Where’s the Osawatomie?

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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SOHUM: I just finished reading Obama’s State of the Union. Didn’t see it. Reactions: 1) Was it as boring to see as it was to read? Because it is really boring to read. About a third of the way through I put it down and switched to reading the ingredients on the granola bar I was eating, just to perk myself up. Made me long for Newt Gingrich, a feeling Obama surely did not want to produce; 2) Where’s the Osawatomie? In his allegedly table-setting, voice-finding December Kansas manifesto, Obama made a big deal about rising money inequality, citing statistics on the relative growth of the “average income of the top 1%,” referencing the Occupy movement, etc.  There was none of that in Tuesday’s speech. Obama only wants “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” He didn’t say everyone “gets their fair share.” That’s not money-equalizing populism?** It’s moderate Republicanism. Looks like Walter Russell Mead was right–Osawatomie was just a ploy to stroke Obama’s left base, quickly abandoned when more Americans were paying attention. Or else it polled as badly as he suspected it would. Sorry, E.J. … Here I was all ready to attack Obama’s focus on money equality and make my traditional pitch to substitute social equality. But there was no focus on money equality.  So annoying! (Don’t tell me about the Buffet Rule: Obama pitched his higher top tax rate for “millionaires” as a way to ensure equal sacrifice (as anticipated by W. Galston) not as a way to help reverse the growing income inequality trend.)  3) Obama made a big fuss about keeping out unfair products (e.g. Chinese tires) and penalizing outsourcing companies in order to preserve U.S. jobs.. But he still seems oblivious to the threat to U.S. jobholders from low-wage illegal immigrants. In short, he appears unwilling to import cheap products from abroad but he’s quite happy to import cheap workers. This seems to me exactly backwards. For one thing, we can always cut off trade if we want. It’s not so easy to reverse immigration flows, as Obama and Gingrich constantly remind us. 4) “No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.” No bailouts? But … but … but you … but … 5) Labor unions mentioned only once, in an incidental way. Tim Noah notices. Are they still part of Obama’s solution? If so, they aren’t a part he wants to talk about in public. … Overall: I’d expected something more powerful. …


**–In particular, this person seems to have seen a different speech than the one I read–a speech in which Obama was “[c]ranking up the volume on the populist message” that “the goal of economic equality was a return to American values and the defining issue of our time.” Huh? Maybe they loaded another speech into the teleprompter. … Norah O’Donnell of CBS pre-hyped the speech’s “focus on income inequality” and “economic fairness.” This was also wrong. The NYT web front page said “Obama Sets Goal of Bridging Wealth Gap.” No he didn’t. Did they set that in type two days ago? Or is there a secret SOTU they only show to members of the MSM? …

Mickey Kaus