Obama addresses joint session of Congress
Obama addresses joint session of Congress

At last!

| After eight years of the smirking, sloganeering, posturing, and alternate reality of boy-king George W Bush, it felt so good last night to see that we have a president who is in touch with reality and talks to the American people as adults with brains in their heads. Barack Obama's non-state-of-the-union-speech last night was inspiring and confidence building, if for no other reason than it was given by a man determined to actually lead rather than preside.

The problems facing the country right now are horrendous in size and complexity, and they are all inextricably intertwined with each other. In his speech Obama faced them head-on and outlined a sweeping plan to not just muddle out of the mess but to capitalize on the opportunity that crisis always presents. Propose big changes when people are fat and happy, and you probably won't get very far. Propose big changes when people realize they are in deep doo-doo, and you've got a chance. Change happens when the fear of not changing seems greater than the fear of changing.

Right now almost everybody except Republican leaders in Congress (and I use the word "leader" advisedly) realizes that what we have been doing ain't a-working. Inevitably there will be resistance and compromise, but as in any negotation, you start from what you really want and work your way toward what's possible. And did Obama start big! Talk about audacity.

Republicans in Congress have decided that GOP stands for Grand Opposition Party, as in "Just say no." Obama's speech last night should have given them second thoughts about the wisdom of that strategy. Obama is clearly at the top of his game and people are behind him. Republicans can either act constructively or ensure becoming even more marginalized and irrelevant.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows what a commanding position Obama is in right now.

Do you approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?
Do you support the stimulus plan?
Who do you trust to do a better job handling the economy?
Who do you trust to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces?
Do you think Obama is trying to compromise with the Republican leaders in Congress? Do you think the Republican leaders in Congress are trying to compromise with Obama?

The verdict is clear: Obama is up, the Republicans are down. And if they don't change their ways, they're going to be downer.

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, delivers the Republican response: "More tax cuts"

And then there was the Republican "response" given by Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. Substantively, he offered the same old GOP prescription for what ails you — more tax cuts. He held up the example of Louisiana — Louisiana! — and said the way forward was "by empowering you - the American people." That's a specious bromide. All across the country people have been empowered out of their jobs, empowered out of their 401(k)s, empowered out of their health insurance, empowered out of their foreclosed house.... If there is anything the American people feel right now, it is decidedly not empowered.

I'd heard a lot about Governor Jindal, how he is an up-and-coming GOP star. In this morning's Washington Post Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W Bush, practically swooned over "The Jindal Phenomenon," comparing him to Bill Clinton for his wonkishness and mastery of policy detail, "an inspiration to policy geeks everywhere" and lauding his appeal to "evangelical and charismatic churches" in Louisiana. Huh? The Jindal I saw was a disappointment in both style and substance. Where's the beef?

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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