance is when he scolded Republicans and told them that they were elected to lead. Here is his speech:
And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town — a supermajority — then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. (Applause.) Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.
I’m pretty confident that the Democratic leadership insisted on a 60 vote Senate dating back over two decades, but I guess what happened yesterday (unless Obama thinks he can use the event to bash Bush) doesn’t matter to the President. What bothers me about this piece from the speech is that it is a sound bite – not an actual piece of thoughtful prose on what is going on in Washington, DC. The truth is that Republicans (and moderate Democrats) have tried to provide examples of ways that legislation could be written and passed using a middle-of-the-road approach. Unfortunately, the Democrats and the President don’t want anything to do with building a bridge to acceptable legislation for both sides of the aisle. They want the Republicans to vote in their favor because they are in power. This part of his address proves that fact (which is a shame).
Prior to the speech I was looking forward to hearing what Obama had to say about student loans. This is what he said:
To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. (Applause.) Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. (Applause.) And let’s tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years –- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.
Hmmm… Other than being a good opportunity to get some cheap applause breaks, I’m not sure what “new” policy implications were brought up here. First, the idea that student loans will be forgiven after 10 years if a graduate chooses a career in public service is already a regulation. In other words, it already exists. Second, the federal Direct Loans system already has an income-based repayment plan that adjusts student loan payments to one’s wages. So…I’m not sure what the new policy implications are here, but I am looking forward to hearing what Obama has to say about fleshing out these programs.
In any event, waiting ten years is too long of a time for excess debt to be repaid. Since I can’t imagine being saddled with the $94 thousand balance of my original $121 thousand student loan debt for another 4 years, I’ll just stick to my plan to repay another $39 thousand in the next year and a half!
Overall, a “more of the same” message from Obama. I, like the rest of the now disaffected Obama voters, expected so much more…