Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Just Couldn't Do It

After all those years of "speeches" by GWB over the years, I just couldn't bring myself to watch much of President Obama's Address to Congress last night. I just couldn't do it. It's not that I don't love our new president, because I do. And it's not that I don't think he's a great speaker, because I do.

But I will admit that there were times during the campaign when his rhetoric didn't match what I knew he was capable of. Without tanking, he just wasn't what I knew he could be. His speech on race was actually what finally tipped me from being a lukewarm supporter to a passionate advocate for his election, because it was then that I saw him give the speech I had known all along was inside of him. And while he has seldom disappointed me since that day in terms of his speeches, I just couldn't get into it last night.

I watched part of it, and was impressed that so often the entire chamber applauded at his words (I remember so many States of the Union where one side sat stone-faced throughout the entire speech), and it was very nice to be spoken to like a grown-up for a change, but attention just faded in and out. No doubt it was due to 1) being gunshy after so many terrible, terrible States of the Union (GWB was deeply annoying with his "noun, verb, 9/11" routine, too), and 2) just plain being sad at my Nana's death. Instead, I focused more on making travel arrangements and talking to Backbencher's family, with whom we'll be staying for part of our trip.

And Gov. Jindal's response was so, well, just plain ludicrous, that I had to go bathe the dogs. It was treacly, and it was much less a response to the President's speech than it was an opportunity to position himself as a credible conservative in the folksy, feel-good mold of Ronald Reagan. Gag me with a spoon! His bi-partisan stuff was okay, and a step in the right direction (though Backbencher will argue that point, I'm sure), and he was far less prickly than other responses have been in the past (again, that chipper Gipper routine); but, my God, the man is a political wonk with a Harvard degree and is a Rhodes scholar. Man up to your identity and your intelligence, and give us more of that! I might not agree with you, but at least we can wrestle with substance together.

In the end, I'm kind of sorry I missed President Obama's speech, because the more I hear of it, the better it sounds. He, at least, gives us what we need: frank and honest assessments of where we're at, an acknowledgement that we have different ways we'd like to get to the places we'd like to be, and SUBSTANCE that we can tussle with. Like Jacob at the river, wrestling with God - this is what I want in a President.

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