Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's congressional speech earns rave reviews.

Obama's already high ratings have been further boosted by his first major speech congressional speech.

The speech, in effect his first state of the union address, attracted millions of viewers and initial polls taken by the television networks showed jumps in his already high approval ratings.

The president's left-of-centre programme threatens to polarise Congress. Republicans said they were offended by plans that run counter to their party ethos: his proposed investment in education, health, social and energy programmes at a time of recession; scrapping big military projects; cutting subsidies for large-scale agricultural companies; and ending tax breaks for some corporations.

Joe Biden, the vice-president, responding to Republican sniping today in an interview with NBC. "I hear a lot of criticism, but I never hear anything [suggested] in response. What would you do?"

I am not remotely surprised to hear that the Republicans were offended by this speech, how could they fail to be? It was a rejection of everything in which they believe.

They have spent the last thirty years telling us that big government doesn't work, indeed, that seemed to be the main point that Jindal (in his bizarre Katrina quoting response) was trying to make. Obama is making the opposite argument. Obama is placing the government at the centre of the recovery plan. Rather than repeating the Reagan argument that the government must get out of the way, Obama is arguing that the government is essential, that only the government can respond to such a crisis.
A CBS News poll of public opinion saw his approval ratings rise from 62% before the speech to 69% afterwards, while one for CNN recorded 68% approval for the speech.
I am not remotely surprised by these figures. The American public elected this man to bring about change. And, for the first time since he was elected, I detected a real promise of change by the very fact that he was rejecting what the Republican party hold to be universal truths.

That is what, I think, produced that nonsensical response from Jindal. The Republicans are used to Democrats trying to fight them on their own ground, they are used to their beliefs being accepted as universal.

Obama, as far as I can see, is rejecting their beliefs completely. This is not a Democrat who is trying to govern wearing Republican clothing, rather this is a Democrat who is stating that the Republicans have no clothes. And Jindal's astonishingly weak response only confirmed that.

Obama is saying that Reaganism was wrong. He is dismissing the patron saint of Republicanism as someone who, wrongheadedly, attempted to advocate greed as the answer to the country's ills. Obama is saying that, rather than attempt to cure problems by giving more to those who are already rich and hoping that it trickles down, that the answer lies in the totally opposite direction: that one must enrich society from the bottom up.

It is a radical argument in the post Reagan world, but it's one that makes utter sense to me. Indeed, I have been waiting for years to hear a Democrat make it. And I am very pleased that Obama has been rewarded for making it by such a surge in the polls.

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