Discuss the State of the Union Address here

I missed it!  I had a class.  How was it?  What was said?  What new programs do we have to look forward to?

Here is a copy of the text.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • tODD

    Look, the SotU is all theater, right? Particularly stupid theater, at that.

    Once we’ve admitted that, that there is no information to be gained from this spectacle, that it’s all about performance, then we can move on, as theater critics are wont to do, to discuss the performances of the actors.

    I refer here to Watergate II.

  • Abby

    @1 “I refer here to Watergate II.” Several young pastors are doing that during sermons now (I watch online). Last night I saw one again and thought, ‘Is this a fad designer thing?’ Although I do remember seeing speakers years ago with a pitcher of water and a glass nearby. And, of course, at conferences.

  • SAL

    I wonder how many people actually watched it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Looks like I’m not too late for a lively, edifying political discussion on Cranach.

    I didn’t watch it. In fact, I haven’t watched a full SOTU in ten years, with the exception of a few minutes of Obama’s first. Why would I want to watch one stupid egoist give a stupid speech to an audience of hundreds of his stupid egoist peers, after which another stupid egoist from the other “side” gives a stupid response, after which other stupid egoists provide stupid commentary on the whole stupid affair?

  • Tom Hering

    I got Rubio’s point. Loud and clear. “Climate change? Environmentalism? Here’s a plastic water bottle for ya, Mr. President. I hope one of your damn pelicans chokes on it.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    OK, let me get this straight; using the Teleprompter for talking to grade school kids is OK, but taking a drink to wet your whistle during a talk is wrong? tODD nails it.

    I didn’t watch, but I read part of it, and it was about as I expected. Obama apparently has no use for the data that make it pretty clear his program has been an abject failure, proposes more of the same. Let’s increase the minimum wage and put more minority kids in the city out of work. Let’s put more money into solar energy companies about to go bankrupt. Let’s rebuild more roads and bridges that don’t need to be rebuilt.

    And let’s take money out of the hands of people who actually know how to run a business to pay for it. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • Kirk

    Much like last year, there was entirely too much clapping.

  • Kirk
  • kerner

    Cin @4:

    I didn’t watch either speech either, and so far we agree that President Obama is a stupid egoist. And I am aware from previous conversatons that you considered Mitt Romney a stupid egoist. I did not know, however, that you thought Marco Rubio is also a stupid egoist. I have not yet formed an opinion of Senator Rubio on that issue, but I have to ask you: is there any modern politician, or even former politician, who you do not consider a stupid egoist? Or that you might vote for if he/she were to run for president? (let’s try to confine ourselves to politicians that are actually in a position to mount a campaign and exclude the small town mayors for the moment)

    I’m not necessarily going to argue with you (oh hell, I probably will, but that will probably be a function of my nature more than anything else), but my primary interest is to understand your attitude toward American politics, which I am not sure I fully do.

  • John C

    Yes Bubba, why not take money out of the hands of some of the people who gave us the global financial crisis?
    And if there are bridges that need to be repaired, why not spend some money and get people working?
    And why not raise living standards by increasing basic wage? In Australia the basic wage for adults is around $17.00/hour and every couple of years there are cost of living adjustments.
    Don’t invest too much faith in the free market. It never has been free and it’s just another ideology.

  • DonS

    The youth unemployment rate is about 17%: http://www.businessinsider.com/unemployment-and-youth-unemployment-rate-2013-1

    Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour should do wonders for lowering that rate. Who wouldn’t want to pay an unskilled teen in their first job $9.00 an hour?! In fact, it would be even greater genius to go to $17.00, as John C suggests they do in Australia, or maybe even $20.00 and eliminate poverty! The ultimate would be to just mandate that everyone get a six figure salary, at which point Obama can tax us all as rich and solve the deficit!

    Unfortunately, here in southern California our news stations were focused on the Dorner manhunt, so I was forced to miss a whole hour of this kind of genius from our Commander in Chief.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@9:

    [I]s there any modern politician . . . who you do not consider a stupid egoist?

    No. Do you have any candidates in mind?

    Or that you might vote for if he/she were to run for president?

    No. Do you have any candidates in mind? Actually, scratch that: I would vote for Chris Christie for the entertainment value (and, frankly, I admire a Republican who can earn a 73% approval rating in New Jersey). But why bother getting excited about voting in a mass democracy where a) your vote doesn’t matter and b) you have no effective choice between the two-headed major party? I’d just as soon live in a monarchy at this rate.

    Tocqueville’s dictum was right: democracies tend to select mediocre men as leaders. He was understating.

    . . . or even former politician[?]

    I admire a few historical political actors. Thomas Jefferson is a current favorite.

    [B]ut my primary interest is to understand your attitude toward American politics

    I hate it/them. Our contemporary mass democracy is perhaps one of the worst systems of government ever devised. At least Hitler actually cared about the citizens he wasn’t murdering.

  • tODD

    Bubba (@6), if you really want to “get this straight”, you might try researching your own claims. (You might also ask yourself: when, exactly, did Straw tODD give the thumbs up to teleprompter use?)

    Anyhow, I know how right-wingers like to completely ignore the content of what is said and instead focus on the minutiae of the performance. That’s why they like to talk about stage settings, teleprompters, what people are wearing, and so on. In that spirit, I thought that they would also enjoy my pointing out yet another bit of performance trivia. Noting that Rubio took an awkward drink is every bit as useful and insightful as is all the teleprompter commentary.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    I have no particular candidates in mind. Certainly not Chris Christie, who I would have thought was one of the biggest stupid egoists on earth (hence his popularity in New Jersey).

    But to expaand on your other statements a bit:

    1. Your vote doesn’t matter? Why, because there are 315 million of us (well, probably more like 300 mil, once you eliminate the non-citizen residents), such that one vote among so many is to insignificant to contemplate? Or are there other reasons?

    2. We have no effective choice between the two headed major party? So, what would a contemporary politician have to do to distinguish himself from the 2 headed party? Form a new one? Or would taking sufficient distinguishing positions on the issues do (and if so to what degree)?

    Your final paragraph throws me for a loop. You hate the mob so much that the dictator actually looks good to you? Even the epitome of stupid egoists, who “cared about” the citizens he wasn’t murdering so much that he substantially shortened or otherwise ruined the lives of almost all of them?

    Not that I’m all that thrilled with our present form of government in practice right now myself. But, I can’t say my attitude has descended to the depths of loathing that it has for you. And I really can’t think of another system that would be working any better in this culture. Can you?

  • kerner

    Oh, I almost forgot. What is it about Rubio that puts him squarely among the unacceptable “stupid egoists” in your estimation? I’m not suggesting he’s a genius, but I haven’t been convinced that he’s an idiot (although maybe I just don’t know him well enough). And I would have thought that all politicians (Jefferson included) are/were egoists.

  • DonS

    Chiming in on the conversation between Cincinnatus and Kerner, the course of human history and human government is not a pleasant one, unsurprisingly, given the depraved state of man. Citizens decry the lawlessness of their fellow citizens, the evils of barons of industry, etc., and clamor for a solution, which is inevitably to concentrate power with a few governing officials. Amazingly, this begets corruption, greed, evil, and incompetence on a grand, governmental scale. The difference, of course, is that there is no recourse against a corrupt government, unlike that available against fellow citizens, because you have accepted tyranny by clamoring for big government. It started with the Israelite people clamoring for King Saul, and history is full of such examples since then, including the unfolding story of present day America.

    All that to say that we should resist the enlargement of government, at any level, with every fiber of our being if we have any desire to remain free and to preserve our dignities. So, Cincinnatus @ 12, a monarchy? Really?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    The “Messiah” spoke last night and I missed it?

    Must’ve been washing my hair…

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS@16:

    I’m not a monarchist. But, yes, factually speaking, a limited constitutional monarchy–such as England had for much of its post-Roman history–would be small (actually, is and was) smaller and less intrusive than what we have today. When one considers that the word “monarchy” isn’t synonymous with Louis XIV’s absolutism, one might wonder how you could suggest that today’s mass democracy–actually, mass technocracy–is “smaller” than the late medieval and early modern governments of Western Europe. Come to think of it, actually, our “democratic” state boasts prerogatives and powers that Louis XIV couldn’t even have conceived.

    Some historians have made a convincing empirical case that modern democracies and democratic revolutions almost always lead to larger governments. Many political theorists, meanwhile–Tocqueville and Jouvenal, for example–have shown that these historical results are actually intrinsic to the logic of mass democratic government.

    So, yes, I would prefer King Edward III–or even Louis XIV–to President Reagan.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@14:

    1) Your vote doesn’t matter because a) it literally doesn’t matter statistically, especially in national elections, for the precise reason you state, and b) we have no meaningful choices. Tell me again about how radically distinct were the alternatives Romney and Obama–or Republicans and Democrats in general–offered us.

    2) You frame the question oddly. The two major parties are broken and unacceptable because the system itself is broken. No politician who offers meaningful, effective, ethical choices and good government stands a chance in the current system. Is this fatalist? No. The only possible way to make a (political) difference in our system is to, say, run for school board. Or withdraw completely and do your own thing.

    Other questions/notes: Why, as you imply, is the mob more desirable than a dictator? Traditionally, political theory has expressed terror at either alternative, but especially the mob (under the assumption that any order is better than no order). That said, I don’t think the mob is our problem right now, nor is a dictator. Our problem is a technocratic monstrosity that is demanded and accepted by the malleable, self-interested, stupid masses (who are not the same as a mob–mobs actually try to take things into their own hands).

    And can you really not imagine any other form of government more effective and salubrious to liberty than ours? How about the New England township? How about Florentine republicanism? How about–*ahem*–the Articles of Confederation? You may detect a theme: localism. Anyway, you don’t have to endorse any or all of these systems, but the idea that ours represents some sort of pinnacle of political order is ludicrous.

    Next, I don’t really care about Rubio either way, nor do I know much about him. However, I know enough about the partisan process of selecting “rising stars” to know that he’s probably not a luminary in terms of intellect or statesmanship. He’s a party hack like anyone else running for the “highest office” in the world.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 18: Well, clearly, there has never in world history been a government so overgrown and obese as today’s U.S. federal government, in absolute terms. But not in terms of government spending to total GDP. Not by a longshot. I don’t know how the limited constitutional monarchies of, for example, England, compare in that respect either. Perhaps they were smaller in terms of government spending/taxation to GDP, but I rather doubt it.

    The real difference, though, is in terms of human rights. Unless you were nobility, you didn’t have many in merrie olde England. Nor did you have much opportunity for economic advancement — job prospects were extremely limited, in large part because you had no hope at all of ever owning any land.

    The Pilgrims didn’t think much of the religious freedoms offered by the British monarchy and the lovely Church of England, either.

    What is unique and special about our government is that it was founded on the principles of inalienable human rights. I know most of our citizenry no longer appreciates that distinctive, preferring to relinquish those rights in exchange for the government’s illusory bowl of entitlement pottage, but I still think they’re worth fighting for.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    “Some historians have made a convincing empirical case that modern democracies and democratic revolutions almost always lead to larger governments. Many political theorists, meanwhile–Tocqueville and Jouvenal, for example–have shown that these historical results are actually intrinsic to the logic of mass democratic government. ”

    Maybe, but don’t you have to factor in modern technology? My recollection of European history is that the government was less intrusive because it had no means to be very much more intrusive than it was. Among the people government was capable of affecting, it intruded a lot. If the central government’s citizens moved geographically far from it (e.g. colonized another continent, or in the case of the Kossacks lived out on the far flung steppes) the government lost the ability to keep track of people living in the hinterland. But the local governments were still inclined to be intrusive locally.

    Now that technology has made it easier to keep track of us all, it intrudes as much as it can get away with. But Tocqueville and Jouvenal notwithstanding, lets just say we largely eliminated representative democracy and state sovereignty in the United States (even as the weakened institutions they are today). Do you really think that the Obama administration would be less intrusive than it is now? In the 20th-21st centuries, it seems to me that the size and intrusion of government have grown substantially in totalitarian states and democracies alike. So, I think there are probably other factors at work.

    As for the two headed party. Doesn’t one of those heads include a faction that at least tries to reduce the size and intrusion of government? I am often frustrated at how little some of its politicians seem to understand the principles of limited government. But I don’t see any alternative to trying to encourage that small government faction to flourish. It seems better than just giving up.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    I actually am kind of a fan of localism. I see this country’s salvation in the remaining ability of the states to exercise some measure of control (however weakened) over their own affairs. I have rarely been so pleasantly surprised as when our own state bit back against the “technocrats” as you call them, spending 2 years in political turmoil to do it. And I fully agree with you that the rise of a governing class is a much bigger problem than the so called mob. Frankly, the way government workers deem themselves entitled to benefits beyond what we can afford and or choose to pay reminds me of feudalism.

    And remember that local control was an earmark of feudalism. If you were a serf, or a local businessman in Merry Olde England, it was the local lord and his men at arms that were your biggest worry, not the king who probably didn’t know or care that you existed. But local control doesn’t seem to have made life any easier for the serfs or the burghers. They were still subject to arbitrary power.

    But my point is that locally Americans ARE resisting the new feudalism that the left is trying to impose on us. I remember you being very critical of Gov. Walker in threads past, but I don’t remember why. I’m not claiming he’s a genius. He certainly has trouble maintaining the level of integrity I would like to see among his own administration. But he doesn’t seem to be grossly corrupt himself and he is chasing the tyrannical technocrats away from the public trough. Part of the 2 headed beast or not, I have to support somebody like that.

    I don’t blame you for having no faith in Rubio, but it hardly seems fair to conclude out of hand that he is stupid without some data to support your conclusion. It would be a statistical miracle for any politition in any era to not be afflicted with SOME degree of egoism. But I don’t begrudge him the fact that he may have a little of the Rock-Star cachet that presidential candidates seem to need these days. This is a mass media driven culture, and the successful candidate will be mass media savvy (and I don’t mean merely TV). That’s why Obama who is a master of today’s media won. It is also why the Romney, who relied on media (talk radio and Fox News, etc.) that are 25 years old, lost. Rush Limbaugh’s problem isn’t that he is wrong (although he has been wrong plenty of times), it is that he is old and in a rut (because the rut he and several others are in has made him very wealthy and he is loath to give it up). But of course the Republicans don’t know what else to do on a national level. But maybe Rubio and his contemporaries will think of some ways to play the game by the new rules that will take the Democrats by surprise (as Reagan and Talk Radio did in the 1980′s-1990′s).

    And I really don’t know why you don’t like Ronald Reagan. There was a guy who changed the direction this country was going. I was there and I remember the change. The problem was that he had no like minded successor. Every Republican presidential candidate nominated since Reagan was either a relic of the statist past or clueless about a non-statist future (actually, W. might have had some clue, but he jettisoned it after 911 and never got most of it back). There have been some who weren’t nominated who seemed to have some of his vision, but they either lacked the connections or the charisma to move to the front of the pack.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD: if I’d not said anything about the content of Obama’s speech, then you might have had a point. But I did, so you are wrong. Sorry. I’ts a well demonstrated fact that absent TOTUS, Obama tends to do a really, really bad job speaking.

    John C: I DO support taking money out of the hands of those who (CRA, Sarbanes-Oxley, profligate spending, massive subsidies for corrupt companies like Fannie and Freddie) caused the economic crisis. That’s why I support massive spending cuts and tax cuts.

    Let’s be serious here. The unemployment rate rose in lockstep with the minimum wage as it was increased from 2007 to 2009. (guess when the increase stopped? Yup) The total number of competitive energy technologies developed by the DOE is zero–all of them STILL require massive subsidies and set-asides. (in short, progress towards sustainable energy is “zero” or less) And a lot of those roads “repaired” under the “spend-u-more” plan? Already trashed. Obama’s “shovel-ready” dictum apparently skipped the concept of actually engineering the roads for likely wear patterns.

    Sorry, I don’t want more of this. I want money taken out of the hands of those who did the most to cause this recession, and that means drastically cutting government spending.

  • John C

    So the Global Financial Crisis had no impact on employment in 2007-2009, bike bubba.


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