Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The State Of The Union

Last night Obama gave his State of the Union address. Mostly, it did not surprise: Obama is optimistic--and aggressive. There can be no question that the theme for Obama's second term is "No More Mr. Nice Guy" when it comes to dealing with Republicans. He thinks he has The People on his side and he intends to use 'em. Is this true? It's true for some things. It's decidedly less true for others.

Politico 'reads between the lines' and gives us some 'hidden meanings:'
What he said: After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency justifying cuts in Social Security benefits, but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?
What he meant: Boy, those Republicans just don’t learn. They keep falling into their own trap.
He did use several minutes to hit Republicans on the sequester which's fact-check finds deceptive but not an out-right lie (a ringing endorsement for, I think):
“In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year.” Obama is referring to the sequester. He omits the fact that he (or his White House) proposed the sequester, and he personally signed it, with the hope of using it to push Republicans into passing higher tax rates on high earners.
Marco Rubio bests Bobby Jindal in the response category giving the first-ever Spanish-language response and allegedly faltering only when taking a sip of water (Water Gate!!). This may win the title for the stupidest thing to get upset over ever ... but Twitter? It is merciless.

Troll Master Obama
The most interesting thing I've seen about the State of the Union (other than NRO's piece suggesting it's outdated--something I'm sure they'd have run if Romney had won. Yeah: Totally sure. Totes.) is this piece from The Guardian:
For the most part, the social media savvy of the Obama White House has been positive in messages and outcomes: they rally people around hashtags, make photos go viral, reveal senses of humor at once nerdy and winsome (add to Biden crashing a Reddit AMA and the official Death Star proposal response, Steven Chu's non-denial denial of a solar energy love affair). But what the Obama team is really good at is trolling – that guilty pleasure of know-it-alls everywhere:
Go ahead, get mad: that's my plan.
Although written just before the STOU the piece makes the case that Obama's 2013 messaging strategy is to troll the Republicans. There is a lot of truth to this: the reactionary nature of this current congress (and its base) is such that it seems they literally cannot help themselves. Consider that last night John Boehner did not rise and applaud the 102 year old Florida voter who had to stand in line for house due to reduced voting time in Florida.
Now: you can argue that these reductions were absolute requirements due to massive voting fraud (and you can also argue that commercial airlines are misting mind-control chemicals from the skies)--but the fact that Boehner, who knows the optics* on not getting up for a 102 year old voting woman, didn't get up and smile a little speaks volumes.

Basically Obama says a bunch of things that sound reasonable from 50,000 feet (like "What is wrong with helping families re-finance their homes?" or "Let's have a vote on gun-control--at least just a vote") and Republicans are then baited into 'coming out' against re-fi ... or early childhood education ... or clean energy. If Obama praised sobriety would the GOP defend drunkenness?  Who can say? The problem is not that Republicans should, for example, back an Assault Weapons Ban or a 10-round Mag limit: one reason they are in power (legitimately) is to prevent this.

The problem is that Republicans cannot pick their battles and cannot quit when behind. Here the National Review Online "congratulates" Obama on his "Benghazi Success" from yesterday before the SOTU:
Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina vows to hold up Obama-administration nominees until he gets answers. His determination is admirable, but by now, no one really cares. The stonewall worked, alas. PR experts might want to rewrite their rules, at least for clients who can count on a compliant press. Benghazi was a fiasco. The handling of its aftermath by President Obama and his team was brilliant. I guess that’s why they call him the commander-in-chief.
Lowery is right: no one cares--and really, no one ever cared nearly as much as the Republican base.  Whether this was because years of "crying wolf" (the birth certificate, for example) or because the raw facts of the matter (4 dead Americans) were never actually in dispute and most people saw the argument as trivia around the edges is immaterial now. The problem is: Republicans can't let go. See last night from Brietbart:
“Today, the organization [Al Qaeda] that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.” It takes a special kind of chutzpah to say that, five months after a terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that claimed the lives of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. Obama acknowledges that the threat continues--it is “evolving,” he says, in a curious use of the word--but to declare victory, without mentioning Benghazi?
Was Obama telling the truth? Well, yes: Obama's targeted killing program has droned the fuck out of Al Quaeda. That's not really in contention from either side of the aisle. The problem is that apparently either (a) 4 dead Americans reverses all that (which, logically, it cannot--and does not) or (b) the author of the Brietbart really doesn't see how the president cannot discuss Benghazi. In the case of (b) the problem is not actually Obama: the problem is being grossly out of touch with reality.

So long as this trend continues (of which Benghazi is only one illustration--breathless coverage of Joe Ariapo's 'Cold-Case-Posse' deconstructing Obama's birth certificate also counts: IT HAS NIIINE LAYERS!!) the GOP will get trolled over and over and over.

I seem to remember some old-saying style wisdom on this count: Who's fault is it after I get fooled the first time? Was it P.T. Barnum's fault? Something like that, I'm sure. 

* This is now attributed to 'Dignity' and showing respect for Obama. I'm thinking he may have wanted to show some respect for the 102 year old voter as well though, if this were the case.

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