Update Be sure to see Tatler's Bryan Preston's take on Ryan and Bachmann below.
What Obama didn’t mention in his speech
by Richard Pollock
Some of the most intriguing things in the Statue of Union address were the issues the president did not address:
- Climate change: The signature environmental issue of this administration evaporated into thin air. The UN conference in Copenhagen didn’t really exist. No reference to cap and trade. Not a word.
- The housing crisis: If you had tuned into planet Earth from outer space, you would not know there was a housing crisis in America. Not a word about the near bankruptcy of government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nor did he mention the rising number of foreclosures.It was the president who unveiled his HELP program to keep people in their homes. Most evidence is that it has been a failure. Tonight, not a word about it.
- Jobs: Yes, there was the feeling of pain. But you would not know the country is still in a jobs emergency. There were words like “competition,” “innovation,” and “Sputnik,” but not a road map to explain how he will spur jobs in the private sector.
- States facing bankruptcies: Our biggest state governments are in a debt crisis, most of them led by Democrats. Does he recognize this is a looming problem? Does he wish to bail them out? Tonight there was no word.
- Closing down Guantanamo Bay and trying terrorists in civil court: Gitmo still functions and holds enemy combatants. This was a sterling commitment of his administration — to shut down Gitmo. He also failed to mention any willingness to abandon his attorney general’s effort to try terrorists in civilian courts. It’s a huge issue in New York City where the prospect of trials has been denounced by nearly every political office holder.
- War on Terror: On the basis of this speech, there is no War on Terror. There is community-building in Afghanistan and defeating the Taliban. But nothing about the worldwide terror network that is waged from Malaysia to London subways to Times Square.
- Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK: They are all flirting with economic catastrophe.
- Overseas human rights: A Chinese Nobel Prize-winner tonight sits in a prison cell. Nothing about human rights in Egypt or Iran or anywhere else in the world.
- Israel: Supposedly America’s most important ally in the Middle East. Nothing about Jerusalem or one of his stated highest goals of his first term: ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Reaching out to the Muslim world: His next trips take him to South America.
- Osama bin Laden: He’s still at large. John Kerry and the Democrats campaigned that this was the litmus test for winning the war on terror.
- George W. Bush: There was no Bush-bashing tonight. His advisers probably suggested blaming Bush no longer had currency.
Update – GOP response reax: Rep. Paul Ryan was serious and brief in his response to the president. He provided more specifics than the president did, but that’s not saying much. The response suffered from the same things these speeches always suffer from — the lack of a live audience to feed off of, the drab setting, the lone man or woman in the room approach. Ryan did about as well as can be done in those circumstances. Of the two speeches (so far), his was by far the more grown up.
Bachmann response: The content was fine, the staging was terrible. Her prompter was off to one side of the camera, making it look like she was talking to someone behind the viewer. Delivery was meh. She would have been more useful, and far more effective, going straight on MSNBC or CNN after the SOTU and fisking that speech rather than delivering her own.