What Should Obama Say Tonight?

The State of the Union Address is ordinarily a bore. It generally consists of a laundry list of proposals, and the list nearly always seems interminable. If Barack Obama has moxie, however, tonight could be different. His State of the Union Address could be a real game changer.


Here is how he could do it – if he was really intent on saving his Presidency and on turning a disgraceful performance in that office into something worthy of eulogy. This evening, after the usual formalities, he could say.

My fellow Americans, let me begin by stating the obvious. The state of our union is not good. We seem to be – we may be – coming out of a recession. But, if so, the recovery is not only jobless; it is accompanied by an increase in unemployment.

This is contrary to my expectation. When I became President, my economic advisers told me that the rate of unemployment would be considerably lower now than it is. They were mistaken, and I erred in taking their advice. The fault is mine. I may not have gotten us into a severe recession, but I advanced proposals and I pursued policies which have prolonged and deepened it. I am at fault.

To be precise, I signed into law a so-called stimulus bill that has thus far retarded economic growth by greatly increasing the size of the federal bureaucracy, the expense of supporting it, and the national debt. I urged Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation that, had it become law, would have greatly increased the cost of energy, and I encouraged Congress to pass a healthcare reform that would have increased not only the cost of medical care but the burden on employers attendant on hiring. Everything that I did in my first year in office contributed to economic uncertainty and made employers less likely to hire and investors wary of investing. I am at fault.

When I became President, I knew next to nothing about economics. I had never run a business, and the only political experience that I had had was in running for office. I have now had a tutorial, and the lessons have been learned at a considerable expense – not just to me but to you. The fault is mine.

I have now learned those lessons, and I am now intent on doing everything within my power to promote an economic recovery and prosperity. To that end, I invite everyone in Congress – Republicans as well as Democrats – to join with me in reversing course.

First, I propose that we move towards a balanced budget and even towards a reduction in the national debt. To this end, I propose that Congress repeal the stimulus bill and enact a spending freeze and a hiring freeze with regard to all domestic programs, and I ask that Congress sanction the establishment of a bipartisan commission – made up of Republicans and Democrats in equal numbers – to recommend which federal programs should be eliminated. At the national level, we have been living beyond our means, and we cannot continue to do so. There are, I suspect, departments in the federal government that have no reason to exist: departments that concern themselves with matters – such as education – which are best left to the states, the localities, and individual citizens.

Second, I ask Congress to make permanent the tax cuts initially proposed by President Bush. I once spoke of the government creating jobs. I now realize that jobs in the government are parasitic on jobs in the private sector and that a tax code that punishes entrepreneurs for their success is a tax code that discourages the creation of jobs by the only people genuinely capable of creating the jobs that matter.

Third, I ask that for a three-year period Congress relieve employers of the payroll contribution made to the Social Security administration so that they can hire new workers and rehire as many as possible of those laid off.

Fourth, I call on Congress to set aside the cap-and-trade bill passed last year by the House of Representatives. To my dismay and embarrassment, we have recently learned that the work done by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which formed the basis for the four reports issued by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a sham – that the data was doctored, that the computer simulation was a fraud, and that systematic efforts were made by the most prominent climate scientists to corrupt the peer-review process and suppress legitimate criticism: all for the purpose of imposing a strait jacket on the world economy. In my inaugural address, I promised to “roll back the specter of a warming planet” and “restore science to its rightful place.” I intend to be true to my word. Until there is a genuine consensus among the scientists dealing with climate change, I would urge that we do nothing at all. Above all, I urge that nothing be done that would slow down this country’s economic recovery or inhibit economic growth.

Fifth, I call on Congress to set aside the question of healthcare reform. I objected, when I ran for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency, to the notion that American citizens should be forced to buy health insurance. I regret having deviated from that position. I have learned in recent days by way of careful study that only a small proportion of those lacking health insurance lack it because it is unavailable to them. I now recognize that most of those without such insurance are either illegal immigrants, who do not deserve our support, or young people or well-to-do people with no need or desire for insurance. I do not doubt that changes need to be made in our healthcare system, but I am now persuaded that we should enact only those changes that can be made without adding directly or indirectly to the cost of insurance or the burden of taxation.

Sixth, I have decided to keep the prison at Guantamo open and to have all terrorists whom we catch tried by military tribunals. Here also I was in error. We are at war, ladies and gentleman. We have to win this war – and coddling terrorists is not the way to do it.

There is, of course, much else that could be said, but this is not the time. As a nation, we need at this point in our history to focus our attention on the economy and on the twilight war against Islamic terrorism in which we are now engaged.

I doubt very much whether President Obama will say anything of the sort. But if he did – and if he followed through – I am confident that he could restore his stature, regain a measure of popularity, and rescue his party from the cataclysmic defeat in store for it in November. I am told that Newt Gingrich once said of William Jefferson Clinton that the man never stopped learning. Can anything of the sort be said of Barack Obama? Soon – all too soon — we will learn.

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