Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU versus the Superbowl

I was surprised a bit by the response from the State of the Union.  On the whole I thought the President's speech was pretty good, based on the glittering generalities that are always present in a SOTUA.  He talked about lowering rates in the tax code (something I care about and will wait to see how those generalities come into real proposals) and making regulations more reasonable (yeah right, this administration has done a monumental job in making the country even more bureaucratic).  I also liked the idea of a freeze although it would more properly be done on levels two years ago.  Some of his other proposals were simply bogus - the discussion about the trade pacts was something that the Administration did nothing to advance and indeed impeded in the last congress. But the news coverage suggested that the President was somehow flat.  I think that is a bit unkind.

Ryan's response was excellent - although also mired in glittering generalities.  But with Ryan we have a pretty good idea about what he would propose.   Ryan is telegenic and his speech was I think a bit better than the President's.

Then there was the Tea-Party response by Michelle Bachman.  She was more specific than either of the other two in her comments but I thought she still needs to figure out how to work with a teleprompter. I thought her remarks came across poorly, although there is a lot in the lines that I liked.

One other comment.  The level of confidence in the President, as evidenced by a focus group in Atlanta set up to follow the speech is pretty poor.   Unwavering support for the President, among the 30 or so people in a focus group was limited to four African Americans in the group.  That does not mean the American people are all that fired up for the GOP, I think the country is waiting to see who is serious about reducing the intrusions and size of government but there is a substantial minority that still thinks we should expand some things in government.  Obama clearly believes in the ultimate efficacy of government as leader.

The expectations about the SOTU are similar those for the Superbowl.  My Priest commented a couple of days ago that there were many more Americans that watched the Superbowl than watched the SOTU.   As I thought about the comment it seems to me that is about right but so what?  The SOTU is a media event, reality comes when the generalities come into focus with a set of proposals.  Unlike the Superbowl, the policy process is a process not a single event.  I like the SOTU more because it begins to set the tone for the coming congress (especially in odd numbered years).  All a Superbowl does is decide a season.

I normally don't watch the Superbowl but I do the SOTU. That shows I am a bit more interested in what politicians say than what professional footballers do.

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