In his speech, he gave no suggestion he has changed his ideological spots, nor any indication of redeeming a lost public trust. He exhibited no contrition for his first two years of undiluted progressivism. As so often is the case with Barack Obama, the content of his speech fell far short of his reassuring rhetoric.
He supported cutting the corporate tax rate, approving the Colombia free-trade agreement, improving education, simplifying the tax code, and reviewing duplicative regulations. He said he would veto any bill containing earmarks. He advocated changing Obamacare reporting requirements for small businesses.
None of that suggests a transformation into your basic believer in free enterprise and limited government. In his State of the Union, Obama defended expanded government and offered no serious approach to cutting spending. To Obamians, higher taxes and higher spending are simply New Age "investments." These Obamians make their way by taxes, mandates, penalties, and fees -- by force and the bureaucratic hammer. In their lexicon, "invest" is code for "tax and spend."
But as the president said perhaps a dozen times, we need to "win the future."
With the federal debt growing by $54,373 every second, our future is one of swiftly mounting fiscal crisis. Indeed, at such a rate, by the end of Obama's term the national debt will soar another $5 trillion to a level nearly equaling that accumulated by all his presidential predecessors combined.
But he's such a stirring speaker. This, he said, is our "Sputnik moment."
You will remember that Obama has ended -- killed -- the Sputnik-inspired manned space program that John Kennedy got off the ground. Thus the irony of Obama's Sputnik reference.
And he spoke of how enduringly different America is, how exceptional.
You will remember as well that that is a 180-degree departure from his denial of American exceptionalism in his tours of foreign capitals. He cannot at the same time embrace a concept and its opposite.
Unless he has changed. I choose to think we are seeing in him a repositioning -- a grand pivot, as with Napoleon's armies.
The trust is gone. Campaigning as a moderate, behaving as a progressive, reading the November tea leaves and speaking as a moderate again in his State of the Union -- why should we believe him, believe that he has changed? When trust dies, no amount of sincerity can revive it.
Say what you will, in his grand pivot I am convinced Obama is sincere.
George Orwell said political language "is designed to make lies sound truthful...and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Decades later, what Orwell called "pure wind" we call -- in the example of Barack Obama -- hot air.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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