Last night was a reminder that a lot of conventional wisdom (CW) isn’t very wise. Let’s look at ten nuggets of CW that got smashed.
“President Obama is a great orator.” Not since the 2008 has he given a speech from which one can recall a line or a phrase. That really the only moment that made a connection during the State of the Union had to do with a issue low on voters’ minds and was uttered from behind a lineup of human props (and gun victims) tells you how limited his rhetorical vocabulary really is.
“Conservative immigration reform advocates will get killed off in the GOP 2016 primary.” Both Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are in favor of some form of legalization. In particular, Rubio got rave reviews, evidencing that his popularity is underestimated and the strength of immigration exclusionists is exaggerated.
“President Obama has an election mandate.” Aside from raising taxes on the rich (which he already did) none of his big money ideas (and there were lots of them) were proposals he raised in the campaign; nor did he tell anyone that he thought debt reduction was merely done. In putting all his chips in the big government basket, he is heading for irrelevance; the GOP House, and likely most of the Senate, isn’t going to be spending and taxing away.
“President Obama has new stature after his election win.” Actually, I agree with Yuval Levin who notes that on items that will get done (e.g. immigration) Congress will work its will and send him the bill to sign; on his pie-in-the-sky stuff no one is interested:
It is not a coincidence that the only policy initiative the president spoke about last night that actually seems to be going somewhere was immigration reform, which is moving in Congress not because the president wanted it to but because some leading Democrats and Republicans seem to have decided that they had to take it into their own hands. It’s an effort that will only succeed if Obama mostly stays out of it, and he knows that. I think we are entering a period, at least for the next two years, of congressional supremacy in which something closer to regular order resumes in Congress and the interaction of the Republican House and the Democratic Senate will be what determines the policy agenda.
“Republicans are divided.” President Obama, as he did in 2009, has managed to bring together disparate parts of the GOP base in opposition to his agenda. There is unity in resisting more tax hikes, in opposing Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, in pursuing tax simplification, in opposing the assault weapons ban and in trying to slow the growth of government. Certainly there are differences in approach and emphasis (e.g. immigration reform), but what unites Republicans is much greater than what divides them, thanks to the president.
“The era of austerity is over.” You have to laugh — what austerity?! I must have missed that era. We’ve been on a spending binge since the president took office (in some cases domestic spending went up more than 25 percent), with the only meaningful cuts coming on the defense side. By taxing more — just as conservatives have warned for years — Obama gets more leeway to keep spending, not to reduce the debt, which will continue to soar. When he says everything will be paid for there are four possibilities: 1) He’s not telling the truth; 2) There will be more, really big tax hikes; 3) He’s not done eviscerating defense; 4) There is much less in the dizzying array of proposals than meets the eye.
“Well, he’s always got Obamacare to brag about.” Oddly he didn’t rave about how health-care costs are going down, exchanges are readying for rollout in 2014, his promise for you to keep your health-care plan is rock solid and universal health-care coverage is around the corner. None of those are true, of course. The sole mention of Obamacare was a preposterous untruth. (“Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health-care costs.”)
“Immigration reform is never happening.” Of everything the president mentioned this was the one item that earned praise from conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). With tax hikes, big spending plans, climate change and an assault weapons ban non-starters for Republicans, immigration reform might be the easiest legislative deal of his second term.
“President Obama is as much of a draw as ever.” It appears voters are somewhat sick of him. As compared to last year’s SOTU, his speech Tuesday night was down double-digits from 2012. The again, maybe they were watching this fellow instead.