There was such a flurry of Dish activity surrounding the speech last night we decided to take stock. Live-blog link here. My takeaway:
I was hoping for a vision. I was hoping for real, strategic reform. What we got was one big blizzard of tax deductions, wrapped in a populist cloak. It was treading water. I suspect this will buoy liberal spirits, but anger the right and befuddle the independents. It definitely gives the Republican case against Obama as a big government meddler more credibility. I may be wrong – but the sheer cramped, tedious, mediocre micro-policies he listed were uninspiring to say the least.
What crawled up your ass and died tonight? After consistently advocating the long view of Obama's politics, you can't recognize a tactical campaign speech when you see one? The laundry list of promises was vintage Clinton (a guy who did pert dang well amongst indies), it threw red meat to a dispirited base, and it consistently undercut the GOP case against him as an anti-American anti-jobs socialist.
I reiterated my disappointed with the speech:
[S]eeing the tax code littered with a thousand more populist meddles is not what this Obamacon hoped for. And if he gets a governing majority, we would get more of that? That's my fear.
My take on Mitch Daniels' SOTU response:
It was that rare event when the GOP response surpassed the actual State of the Union. It was what a sane Republican critique of this presidency would be. … [H]e outclassed the man who just left the stage. If I were merely presented de novo between Daniels' speech and Obama's, I would vote for Daniels.
As it is, Obama really doesn't want the steep defense cuts that Republican Alan Simpson wants. And in a sane world, conservatives would be attacking him for this overweening bloat. But my real suspicion is that Obama does not believe he can defeat the special interests that would attack Bowles-Simpson. Look at how he cites business leaders whining about taxing income and dividends at the same level. He doesn't want to take them on. But why not? Fighting for a level playing field in taxation is a good thing – as policy and politics.