As Peggy Noonan writes, Obama’s State of the Union address is built around two themes, that “Washington is sick and broken—and it can solve all our problems”:
The central fact of the speech was the contradiction at its heart. It repeatedly asserted that Washington is the answer to everything. At the same time it painted a picture of Washington as a sick and broken place. It was a speech that argued against itself: You need us to heal you. Don’t trust us, we think of no one but ourselves.
The people are good but need guidance—from Washington. The middle class is anxious, and its fears can be soothed—by Washington. Washington can “make sure consumers . . . have the information they need to make financial decisions.” Washington must “make investments,” “create” jobs, increase “production” and “efficiency.”
At the same time Washington is a place “where every day is Election Day,” where all is a “perpetual campaign” and the great sport is to “embarrass your opponents” and lob “schoolyard taunts.”
Why would anyone have faith in that thing to help anyone do anything?
Update: Further thoughts from Mark Steyn in his weekly op-ed:
As President Obama sees it, whatever the problem, the solution is more Washington.Simply as a matter of internal logic, this is somewhat perplexing. After all, when he isn’t blaming George W. Bush, Mr. Obama blames “Washington” – a Washington mired in “partisanship” and “pettiness” and “the same tired battles” and “Washington gimmicks” that do nothing but ensure that our “problems have grown worse.” Washington, Mr. Obama tells us, is “unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.”
So let’s have more Washington! That raises the question: Does even Mr. Obama listen to his speeches?
The public does – at least to this extent: They understand that when he’s attacking the tired old Washington games, he’s just playing the game, but when he’s proposing the tired old Washington solutions, he means it. That’s the only Barack Obama on offer. And everything the president proposes means more debt, which at the level this guy is spending means higher taxes.
Functioning societies depend on agreed rules. If you want to open a business, you do it in Singapore or Ireland because the rules are known to all parties. You don’t go to Sudan or Zimbabwe, where the rules are whatever the state’s whims happen to be that morning.
That’s why Mr. Obama is such a job-killer. Why would a small business take on a new employee? The president is proposing a soak-the-banks tax that could impact access to credit. The House has passed a cap-and-trade bill that could impose potentially unlimited regulatory costs. The Senate is in favor of health care reform that would allow the IRS to seize your assets if you and your employees’ health arrangements do not meet the approval of the federal government. Some of these things will pass into law; some of them won’t. But all of them send a consistent, cumulative message: There are no rules.
In such an environment, would you hire anyone? Mr. Obama can bury it in half a ton of leaden telepromptered sludge, but the message is clear: more Washington, more regulation, more spending and no rules.
If that isn’t a huge opportunity for the GOP to use the president’s rhetoric against him, I don’t know what is.