A friend chided me for commenting on the State of the Union (SOTU) address without watching it, and I want to speak to that. A week after the address, I still feel no qualms about not watching. For one thing I read several reactions to it and saw a number of clips. Since I am not very interested in what the President says these days, but in what he and the Congress can get done, that seems plenty.
Also, I have found no argument against the most powerful segment being his passionate urging that proposals to reduce gun violence be voted on in Congress, as I wrote about in my previous post.
One thing I do want to add, though, is the dreary thought that all of this emotion was garnered to simply push our Congress to vote on gun-related proposals, NOT TO ACTUALLY PASS ANYTHING.
That seems the most significant point of all. Our Congress is so gridlocked that simply getting a vote on a proposal rates as an achievement. How twisted is that? Of course, Obama undoubtedly thinks that if votes are taken something will pass, but it still underscores how the engines of our ship of state are barely working.
It is this gridlock that devalues everything said by the President and members of the Congress. What matters is what gets done, not what is said. So, I have been much less interested in SOTU than in the upcoming “sequester” deadline March 2 (across the board budget cuts on about 0ne-third of the budget).
Nobody seems confident in predicting what Congress will do about that and if no one can even predict that, most things the president proposed mean nothing to me yet, except again the matter of gun-related proposals, some of which seem to have momentum.
That’s all I have to say. Those who want to think more about SOTU should find the divergent takes of Ezra Klein and Matt Miller interesting. Both center-left types whose opinions I respect, they reacted to the address very differently. Klein saw it as “shockingly bold” – unlike the “nothing new here” reaction of most commentators. Miller, on the other hand, called it “hollow”, even more disappointing than being old hat.
To sum up his disappointment: “Even if Obama’s agenda becomes law, after eight years of the most progressive president in memory, America will still be a country in which work is less well-rewarded, college is far costlier, and poor children’s life chances more limited by accident of birth than in virtually every other wealthy nation. American exceptionalism indeed.”
By the way, though calling the President’s agenda bold, Klein admits he has no idea if any of it will be passed. Which is why I don’t care about the words, even if they were “bold.”