Obama’s flagship policy has been reduced to pro-forma status

The president’s entry into the chamber and the two customary rounds of applause were definitely subdued compared to past SOU’s. There was a sense of deflation. I watched the first few minutes of the SOU until I got bored and turned it off.

I’ve just read the part of the speech on the health care bill. Ramesh Ponnuru at the Corner sums it up well: “The health-care section of the speech was oddly perfunctory, the foreign-policy section characteristically so.” Obama revisited the issue, admitted that bill had run into a lot of opposition, reiterated his belief that the bill is a good one, said he’s not going to give it up, and appealed to people to support it. But we know from recent statements in the Congress that the only possible way of moving the bill forward at this time is through the wildly improper reconciliation gimmick. Furthermore, given that 69 percent of the public according to a CNN poll oppose the bill, given that the Democrats seem to be aware that they have seriously damaged themselves in the public’s eyes and are on a kind of probation, and given the statements by congressional leaders quoted in the January 27 New York Times to the effect that they are not rushing to get the bill passed, it seems to me highly unlikely that the Democrats would now attempt to ram the thing through by such gross legerdemain .

In conclusion, the way I read Obama’s remarks is that he was saving face. He didn’t want to admit he’s been defeated, so he repeated his support for the bill and said he hopes it can be passed; but he put no passion into saying that and he doesn’t really expect it to happen.

* * *

Yuval Levin at the Corner takes the same view:

I think the only way to read the health care section—when you cool off you should take another look at our plans, and let me know if you have better ideas—is as an acknowledgement that Obamacare as we have known it is dead.

As I said this morning (yesterday morning), “This time, it looks as though the Thing really is dead.”

Levin continues:

But on the whole, this was really an incredibly graceless, self-righteous, and grouchy performance….

Of course, it won’t make much of a difference either way—and it wouldn’t have even if it had been a much better or a much worse speech. But it’s interesting as an indication of where the administration’s thinking is at the moment. It really didn’t suggest the sharp pivot everyone has thought was coming: he was very defensive of everything he has done all year. But it also didn’t suggest a renewed determination to pursue his agenda: the speech was very vague and not very energetic. The Massachusetts election has certainly left the Democrats disoriented, and it showed tonight.

There is a lot of good analysis of the speech at the Corner.

Here are some highlights:

Michael Graham:

Is It Just Me … or do the Obamas not appear particularly happy tonight?

Even when President Obama did the obligatory shout-out to his wife, she didn’t seem particularly pleased. Where are the beaming, happy faces of the new Obama era?

Perhaps I’m projecting because I don’t care for his policies—the blatant nonsense he’s spouted so far is almost painful to hear—but he is coming across as, well, annoyed. There’s a “how many times do I have to explain this to you people?” quality to his comments.

Is anyone else picking up on this?

John Hood:

I think the exasperation vibe you’re picking up from the Obamas is very real. Rather than being chastened by political defeat, or being willing to pretend persuasively that he is chastened like Clinton did after 1994, the president has chosen to exude annoyance with the existence of dissent and the misuse of the franchise by Massachusetts voters.

James Capretta

Mark Steyn

- end of initial entry -

Larry T. writes:

I’m watching the SOTU. The great ham, Joe Biden, is nodding like a bobble-head doll, and flashing his cheshire cat smile at intervals. I’m half expecting him to elbow Obama out of the way. Sheesh- Obama is still shilling for anthropogenic global warming. I feel ill.

LA writes:

What I and Yuval Levin and other writers at the Corner saw as an admission that health care is dead, was seen by a commenter at The New Republic that Obama is still fighting:

01/27/2010 - 11:41pm EDT | Tgossard

I liked Obama’s speech for its style as well as substance. He dialed down from lofty rhetorical heights to a plainer speech which shows he means business. He sounded determined and resolved to see the battle through to success on his legislative priorities, notably health care (yaaaayyyyy!!!). He also restated and expanded on his objective to bring real and lasting relief to the middle class’s still suffering the pernicious effects of the recession the banks built.

So the transparent ploy worked. Obama has given liberals enough to believe that he has not given up on health care, that he’s still in the fight, and so worth supporting.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 28, 2010 12:19 AM | Send

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