Janice Shaw Crouse

According to the White House, President Obama is planning to focus on “five pillars” during his 2011 State of the Union address — innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction, and reforming government. Poor choice to focus on five points and call them “pillars.” As the president surely knows, there are “five pillars” of Islam which are the foundation for the Muslim life. Is this subliminal bow to Mecca worth opening that “can of worms” at the same time he is making a head fake towards center?

The president says that his focus will be “jobs” and, according to Chip Reid, the White House correspondent for CBS News, he used the word “jobs” 18 times in his weekend radio and Internet address. The president’s new modulated tone and his call for bipartisanship are resulting in higher approval ratings. To help that improvement gain momentum, the Democrats have launched an initiative to pair up with a partner across the aisle for the address. For instance, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has invited Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) to sit with him for the speech. With most people seeing the speech on television monitors, the practical and visual end result of a faux love fest among Members on the Hill, of course, will be to dilute the impact of the shift of power in the House. Surely the GOP is more savvy than that!

However lofty the seeming purpose of the speech and the “pillars” that support it, the administration faces agreed-upon problems, such as untenably high unemployment, escalating deficits and debt, ongoing issues in Afghanistan and Iraq, and previous high-cost, failed attempts at stimulus packages. The two different parties have decidedly different solutions for those problems and their approaches to the issues — no matter how close the seating arrangements — are based on value systems that are worlds apart.

Frankly, in recent years, the State of the Union has become nothing more than a laundry list of utopian plans for the future framed in political terms. Rather than provide statesman-type leadership and deal with reality, presidents typically try to sound visionary while promising the moon. In contrast to the pie-in-the-sky rhetoric of the State of the Union that has become de rigueur for the occasion, conservative Republicans have released a plan to cut $2.5 trillion in 10 years — a plan that would bring federal spending back to 2006 levels and provoke howls of protest from big-government liberals that Republicans are heartless thugs out to return us to the dark ages.

Janice Shaw Crouse

Janice Shaw Crouse is a former speechwriter for George H. W. Bush and now political commentator for the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.
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