The Wholesale Product Of A Harvard Education

I started writing this SOTU evaluation this morning but was interrupted by real work and a very busy day. Now, 12 hours later, I probably don't have anything to add to what others have said, although I penned this without reference to anyone else's opinion. For external memory drive purposes, then.

Every system of education has a desired end product, and as I've said previously, President Obama is, in both his virtues and weaknesses, the epitome of an Ivy League education in the United States today.

I like the President. In all the relaxed and jokey moments of last night's speech he came off well (and Michelle had a nice, modest moment of shooing away applause that made me like her, too). But last night's speech was like a Sophomore debate, with the dubious grasp of history, condescension, petulance, lack of self-awareness and overblown self-importance of a kid in college.

Mr. W. has a young cousin who went to college and came back a neo-Marxist, with nothing but contempt for her supposedly selfish, greedy, conventional businessman father, never noticing that his conventional business is what paid her tuition. She's a sweet girl, but naive, and a terrible ungrateful scold to her parents, now that she is enlightened and above them in every way. She could have given last night's speech.

And the Sophomore speechwriters outdid themselves. I think they rang every one of their bells.

Inappropriate use of history? Check! Obama's team loves to cite instances from the past that actually mitigate his point as if they substantiated it. Every doggone speech they do it, making me think they crammed for their history tests with Cliff Notes rather than doing the reading. We all presented exam essays like this, remember?
when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.
One of these things just doesn't belong here, one of these things is not the same. The Civil War was not an instance of our choosing to move forward as one people. It was an instance of half the nation imposing its will on the other half in a bloody war. The Bloody Sunday example doesn't work either, in that the success of the Civil Rights movement is due to a pernicious idea in conflict with our national creed being repudiated and beaten down --it wasn't a matter of joining hands and "moving forward, " whatever that means.

Later on they'd claim the fact that we are "all created equal" is enshrined in the Constitution. I suppose we have to give them that on a technicality --the Constitution does say how the rights are to be enshrined. But the text comes from the Declaration and I heard it as a mistake.

Maudlin emotion? Check!
I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -- asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.
Appropriation of other people's success? Check! This was amazing, given the later Bush-bashing:
Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.
But when I ran for president, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -- I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.
Excuse me, but wasn't the bank bailout Bush's doing? TARP, which is the single positive step for the economy Obama can point to in his entire speech, was passed under Bush, which is why all Obama can say about it is:
I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took that program over, we made it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we've recovered most of the money we spent on the banks.
So...thanks to Bush the markets are now stabilized, and that is the only actual accomplishment Obama had to offer on the economy.

Similarly, Obama took credit for ending the war in Iraq --not a word about how it happens that we can manage a peaceful transition there. (Hint: because of Bush.)

Self-contradiction? Check.
We should start where most new jobs do -- in small businesses, companies that begin when -- companies that begin when an entrepreneur -- when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession, and they're ready to grow. But when you talk to small business owners in places like Allentown, Pa., or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they're mostly lending to bigger companies.
Where do we imagine big companies come from, if not small companies? And he'd just got finished excoriating banks for bad loans --and now is mad at them for playing it safe?

Unmanly not-my-fault whining? Check!
By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.
No mention of 9/11, which made the first 4 items necessary; he acts as if Bush did these things on a whim. Obama opposes the prescription drug program? Didn't he vote for it? 

Total un-self-awareness? Check! Here's one of three unintentional  laugh lines ( I don't recall any President ever being laughed at in a SOTU when he wasn't cracking wise):
We face a deficit of trust -- deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue -- to end the outsized influence of lobbyists, to do our work openly, to give our people the government they deserve.
That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why -- for the first time in history -- my administration posts on our White House visitors online. That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions.
Mr. President, your 18 or however many it is czars, appointed to circumvent the Senate-approval process, are all lobbyists. What do you suppose a community activist is if not a lobbyist?

And ditto for this:
I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics.  I know it's an election year.  And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual.  But we still need to govern. 
In the middle of a speech that is one long campaign speech, which was followed within one hour by a note in my inbox from the President using the speech to raise funds for the DNC.

And that long scolding to Congress about not being so mean and partisan --in the midst of a speech that was one long attack on George Bush? He was indulging in a mean and partisan attack on the GOP with the very words he used to ask them to be non-partisan.
Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership.  We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.
Stunning ignorance? Check! Mr. W. says the line about the Court permitting foreign interference in our elections is just a lie, flat-out. (It's forbidden by law, and nothing in the Citizens United case touches that at all) I don't think so. I think this administration is simply so sloppy it doesn't know or bother to fact check its own "certainties." Like AG Eric Holder arriving for Congressional hearings unprepared for the most obvious question as if the thought had never crossed his mind, these people --like college Sophomores-- have formed their opinions by absorbing cant from their professors and cramming in some reading a few hours before the exam.

Tough talk backed by nothing whatsoever? Check!
as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt:  They, too, will face growing consequences.  That is a promise. 
An utterly empty one. Name one thing we can threaten them with besides war, which is off the table.

Glittering generalities? Check!
We find unity in our incredible diversity
I have no idea what that even means. The American ideal is that in spite of our diversity, we are united around certain principles. Our diversity is in that sense a blessing and no obstacle to unity. But it isn't the cause of it.
We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -– so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work. 
Translation: we are going to prescribe what employers can pay women, making job-sharing, work-from-home, 3/4 time and other contemporary accomodations for working mothers costly and difficult, making it even harder for a woman to juggle work and family.

And then all the "I's." I'm sure someone's counted them all by now. I can't express how jarring it is to me to hear him talk that way, as if he were elected to be our prince and not our president. It's "we," Mr. President. Always, "we," unless you are making an aside about your favorite sports team or snack.

I give him credit for standing up for Afghan women, for supporting nuclear energy if he's serious, and for praising the decency of the American people. The rest seemed both amateurish, and remarkably defensive --the speech of a lame duck president, not a guy finishing up his first year.

Anyway. If you want to know what your $47,215/ year Harvard tuition gets you: we were lookin' at it.

Update: neo-neocon coins the term: "Blame Duck President."