Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.
I thought it might be fun to look at some lines of the State of the Union and imagine what they might sound like from someone else’s perspective ….
1. From a Massachusetts voter perspective ... he might seem a little disingenuous.
“For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry.”
Ummm .. the frustration and anger in Massachusetts (of all places) seemed to do with overreaching, not under-reaching, didn’t it? …
2. From an alien from outer space perspective … someone who heard this speech without knowing anything about America might be startled at the irony of Obama citing two problems.
In the early part of the speech, he addresses our economic “devastation” and economic “crisis.” Later on, he addressed the problem of kids sitting idly in front of their giant entertainment centers munching expensive processed snacks:
“I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity …”
It’s not a knock against Obama … just a reality of American perception. To give a little perspective on our economic crisis, ask Haiti how bad their childhood obesity problem is.
3. From a speechwriter’s perspective … you know there was a lot of back and forth between the speechwriters and the policy guys as they tried to put a number in this sentence, then just gave up and said, “let’s just say ‘more’!”:
“By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance.”
The sentence cries out for a number, must have been written with a number, and should have been deleted in the absence of a number. Who is in the office ending people’s health care at 8 at night anyway?
4. From St. Augustine’s perspective … the saint who before his conversion once said, “Lord make me chaste, but not yet!” may have snickered in heaven over this line. Obama had just announced his spending freeze, mentioned that some say it isn’t doable and added:
“I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger …”
5. From a boss’s point of view … Imagine you’re a boss and you hired someone to get the business back in the black. What if that person came back and said, “I added a bunch of stuff to the budget and accounted for it, but we’re still in the red.”
What would you say? Well, Americans hired Obama in just that circumstance and here’s what he just said:
“Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office.”
6. From the point of view of those “on the right” ...
Obama is known for setting up his arguments by contrasting them with the position of “those who would do nothing,” or “those who only say no.” These people of course don’t exist. Last night, however, we may have heard the king of all straw-man appeals ….
“From some on the right, I expect we’ll hear a different argument – that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away..”
The problem with this kind of argument is it does no one any good.
Those on the right only get angry to see their position so mischaracterized and maligned.
Those on the left get a false comfort because no real challenge is made to their own point of view.
Those in the middle don’t get a discussion of what’s best among competing ideas — and haven’t heard any reason to reject his opponents’ real arguments when next they hear them.
7. From Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered activists’ perspective …
Pro-lifers know exactly how this group felt last night. We thrilled at each reference to a “culture of life” in a Bush State of the Union. They thrilled to this:
“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”
Bush never told the rest of the country all he did for pro-life, and Obama didn’t tell them all he’s done for the “LGBT community” — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual activists.
Why wouldn’t he want to share all he’s done?
He gave them a month:
He also appointed a transgendered man to the commerce department.
That man is a former leader with the National Center for Transgendered Equality, which promotes letting guys use women’s bathrooms. I kid you not: “The bottom line is that transgender people should be treated with respect. Their freedom to define themselves through self-identification and expression should be honored in every way, including in the language that staff use to refer to them as well as with their housing, bathroom, and shower placement.”
Ah. Maybe that’s why.