Wisconsin Tops Illinois For 2nd Time in 3 Days

  

Granted, neither instance was pretty, and the competition was subpar, but Aaron Rodgers and Paul Ryan (who could maybe be taken for brothers), topped the Bears and President Obama. Us flatlanders are left bowing in deference to our cheddar-fueled neighbors.
The conventional wisdom is that the President has a slam dunk with the State of the Union. On optics, this is entirely true. He’s in an ornate chamber, being interrupted by almost farcical applause, spouting platitudes about why we’re (and thus, he is) awesome, and, with just a few nudges can be on the path to even awesomer awesome (it wasn’t always this way). By contrast, the response is someone all alone in a room, speaking to a camera in silence, sometimes awkwardly (see Jindal, Bobby).
But on content, the SOTU is always the same (here are some old ones). One of the keys is saying the our spending is out of control, that the federal government is too large, and that we need to change our approach to things. These are followed by proposals to spend more, expand the size of the federal government and keep our approach to things exactly the same. And then say something about the children and how we’re going to end our dependence on foreign oil. Both parties do this. In fact, you could probably go back at least the George H.W. Bush, and the speeches since, I don’t know, 1990 or so, would be interchangeable.
Here’s where the response can earn points back. Usually, they don’t, because they try to be a Bizarro SOTU, hitting the partisan flipside of whatever the President just said. But Paul Ryan kept it simple. He could’ve kept it even simpler – to be honest, if he’d walked out and said “We’re out of money. We should act like it, or at the very least acknowledge it. I’ve got a plan to do just that,” and walked off the stage, I’d have tipped my cap. Contrast that with the President, who says we need “a government that lives within its means” but then goes on to say we’ll send almost everyone to college, we’ll give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail and we’ll fight terror “from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe.” These things are not free. They are certainly not within our means, since our means are essentially zero right now.
A few anecdotes about why we should essentially reboot the Works Progress Administration (OMG Korea has internet and the Chinese are building NEWER AIRPORTS) later, we arrive at the notion that “we cannot win the future with a government of the past” – a statement we could get more excited about if it had not been preceded by several paragraphs describing a (now, with internet!) stale approach to government.
So, Paul Ryan, it wasn’t tackling Brian Urlacher in the open field, but it was something, I suppose.
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3 thoughts on “Wisconsin Tops Illinois For 2nd Time in 3 Days

  1. (You knew I couldn’t keep quiet)Just so we’re clear on your analysis of rhetoric: You don’t like SOTU because it was full of pandering and is the same as all others before it. Yet, you like Ryan’s because it differs from past responses . . . how? GOP demanding less spending (across the board, except for defense, of course) sounds awfully familiar. In which case, you prefer exactly the same old but full of hyperbolic doomsday scenarios (we’re Greece!) to exactly the same but motivational, something to be proud of, and rah-rah America? And here I thought the GOP laid claim to the patriotism card.With Obama he’s either “anti-American” or too Panglossian. He can’t seem to win. In which case . . . I smell something inconsistent at hand.

  2. Now substantively:0) How could I defend the SOTU? It’s political theater at its finest. So I can’t, and I wouldn’t. To say that the GOP response was in any way better than this far-better-than-usual iteration of the SOTU, however, I reject with extreme prejudice.1) To distinguish the applause in that State of the Union as a particular farce is not reasonable. That was the least comical applauding we have ever seen in one of these in our lifetimes — the Congresspeople weren’t sitting in blocks, stood up far less than in past years, and Obama stormed through several applause lines. The first 15 minutes bordered on painfully quiet. So to call out this one as farcical is not legitimate; this year’s atmosphere was undeniably different.2) He didn’t naively deny that his proposals cost money, and he quite clearly suggested ways to pay for his proposals: 1) discontinue the Bush tax cuts on the top %2, 2) retain the health care reform bill that will cut the deficit by $200 billion [OK I’m with you on this one, that thing is definitely not cutting the deficit, but it also may be revenue neutral], 3) and a smattering of cuts, such as his budget freeze, etc. Are those politically likely? I don’t know, but you characterize the speech as though the President ignored the reality that his (extremely modest) proposals don’t cost money. They do. And he acknowledged that.3) Speaking of extremely modest — here are the President’s proposals you singled out for ridicule:a) Bringing our internet infrastructure up to par with our competitor-countries (this is embarrassing: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/int_bro_acc_percap-internet-broadband-acces… — we INVENTED IT!)b) Fixing our air and rail infrastructure (have you been to LGA lately? Try going to Shanghai and comparing — it is shameful).That’s what you cite as laughable (there were more proposals but you didn’t mock them). That is perhaps THE most modest set of proposals by a President in a long time. So I’m at a loss here — is the problem that he made frivolous proposals? Not enough proposals? Or you would have preferred he take the P. Ryan approach, look backwards, and browbeat America into austerity (I believe they call that Japan circa 1990-Present)?To compare us to Greece and Ireland shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the global financial system. We have debt problems — which the POTUS acknowledged — but overdramatic, drawn out fingerwagging does not a remarkable SOTU response make. There may be another option in between there for you somewhere, but I don’t see what you’re getting at . . . except the usual.PS I LIKE ARGUING WITH YOU

  3. I think you’re conflating my general distaste for the SOTU with the notion that somehow this one was uniquely bad. That’s not the case. Both Bushes or Clinton could’ve given that exact speech (Can you imagine if they had? Then we’d be IN the future, after our victory over it!). I just find the entire production extremely off-putting (if it’s one thing we need more of right now, it’s political theater, amirite?); I’ll roll with Tom Jefferson on this one. By the same token, I think you think I liked Paul Ryan’s speech a lot more than I did. If you recall, I said I would’ve preferred a 24-word response that could’ve sent the collective punditry into a seizure. I’m merely saying that he cleared one of the lower bars* in politics by delivering a response that had one message (as opposed to the usual, which amounts to a more polished bar argument with “and ANOTHER thing!” smattered throughout), while the SOTU was cut from the same cookie cutter it always is. *Much like Aaron Rodgers outdueled the Cutler-Collins-Hanie three-headed beast by leading his offense to a whopping 0 more points than them.

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