COMMENTARY | Peggy Noonan, who once wrote speeches for President Reagan, is looking forward to President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address with a great deal of ennui. No one, she suggests, is listening to the president any more.
“He has been for five years a nonstop wind-up talk machine. Most of it has been facile, bland, the same rounded words and rounded sentiments, the same soft accusations and excuses. I see him enjoying the sound of his voice as the network newsman leans forward eagerly, intently, nodding at the pearls, enacting interest, for this is the president and he is the anchorman and surely something important is being said with two such important men engaged.”
Noonan’s lament points the way to how much of an aggravation the next three years are going to be. Second terms are often thus, with presidents who win them getting engulfed in scandal or fighting rear guard actions to defend the accomplishments of their first terms as the political winds shift. But Obama, a dead weight crushing so much of the aspirations and dreams of the country he was elected twice to govern, is going to be an especially vexing man in the White House to put up with.
The theme for the upcoming State of the Union is apparently going to be the vexing problem of “income inequality” which means that some people make more money and some people make less. To the extent that it is a problem, Obama has largely made matters worse. Nothing that he is likely to say is going to make a difference. The country is very keen to move on from the era of “hope and change” which has turned out instead to be fear and chaos. But our system of elections means that we don’t get to do that entirely for just under the next three years.
After that, Noonan has a dream.
“You know when we will know America is starting to come back? When some day the sergeant at arms bellows: ‘Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States’ and the camera shows a bubble of suits and one person emerges from the pack and walks into the chamber and you’re watching at home and you find yourself-against everything you know, against all the accumulated knowledge of the past-interested. It’ll take you aback when you realize you’re interested in what he’ll say! And the members won’t just be enacting, they’ll be leaning forward to hear.
“And the president will speak, and what he says will be pertinent to the problems of the United States of America. And thoughtful. And he’ll offer ideas, and you’ll think: ‘Hey, that sounds right.'”
Wouldn’t that be something?