Dear Reader - We did not get a great deal of snow last night, but we got a very heavy snow, heavy enough to evidently interfere with the delivery of electricity to my now quite cold and internet-less home. I am writing this morning from a nearby coffee shop with free wi-fi. Gonna head back and see if the electricity is back on and let the dogs play in the snow a bit so blogging may be erratic today.
It is not a good sign when even the words politicians use to dodge issues are not merely cloudy, but deceptive. Both the President and those who have been responding to his State of the Union address have adopted the language of “tough choices” facing the nation.
These impending “tough choices” will only become more prominent as the news sinks in that the federal deficit is now projected to be even higher next year than previously thought. The Congressional Budget Office, yesterday, announced that with the lame duck session of Congress’s agreement to extend all the Bush tax cuts, the federal deficit this year is projected to be a whopping $1.5 trillion. That’s a big chunk of change.
All of Washington is abuzz with the fact that during her response to the State of the Union, Michelle Bachmann was looking at the wrong camera. This was indeed disconcerting.
But, the real problem was that when we turn into to watch Bachmann, we want her to be off the charts crazy and last night she was only mendacious. She twisted the unemployment numbers to make it look like they were the result of President Obama's policies, neglecting to mention the Wall Street inspired economic meltdown, a meltdown that was arrested first by George Bush's massive bailout and later by Obama's much maligned Stimulus Bill.
But, I wanted her to defend the statement she made the other day that the Founding Fathers did away with slavery, or her claim from a few months back that the Navy was dispatching dozens of ships to India for the President's visit there, or to at least offer some serious reservations about whether or not Obama was really born where he claims he was.
Or, maybe, just maybe, she could have dressed up as a George Washington impersonator? Maybe an Abigail Adams impersonator? What good is having a Tea Party response if it is only lame and not full-blown crazy?
Regular readers will know that I do not usually agree with the policies advocated by Speaker Boehner and that, as a native Nutmegger who has known Sen. Joe Lieberman for twenty years, I have little in the way of good feelings about him either. But, both men get high marks for their effort to revive the D.C. Opportunity scholarships which give much-needed tuition assistance to D.C. parents who send their children to private and parochial schools. I believe, and believe firmly, that government has a primary responsibility to educate the nation's children and that investment in education is money well spent. But, for a variety of complicated reasons, the D.C. schools are a mess, and until they are better, no child should be made to suffer a bad education if we can find them something better at a private or parochial school.
I had hoped the President would break the mold for State of the Union speeches a bit more than he did last night. Shorter would have been good. And, the coherent moral argument I was looking for did not appear. Yes, as the President said, we want America to “win” but “win” is, like “hope” and “change” a little too vague and amorphous for my tastes, to say nothing of the political demands of the moment.
Through much of the debate, the president side-stepped the essential differences between his party and his opponents. When he says that “we must innovate” there is some discussion about to whom the “we” refers. The Republicans think that government is not a partner with the private sector in the effort to innovate, or educate, or create jobs, or anything else, but a hindrance to the private sector. Perhaps, Obama’s use of the word “we” with such imprecision touched the moderate chord he sought but I am not so sure. At the end of the day, elections are about choices and the person who defines those choices best tends to win.
The Catholic University of America inaugurated its fifteenth president today at a Mass at the National Shrine adjacent to the campus. John Garvey made his profession of faith before 3 cardinals, more than a dozen bishops, a hundred concelebrating priests and a packed crowd of students and faculty.
I will be heading over to Catholic University shortly for the inauguration of President John Garvey as President of CUA. As soon as I get back, I will post his remarks which will focus on the theme of his inaugural year, "Intellect and Virtue."
The Holy Father spoke about the blogosphere yesterday and, in follow up comments, Archbishop Claudio Celli took direct aim at some of the conservative blogs which are especially cavalier in their attacks on bishops. Our friends at Vox Nova have the story.
The early prognostications indicate that President Obama will forego the traditional laundry list approach to the State of the Union tonight, which makes sense. The center of the electorate worries that Obama is trying to have government do too much already, and reciting a laundry list of new things for Congress to enact would only add fuel to that fire. But, if not a laundry list, then what?
It is critical that Obama deliver a morally coherent defense of where he would like to lead the nation. During the election of 2008, the dissatisfaction with George W. Bush was so great, it was enough for candidate Obama to invoke contentless nouns, like “change” and “hope,” that are ingrained in our national character. Tonight, he must add some content when he sketches his vision and he must explain and defend that content in explicitly moral terms. And, unlike his wonderful speech in Tucson, when it was appropriate to avoid politics, a State of the Union address is inherently political: He cannot try to “rise above the political fray” tonight, he must define and dominate that fray.