The Obama Watch

‘Sorry, Folks’ — A Message From Your Captain

For the benefit of the president's State of the Union speechwriting crew.

By 1.25.10

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This is your captain speaking. I have an important announcement. We lost radio contact with the ground shortly after take-off and have been flying blind ever since. I have no idea whether we are still in U.S. territory, and we do seem to be losing altitude and running short of fuel. Sorry, folks, but that's the risk that you took in choosing to fly with us. Nancy and the other flight attendants will be coming through the cabin one last time to collect your valuables. Brace yourselves for a hard landing, and thank you for flying Hope-and-Change Airlines.

As someone who toils in the same trade, I throw that out for the benefit of President Obama's speechwriters, knowing it can't be easy to write this year's State-of-the-Union. Maybe they will not wish to use my words exactly, but there are two or three points in my thumbnail version of the presidential address they cannot afford to ignore.

Given the disastrous turn of events in Massachusetts, there must be some acknowledgement in the speech that the Obama / Pelosi government has lost touch with the people. This is their failure. They can't very well blame it on George W. Bush.

Second, it's not just Obamacare that has turned into a legislative disaster. The whole stimulus bill hasn't "saved" or "created" any jobs. It is a $787 billion shell game -- taking money out of the private sector and putting it to less productive use in the public sector or passing it around as hand-outs to politically favored Democratic Party constituents. In doing so, the "stimulus" has actually destroyed jobs. People are no longer fooled when the president refers to wasteful public spending as an "investment." They recoil from the idea that the president should act as the nation's Chief Investment Officer. They don't want to be saved by Mr. Obama. They want to be saved from him -- saved from the further pursuit of government-aggrandizing policies.

And third, the president's wordsmiths really need to do something -- and fast -- about his trademark phrase. It won't do if people burst into laughter every time he mentions hope and change

Politically speaking, laughter sometimes is the best medicine. Under the parliamentary systems in Britain and Israel, it is perfectly possible for a prime minister to be laughed and shouted out of office long before his slated term is up. In those countries, the prime minister and members of his government must be able to defend their policies in the hurly-burly of parliamentary debate. All it takes to bring down a sitting government is a vote of no confidence, which can happen at any time if the national debate, as it is reflected in parliamentary debate, takes a decisive turn against the government. 

But that is not something Mr. Obama has to worry about. Short of impeachment, our system gives an incoming president the gift of time -- four years guaranteed -- and the super majorities that the Democrats now hold in Congress further insulate the government from having to pay any heed to its critics. Our system works well enough in its own way -- as witness the whole tea party movement and the stunning victory that Scott Brown won in succeeding to Ted Kennedy's senatorial seat -- but it does not provide the same freedom to dispose of a sitting president and members of his cabinet.

This being the case, the American people must hope that an incoming president -- especially one as inexperienced and otherworldly as Mr. Obama -- will quickly learn from his mistakes, regroup and find the right path. It happened with Truman at the end of World War II.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems more like Jimmy Carter than Harry Truman. Like Carter, he is not so much a dealer in hope as he is a dealer in discredited, second-hand ideas -- all of the useless baggage that "progressives" have been carrying around in their heads since the time of FDR and before. They go drearily forward thinking that government can stimulate "innovation," "investment" and "job creation" -- mindlessly indifferent to all the evidence that it will only make a mess of things.

Truman, who was very much his own man in a way that Carter and Obama could never be, was able to disentangle himself from that legacy. Mr. Obama, it seems, has neither the desire nor the capacity to do so. He wishes only to be a hero in his own mind -- and in those of his most besotted followers.

And so we fly onward on Obama Air for another three years. It's a long and rather tedious flight (given the captain's incessant speechifying), and the best we can hope for is a hard landing.

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About the Author
Andrew B. Wilson, a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and a former foreign correspondent, writes from St. Louis.