Forgettability seems to be the most apparent quality of the address.
Matt Gagnon, Maine’s premier conservative political columnist, wrote on Facebook: “I quite literally have already forgotten this speech. I try to be as non-partisan as possible when it comes to presidential speeches, and really *felt* how powerful many of Clinton and Obama’s speeches have been in the past. This one was vanilla in basically every way. I barely remember anything from this speech almost immediately after it is over.”
Conservatives nationally agreed with Gagnon’s analysis.
Jonah Goldberg, columnist for National Review Online, titled his reaction, “I’m starting to forget it already“.
Wrote Goldberg, “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.”
Stephen F. Hayes, columnist for The Weekly Standard, called Obama’s address “small” and “incoherent.” Wrote Hayes, “At times it was defiant, at others it felt almost conciliatory. But mostly the speech was forgettable, disposable – a long list of modest policy proposals that will not be remembered for much longer than their echo in the House chamber…. It was, in short, a small and rather incoherent speech from a president who seems unsure how to remain relevant on domestic policy and unsure what to do overseas.”
Beyond style points, the Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler delivered an unusually critical review of Obama’s speech. Here are some of the highlights:
Obama: “The more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.”
Kessler: “The president is cherry-picking a number that puts the improvement in the economy in the best possible light. The low point in jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has indeed been a gain of about 8 million jobs since then, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But the data also show that since the start of his presidency, about 3.2 million jobs have been created — and the number of jobs in the economy still is about 1.2 million lower than when the recession began in December 2007.”
Obama: “Our deficits — cut by more than half.”
Kessler: “The federal budget deficit has declined in half since 2009, from $1.3 trillion to about $600 billion, but that’s not much to brag about. The 2009 figure was not just a deficit Obama inherited from his predecessor, since it also reflected the impact of decisions, such as the $800 billion stimulus bill, enacted early in the president’s term… Moreover, the deficit soared in the first place because of the recession, so as the economy has improved, the deficit naturally decreased. The United States still has a deficit higher than it was in nominal terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product than it was in 2008 and a debt much greater as a percentage of the overall economy than it was prior to the recession.” (Kessler fails to point out that a significant reason deficits have declined at all is record levels of taxation.)
Obama: “More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.”
Kessler: “Obama carefully does not say these numbers are the result of the Affordable Care Act, but he certainly leaves that impression. But the Medicaid part of this number — 6.3 million from October through December — is very fuzzy and once earned a rating of Three Pinocchios.
“The ACA expanded Medicaid to those who earn less than 133 percent of the poverty line — about $15,000 for an individual — to 26 states (and the District) that decided to embrace that element of the law. But no one really knows how many of the 6.3 million are in this expansion pool — or whether they are simply renewing or would have qualified for Medicaid before the new law. Indeed, the number also includes people joining Medicaid in states that choose not accept the expansion.
“The private insurance numbers — about 3 million — are also open to question. The troubled federal exchange counts people as enrolled if an individual has selected a plan, but it does not know if a person enrolled and paid a premium because that part of the system has yet to be built.”
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Obama for his increasing tendency to prefer unilateral executive action to cooperating and compromising with Congress. According to DailyCaller.com, Cruz told reporters after the speech, “There is a pattern of lawlessness in this administration… If President Obama doesn’t agree with a particular law, he simply declares he won’t enforce it, he won’t comply with it.”
“A president who is picking and choosing among the laws, refusing to follow the law, ought to be a serious concern to everyone,” said Cruz.
Even more moderate Republican senators agreed with Cruz’s analysis of Obama’s proclivity for unilateral action. Sen. Susan Collins said the following in her statement: “While the President has called on both parties to work together to tackle other important issues, I am very concerned that it appears the President is willing to circumvent Congress in an attempt to counteract the frustrating gridlock in Washington. This approach, however, will only serve to heighten partisan tensions and exacerbate the problem. The President’s decision to issue Executive Orders, to make recess appointments, or to suspend enforcement of certain laws is inconsistent with our Constitutional system of checks and balances. Americans are rightfully disappointed with the gridlock and partisanship so prevalent in Washington these days, and I share this frustration. The President is in a unique position to foster compromise, and he should recommit to work with members of Congress in order to reach consensus and move our country-and our economy-forward.”