Part one of this post, on Obama’s State of the Union address, is here.
If Obama’s speech seemed tired and rather boring, I must say I found the Republican Response simply atrocious – Vote for me because my all-American sons love sports just like you! It was Palinism; i.e., decadent, late Bushism.
The Democrats cheering at just about every line was sycophantic and annoying. Just saying flim-flam like, ‘I want America to be the best at future technologies,’ got Obama mawkishly long applause, and after awhile it got really tiresome. Agreed.
But the GOP response was downright disastrous. Here the applause really was scripted as syncophantic. What is it with the GOP and her0-worship? Ech! They even hooted and ho-yahed for McDonnell. And did you catch the unbelievably ‘diverse’ cast of worshippers behind the governor – a soldier, a black,a policeman, an Asian, an old woman? This is supposed to be the contemporary GOP? Of white protestant tea partiers in Virginia of all places? Good lord. I laughed out loud the first time they panned the backstop audience.
It all reminded me of the GOP 2004 convention, a) with its painfully overchoreographed image of diversity for a party whose voter base is overwhelmingly white, born-again protestant, and b) the hero-worship of W as just a regular good ole boy who rose to greatness by his wholesome American gut values. Only in Virginia, this guv made sure to tell us his beaming daughter served in Iraq, and his snappy young sons like Sportscenter. Hah! What unbelievably smarmy crap! Do Americans really fall that?
If you thought Bobby Jindal was bad last year, at least he didn’t ask his family to perform the family-values swimsuit competition for the religious right: ‘the Scriptures say families and America are great, so vote for me!’
The riposte captured all the banality and policy bankruptcy of the current GOP. The US economy nearly melted down, and there is wide consensus that massive government intervention scarcely averted another Depression. Yet the GOP response told us only that government is going to stifle America. That’s it?! When corporate and private spending is down all over the place, and the only big source of demand in the economy right now is government? That is your answer? Government is the problem when the only reason unemployment isn’t worse is government? C’mon. How can I take this seriously as policy?
On foreign policy, McDonnell was just as bad. He could only complain that we mirandized Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. I take it to mean that we should torture the hell out of him or otherwise deny him any rights. When did torture become a litmus-test for status as a conservative?! Creepy…
I was once again struck by the utter failure of the GOP to respond seriously to Obama’s election and the scope of the financial crisis. This is still the GOP of the W years. Governor McDonnell told us nothing we haven’t heard before, and he did it in the worst Rovian fashion – a highly controlled, hyper-scripted environment filled with sycophantic, awestruck faces, the shameless exploitation of his family, an even more shameless diversity ploy, Bible citations – excuse me, ‘Scripture,’ the recitation of same points again and again, now matter what the topic of discussion, and a bullying tough guy approach on foreign policy. They should have just let Palin do the response; she really believes W was one of America’s greatest presidents ever.
If Obama came across as exasperated or tired, McDonnell broadcasted unreconstructed Bushism. Stick with the former until the GOP can finally figure out how to move on.
Finally I must add one professorial, intellectual barb to the whole proceedings: it was remarkably, staggeringly shallow at almost all times for anyone with a serious knowledge about or education in the big issues in American life. I spent 2-3 hours watching the State of the Union, the GOP response, and some of the punditry on CNN. I was amazed at how little genuine expertise, technical detail, or serious, apartisan/non-spin, cost-benefit analyses of policy choices were included. It was almost all just campaign spin (how will this or that play in the red states?; speaking of, will Maitlin and Carville please finally go away?!), agonizingly cheese-y anecdotes (tell the woman making brake fluid in Des Moines that America has lost its edge), inspirational vacuities (America’s promise for the future), and shameless partisan positioning (my daughter went to Iraq, and my handlers made sure to place a black and Asian behind me – look! don’t miss ‘em!).
What junk! I mean really. How unbelievably insulting. Can’t our public officials treat us as reflective, deliberative voters, instead of dupes who think you’re great because you quote the Bible? How gratingly, offensively shallow. Grrr. WE ARE NOT CHILDREN.
If you have any kind of serious education in politics and economics, this was 3 hours of your life wasted. You learned almost nothing serious about the coming year’s policy debates – other than unintended signals that the GOP is lost in time, Obama doesn’t know what to do with health care, and no one is serious about the deficit.
Most of my day is spent reading technical work in political science and economics, so I imagine this is why it seemed so jarringly childish and evasive of serious issues. But honestly, if you had read even a few articles in the Economist or Financial Times about US politics, you would have learned more. I could have given a better talk than any of those guys, and in less time. This is why we have the democratic legitimacy crisis Obama mentioned. If you treat the population like idiots, they become disaffected.