SOTU Formulas: Obama vs. Bush
Cato’s Ted DeHaven juxtaposes quotes from President Obama’s first State of the Union address with several from his predecessor.
With President Obama’s repeated attempts to draw distinctions between himself from his predecessor—and a widespread belief that he and Bush are polar opposites in nearly every way—it’s actually startling how similar the two men are. And if the policies match the rhetoric, it’s going to be another very long 4-8 years filled with ever more government intrusion and red ink.
DeHaven titles his post “Bush’s Third Term” — a device I’ve used myself in highlighting the continuity in foreign policy. But, in this instance, what DeHaven is really doing is showing how formulaic presidential speechwriting has become. Which itself demonstrates the old adage that “American politics is like a football game played between the 40 yard lines.”
Now, I have no doubt that “it’s going to be another very long 4-8 years filled with ever more government intrusion and red ink.” But, sadly, that’s what the people have been demanding and their elected representatives delivering for the last several decades. On occasion, we get less red ink for awhile. But that’s almost invariably a function of economic booms and temporary spikes in tax revenue rather than fiscal sanity.
Beyond the policy constraints that modern presidents face, the overlapping rhetoric is mostly banal. Odes to civility and the need for bipartisan cooperation. Platitudes about hard-working Americans and the need for job creation and investment in manufacturing. Empty rhetoric about weaning ourselves from dependence on foreign oil by creating clean, renewable energy right here at home. Which will provide jobs! And clean air! For the children!
Which reminds me of why I’ve stopped watching these ridiculous orations and just wait for the next day’s news.
UPDATE: Alex Massie had the same thought when reading DeHaven’s lists, saying SOTU should stand for “Same Old Tired Utterances.” Indeed.