Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

SOTU Warm Up Questions

Dean Barnett, over at Hugh Hewitt’s blog posits a series of questions to himself about tonight’s State of the Union address. It is, he admits, a tad snarky. But he does a reasonable job of defending his snarky tone.

Among the bigger points of contention he has with the coming address is this. Both he and Hugh have been bewildered and irritated by the President’s penchant for releasing outlines of coming speeches to the press. Why does he do this? If he thinks it will make the media more fully digest and appreciate his complex thinking on important matters, he couldn’t be more wrong. Mostly, it gives people an excuse to tune out. After looking at this and Barnett’s post, I know I’m thinking about it! Further (and Barnett makes good use of this fact in his post), I haven’t exactly been torn up with curiosity about what the President will do about malaria--however needful a policy concerning it may be.

The most salient point in Barnett’s post, however, is his discussion of the President’s seeming acceptance of his intractable unpopularity and why that simply won’t do: "I think he’s reached a point, however, where he’s convinced he can’t be popular in his own time but that he will inevitably be vindicated by history. He’s using that as a jumping off point to conclude that public opinion in his own time doesn’t matter. He’s sorely mistaken on that count. If he doesn’t rally the people, or at the very least his own party, he won’t be able to salvage the wider war effort. If the surge succeeds but the wider war against radical Islam is abandoned, the surge’s success will be a very small victory."

I cannot imagine how dreadful it must be to be in the President’s position right now. I believe he has done his level best to do what is right and that he has been, by and large (though not always), correct in his assessment of what is needed. I cannot imagine that I will ever be persuaded that he is not a good man and so I feel for him. But the fact remains that he has not been able to persuade anyone that we should fight. Asking people to enter into a long and frightful war is asking a lot of people--even if they have no choice but to accept the fight. The fact that it is necessary to fight is not, in and of itself, a sufficient explanation. Persuasion is not the art of reciting and pointing out facts.

In appealing to our reason with facts, he should not neglect to walk through the logic. In appealing to our hearts with fear, he should not neglect to offer solace. I hesitate to say that he should "feel our pain" (Yuck, spit, eeeww!) but there’s a reason that phrase resonated with people even as they mocked it. He need not "feel our pain," I suppose, but he should pay us the respect of trying to understand why we need more than a business briefing in a State of the Union address.

UPDATE: After the speech, Barnett now calls it, "A very pleasant surprise."

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