November 4, 2010
What I Saw at the Obama Press Conference
Watching the president speak truly is dispiriting, but I managed to do so, gentle reader, to spare you the agony. "No one party can dictate where we go from here." Unlike the last two years? When the president told Republicans, "I won"? But now? Now? That's right, it's time for bipartisanship.
All the things he was forced to do -- yes, forced -- in the past two years -- stimulus, auto company bailouts, bank bailouts -- these things were disconcerting to folks, "and it felt like government was getting much more intrusive into people's lives than they were used to." Yes, it just felt more intrusive. You see, people misunderstood, they thought "this was an agenda rather than a response to an emergency." We're just so ignorant, and he didn't explain it to us well enough. "I'm sympathetic to folks who looked at it and said, ‘This is potential overreach.'" Well, empathy at last, over the electorate's feeling of potential overreach. Everyone I know feels the actions of the Reid/Pelosi Congress and the administrative czars and all the rest of your agenda, Mr. President, were overreach pure and simple, the genuine article in all its naked glory.
Incidentally, Mr. Obama's use of "folks" is truly irritating: arrogant, haughty, condescending. I think we can safely say that the word is not part of the vocabulary of the modal graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law. Faux down-homeyness, like the tourists who get off the plane in Phoenix and want to buy a pair of cowboy boots.
"We were in such a hurry to get things done we didn't change how things get done. And I think that frustrated people." So his intentions were pure, and we're just disillusioned by the way he went about grasping his goals, "passing the bill to find out what's in it" in Nancy's felicitous phrase. We like the results, just not the way he got there. The man is incapable of a serious analysis of what he has wrought, and of what the American people are telling him.
"I'm a strong believer that the earmarking process in Congress isn't what the American people really want to see when it comes to making tough decisions about how taxpayer dollars are spent. And in the rush to get things done I had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them, which was contrary to what I had talked about." Talked about? When? Because I recall very clearly in one of his debates with John McCain pooh-poohing McCain's concern over earmarks, informing McCain superciliously that earmarks are such a small part of the budget as to be inconsequential. And now we learn that he signed those bills just out of the goodness of his heart, in his "rush to get things done."
Incidentally, in the first Obama/McCain debate, Mr. Obama said "Earmarks account for $18 billion in last year's budget," implying that they were no big deal while being careful to say "$18 billion is important." Now in 2007, the budget was $2.78 trillion. If Mr. Obama's figure of $18 billion for the cost of earmarks is correct (a dubious assumption), then they accounted for 0.65% of the federal budget. In many cases those were simply bribes to secure votes in the House or Senate. Imagine telling a judge, "Yes, Your Honor, I gave Mr. Bratton, Chief of Police, $1,800, but that's only 0.65% of his salary," or "So I offered the cop who pulled me over $325. Big deal, that's only 0.65% of his salary." Doesn't sound like a strong defense to me. Hopefully, in 2012 we'll have a nominee who can rebut such insultingly stupid statements by the Democratic nominee, whoever she/he may be.
"And I think folks looked at that and said, ‘Gosh, this feels like the same partisan squabbling, it seems like the same ways of doing business as happened before.'" Notice that the people were not right, it just felt like the terror under the Bush regime. And they were objecting merely to "partisan squabbling."
What to do? The president takes responsibility for not having worked enough to end earmarks. In fact, he just heard this morning that Eric Cantor wants to end them, "and that is something we can work on together." That was my idea before it was yours, nanny-nanny-nah!
ObamaCare? Well, if Republicans have ideas for improving it he'll certainly listen. For instance, he's just become aware that the 1099 provision, whereby businesses must fill out a 1099 form for every expenditure over $600, may be burdensome for small businesses. Not all businesses, just the little ones. "But if it winds up being just so much trouble for small businesses to manage, that's something that we should take a look at." Notice he thinks they're just whining, and he's not even committed to doing anything about it; he may "take a look at" it. But really, folks, it was put in with the best of intentions, "designed to make sure that revenues were raised to help pay for some of the other provisions." Not a tax, mind you, but a revenue enhancer. And how much would this windfall to Uncle Sam amount to? Just $17 billion over 10 years. As in, $1.7 billion per year. The government wastes that much money before breakfast every day (OK, maybe it takes till coffee break -- is that at 9 o'clock or 10?).
And these modest changes he'll undertake because "this is not campaigning now, this is governing." The practitioner of the endless campaign now proposes getting serious about governing.
Finally, near the end, we got this delightful insight: "I hope we can disagree without being disagreeable on those areas we can't agree on." So how do you like your clichés? I'll take mine straight -- oops, sorry, no offense.
Henry Percy is the nom de guerre for a technical writer living in Arizona. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.