Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bill Clinton, Judge Judy, and the State of the Union

In spite of everything else screaming for my attention right now, I watched President Obama's first State of the Union address -- all 70-odd minutes of it -- last night. And what surprised me most was how much I kept thinking about Bill Clinton (and Judge Judy) as I watched.

Like President Clinton, President Obama also "feels" everyone's pain. I know this because President Obama tried to mention nearly every single person, in every single situation, currently living in the United States. He probably could have trimmed 25 minutes or so off the speech simply by not mentioning this representative man from this important group in this great state, or that representative woman in that also-important group in this other heartbreaking situation. This may be the first State of the Union address during which viewers actually began to experience "compassion fatigue." By the time President Obama got around to mentioning Haiti, my sympathy tank had run dry. And Bill always gave the impression that he really did feel your pain, deep in his own gut, and that he'd be happy to sit down and have a beer with you to talk about it, and oh, it's such a shame that your attractive wife couldn't join us. With President Obama, he understands it in his head -- and he'll make sure you get a copy of the paper he wrote about it.

More than anything, though, when the voters gave Bill Clinton an electoral spanking back in 1994 for his policies and how he governed, he actually understood the message -- that they were rejecting his policies and how he governed, and that it was time to be the political centrist he had campaigned as. This message has clearly escaped President Obama, who even after seeing Massachusetts (Massachusetts!) elect a Republican (a Republican!) to the "Kennedy seat" (the "Kennedy seat"!) in the Senate apparently thinks the problem has nothing to do with his policies and how he's been governing. From what I saw last night, President Obama really, truly, and honestly thinks the problem is simply that people just don't understand his policies and how awesome they are, so all he really needs to do is explain their awesomeness again (and again) until the truth of his words finally sinks in and we all come to our senses and thank him for his steadfastness.

And say bad things about bankers. Because people really hate bankers.

Sorry, Mr. President, but the health care reform bills aren't running at closing in on 70% disapproval with the public because we don't know what's in the legislation. We do know. That's why closing in on 70% of us are opposing it -- and why Massachusetts (Massachusetts!) just elected a Republican (a Republican!) to the "Kennedy seat" (the "Kennedy seat"!) in the Senate.

It takes real chutzpah for President Obama, after everything that's happened in the last year, to get up before both houses of Congress and the nation and yet again say how the health reform bill in the Senate will expand coverage, reduce costs, and, oh yes, somehow chop $1 trillion from the deficit over the next 20 years. Or maybe that's just clinical denial. I'm not a psychiatrist, so I'll have to leave that question open. I'm just thankful he didn't bring back those doctors who perform predatory tonsillectomies on small children or refuse to give diabetics information on how to control their disease so they can rake in the big bucks by cutting off their patients' feet.

Or maybe one President Obama has the chutzpah and the other President Obama is in denial. Because like a lot of his speeches, the President seemed to be two people last night, trying to have it both ways. That's why he's going to add even more spending in the budget, then next year freeze some of it at those higher levels, so that he can help bring down the deficit. Sure, this is like running up your balances on five different credit cards and then sticking one of them in the freezer after you've maxed it out, but doesn't it sound really, really good? And how about those bankers? How awful are they?

What bothered me most, though, wasn't the idea the Stimulus was so successful that President Obama now wants another one, even though we still haven't spent most of the money from the first, and we'll call this one a "jobs bill" instead. Or his explanation of how banks made too many risky loans, which is why we're in this mess, even though the problem now is that banks aren't making risky loans, so let's throw out another $30 billion in taxpayer money so that banks, which are bad, can make risky loans, which are good, except when they're sending us to the edge of another Great Depression.

No, what bothered me most is that even after a year in office, President Obama still can't decide whether he's the postpartisan uniter of hope or the hyperpartisan, Chicago machine-style politican. So he's still trying to be both. And at the same time. And in the same speech. But at some point, claiming how you really, really, really want to be bipartisan and work with the other side just falls flat when you keep poking a big stick in everyone else's eye. I mean, don't say you have no interest in "re-litigating" the past after you've just spent almost half the speech blaming George W. Bush and his policies for nearly every problem we have,including all those trillions in new deficits called for in your own 10-year budget plan. And don't tell me how you will never stop trying to change the tone in Washington, but then not only rip into the Supreme Court, who just happen to be sitting politely in front of you, but also mischaracterize the decision you disagree with and egg on the members of your own party to do their best imitation of a angry crowd with torches and pitchforks. It's not like they're bankers, after all.

And that's where Judge Judy comes in. Because when I wasn't thinking of Bill Clinton during this speech, I was thinking of her. And why was I thinking of Judge Judy?

Because for 70-odd minutes last night, President Obama peed on my leg and told me it was raining.