I stayed up late last night to watch the President’s State of the Union address. A year in and Barack Obama has seen his approval ratings plummet. Then again this was a man who a year ago people thought was god. It seemed that just by voting for Obama, Americans believed all their woes would be over.
When they woke up and found it took a bit more than that, the nation was shocked and appauled. Superman had been hit with a large chunk of kryptonite and things were not all mother and apple pie at the ranch. So this was a speech designed to appeal to the middle classes of America who have shown through poll ratings – and that Massachusettes Massacre – that they expected better. They care more about jobs than healthcare reform (or more accurately “insurance reform”). Surprise surprise.
Overall it was a sound if unthrilling speech -a bit of an acknowledgement that he and his administration could do better, and quite a bit of finger wagging at the Republicans, the pundits and the media for not pulling together more. It was probably too long – and probably tried to cover too many things. It wasnt a bad speech, I dont think Obama can do a bad speech, but it wasnt a great speech.
If Obama is capable of such a thing as a u-turn this was it. Obama has at last realised that what matter is jobs. Yes folks, it’s the economy stupid. Healthcare was indeed in yesterdays speech - but it was jobs, wealth creation, and tax incentives for business that featured prominently in the opening of his address. Obama has definitely got the message. “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight” received the most rapturous applause of the speech as far as I could tell. He proposed small business tax credits on creating jobs and raising salaries; abolishing all capital gains tax on investment for small businesses and tax incentives for all businesses. (This comes after the “big spend” jobs bill passed with the smallest of majorities in December, including some big infrastructure spending, ran into problems in the Senate. Even Democrats are running out of enthusiasm for more spending). Ok we might have heard the tax breaks for businesses line before in his campaign promises – and not acted on for a 12 months – but by jove I think he’s finally got it.
You will doubtless have read much more thorough analysis elsewhere that cover in detail the other speech highlights; cutting the defecit from 2011( the fact that it wont start for another year brought audible giggles from the floor); education; lots of green energy investment; another predicatable swipe at Wall Street; another (equally predictable) call for bipartisanship ( have the Republicans not already made it clear that they dont want to play?) and an attack on the Supreme Court ruling last week that gutted Campaign Finance restrictions etc.
What I was looking for as much as anything was his style of delivery – his tone. Serious and repentent, acknowledging he was wrong to spend so much effort on healthcare reform and bail outs and not enough on jobs and the economy? Or the unflappable Obama of old, cool and confident.
His tone was probably about right. Relaxed (no sign of nerves here) but sombre for large swathes of the speech. Its a marginal call but I think a tad too cocky and a shade light on humility – though it, and some self-deprecation, were there to be seen – but quite definitely defiant in his attitude towards the Republicans ( a kind of “play with me or else” approach). He may have taken a few blows in the last 12 months, but he certainly looks like a man still up for the fight. One thing that struck me in particular - his advisors would have been wise to school Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi not to sit there looking quite so smug – grinning like cheshire cats. Not good given their end of year report was definitely a D/E . It is perhaps odd that having spent so much time on his speech, as has been reported, he didn’t take more time to sort out that back line - especially as they were in shot for the vast proportion of his speech.
So, America is moving, it would seem, towards more business friendly times – and the sobering realisation that it must now turn its attention to the trillion of dollars of debt it has amassed.Tags: Biden, obama, Pelosi, stateof the union address 2010
These posters of Barack Obama, right, have been the “talk of the blogosphere” across the pond this week–at least according to the Washington Post. Via Reason mag my attention was drawn to the WashPo article which criticises the posters somewhat strangely:
“…the poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the “urban” makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can’t openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city”
Umm … you what?
If you’ll excuse a personal anecdote, this episode reminds me of a period in my somewhat class confused upbringing during which I attended a school that was tangibly more salubrious than the estate on which I was living. Teenage Julian therefore enjoyed an amusing contrast between the middle class during the day, and the working class at evenings and weekends.
One of the most notable distinctions between the two micro-cultures regarded race. At school, it was the most constant and sensitive issue, permanently on everyone’s minds. Our schoolboy mouths may have been filthier than a sewer rat, but no insult or charge carried more strength than “racist.” In short, we couldn’t shut up about it. Anyone who slipped off the politically correct line was immediately castigated.
Constrasting with this near-obsession was the environment on the estate, which I’d estimate was, to use ethnic generalisations, about 60 per cent black and 40 per cent white. Everyone was mingled, and race simply wasn’t an issue. That’s not to say it was ignored – in a sense our race defined each of us, but this was simply accepted, and was something anyone might casually refer to whenever they liked. I remember on one occasion we had a Black v White football game, just because it was the easiest way to pick sides. It wasn’t at all acrimonious, there was no underlying tension, no angst, no analysis … no issue. It just was.
So what makes writing, journalistic types so desperate to use strangely pseudo-intellectual analyses to point to racism? Why the obsession? Guilt?
The poster is undoubtedly disrespectful to the President (not that this is a bad thing in itself). The white face paint does, arguably, hint at racist undertones (especially as the link between the Joker and Obama’s alleged socialist revolution is tenuous to say the least), and perhaps for that reason the poster makes one feel a tad uncomfortable.
But to analyse the image in Kennicott’s manner is, well, odd. However, it’s also typical of such allegedly high-brow analyses of cultural events in publications like the WashPo, and in race-obsessed circles in the USA.
Almost as typical, you might say, as an English person turning everything into an entirely fruitless debate about “class.”
Guilty as charged, your Honour.Tags: obama, racism
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