Monthly Archives: January 2010

State of the Union

[First published at]

Barack Obama gave a decent election speech on Wednesday night. Unfortunately he was meant to be delivering a State of the Union address.

No one expects such an address to be entirely apolitical, or crafted to please his philosophical adversaries. But Barack Obama finds himself in a peculiar political hole in which his own smoothness makes the sides unclimbable. And plainly he does not know it.

A year into his mandate the wave of enthusiasm generated by his campaign oratory has receded, leaving a thick residue of public suspicion that he’s all talk and no action. The last thing he needed was one more airy and self-satisfied display of rhetorical prowess when an endless string of precisely such performances have him plunging in the polls and unable to secure legislative triumphs. Continue reading

The danger of empty rhetoric

By now I’ve reached the point in my career where I have a sizeable collection of half-written articles on issues that once seemed important that a search party couldn’t find today. I don’t expect my dusty files to command your sympathy, but spare some alarm for our collective attention deficit disorder. When we quietly forget trendy policy concepts without analyzing their failures properly we don’t learn, we just flit about posing.

Consider the Japanese economic model. Remember when the land of the Rising Sun was going to show us all how crony corporatism beat free markets hollow? Or Germany, or Europe? Heck, I’m old enough to remember when the Soviet Union was a superior model for Third World development. These ideas sure look silly now. But emptying an old closet full of snake oil isn’t like quietly purging your bell-bottoms and big glasses. Continue reading

What Obama liberals didn’t get

We need a new punchline to “What do you call a Republican Senate candidate from Massachusetts?” The old one was “Nobody calls him” or “You can’t remember either?” I don’t want to hear what they’re calling him in the White House right now. But I’m calling him payback for a Nobel Peace Prize. And proof that I was right.

To my right-wing friends and colleagues, I told you Barack Obama was not as dangerous as you thought. Sure, he’s far to the left and plausible. But he’s also amazingly narrow, a stereotypical liberal always talking about other points of view who has never knowingly been in the presence of such a thing. And he lacks the political skills that made, say, FDR a menace to America economically and constitutionally.

To my left-wing friends (if any) and colleagues, I told you his agenda was neither well-thought out nor popular. Far too many commentators, like Obama himself, do not understand right-wing views intellectually or electorally. They assume everyone is, at heart, a Harvard professor, and they thought Americans had finally realized everything was George W. Bush’s fault, boo hiss, let’s have socialized medicine. In Canada, the short version was, “Finally, Americans have become Canadians,” which was exceptionally silly. Continue reading