Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Post No. 193a: The Anticipation (Or Perhaps, The Lack Thereof)

We first generated this piece in January 2011, just minutes before President Obama delivered his State of the Union Speech at that time. Upon reviewing it earlier today, we concluded that not much has changed. What do you think?

© 2011, 2014, and 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

It is now 7:59 pm EST, as we begin to type this piece. President Obama delivers his State of the Union message in just 61 minutes, and it is our intention to have this article posted long before the broadcast begins.

In addition, Turner Classic Movies will air, at 8:00 pm EST, what some consider the best Laurel & Hardy movie ever made, Sons of the Desert.

Suffice it to say that we are ”under the gun.” But not nearly as much as our President, following what many have termed the shellacking he took during the mid-term elections. As he walks to the podium, he will be subject to intense scrutiny, and before the night is over, he might wish that he had walked across the Sahara under the glaring light of the equatorial sun.

This piece is not about how he will perform or be received, at least not in an objective sense, but rather how so many have already peeped into their crystal balls, and know how he will perform. For the past three days, the talking heads have told us what they expect of him this evening.

Part of the responsibility for this attitude can be laid at the foot of the President and his staff themselves. In preparation for the speech, the White House has leaked its intentions, put out press releases, and employed all manner of preemptive and public relations vehicles to gain the upper hand and capitalize on the moment.

His detractors have exerted an equal, if not greater, amount of energy preparing to do the Tonya Harding, and test his knee caps with their version of Obamacare, a lead pipe.

As ridiculous as it may seem, somehow we yearn for an era (if ever one existed), where all of us wait in anticipation to listen to what our President has to say, hoping that it will somehow inspire us, and lift us out of our doldrums.

In a recent documentary on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and the final days of the Civil War, a noted historian quipped, “One of the great ironies about American democracy is that we claim that control is within the power of the people, and yet we yearn for a savior to deliver us from our problems.

[Those of you reading this before the President’s speech might switch over to the Laurel & Hardy movie right now. It’s a beauty.]

A couple of posts ago, in Where Our Heads Take Us, we spoke of preconceived ideas and their power. At the end of the evening, we strongly suspect that the Democrats will give the President an “A,” and the Republicans will provide a grade of C-, noting that the President is a gifted orator, although he is wedded to the teleprompter.

And that can’t be good.

For any of us, and definitely not for the Nation.

And so we must confess that we are guilty of having preconceived notions also, because we anticipate that nothing will change, and the politicians will all return to business as usual, and all the talk about the potential for a change in tone in Washington following the Arizona shootings will be for naught.

Is that sad? Yes, especially because we consider ourselves to be idealistic optimists. We are also pragmatists.

But there’s hope out there even amongst some of our most cynical followers. Take for example Douglas, who has been with us from the very beginning. In response to our last post, Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, he commented:

“I would argue that each of us, if we are concerned about violent speech, not engage in it. Who knows? It might catch on.”

Douglas is also the guy who from experience told us that when he decided to not argue with his wife and agree with her, it didn’t work, and that she continued to argue.

We’ve often told friends of the Institute that this experience (operating this blog) has been simultaneously one of the most rewarding during our lifetimes (in that we have learned so much about how others think), and one of the most frustrating (wondering whether they read the same article that we wrote).

S___ has to got to get better than this. It just has to….


  1. Bravo! I couldn't agree more... and not simply because you mentioned me in a favorable way either... I recall my father listening to political speeches as if they were important. Being very young at the time, I did not share his sentiment. Now, being much older and allegedly wiser, I still do not share that sentiment.

  2. Thanks, Douglas. Interestingly, I suspect that one way in which the entire situation could theoretically be summed up is, "It doesn't matter what someone says, and it does not matter what Congress and the President do."

    That's sad, and I suspect contributes to voter / citizen apathy. I have long advocated that the Presidency and Congress be undivided and that only one party should control for 10 years. If, toward the end of that period, the voters feel that party has not lived up to expectations, and actually done something, then the other party will automatically be voted in.

  3. That would be fine, Inspector, except that we do not only have two parties. And, to add to that... who gets to rule first? Based on what? Majority in the Senate, the House, or which party controls the WH? And 10 years seems awfully long, how about 5 (I think that's the standard for parliamentary systems) and votes of no confidence?


  4. Thanks for keeping the conversation going, Douglas. On a somewhat related point, earlier this morning, C-Span2 Book TV aired a program where Yuval Levin talked about his book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. I found it to be very enlightening, and I was surprised at how many of our current politicians are not as philosophically on the left or right as one might think.

    Back to your comment, in my view, as a practical matter, we effectively only have 2 parties, since (a) they have controlled elections for as long as it really matters, (b)they have the most money, (c)they essentially dwarf or snuff out other parties (whether purposefully or not), and (d) most citizens identify with one of the other, and not the minority parties.

    As for who gets the rule first, I would submit that to the American people, and let the winner control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, and maybe even the Supreme Court (thus eliminating the life-time tenure of the Justices.)

    With respect to your preference for a shorter period of rule, perhaps 5 years of consistent rule, versus 10 years, I understand why some one might argue for such a shorter period. However, I believe that it really takes a long time for government (of the size and complexity of the U.S.) to effectively do anything (but start a war), and that a party seeking to establish a credible position ought to be given sufficient time to have their policies take effect. As you well know, I believe that it is very difficult to honestly argue a direct "cause and effect" relationship between anything that a sitting government does and the effects, under the current management by committee approach.

    For example, prior to President Obama's election, most independent and non-political economists of whom I am aware, suggested that we (globally, not the United States) were going to have 7 - 10 years of slow economic growth. Let's say a party takes control during a period of slow economic growth. Shouldn't they have an "adequate" amount of time within which to try to make the uphill march against the wind to prove that their policies are the right thing to do, despite the global situation?

    One of the things that I find most intellectually dishonest about politicians is how they try to frame success or failure to suit their economic purposes. In my view, as a practical matter, where we currently stand economically is due to perhaps 35 - 50 years of policies of both parties, and factors WHICH HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICAL PARTIES. I believe that the economic boom of President Clinton's presidency had almost absolutely nothing to do with President Clinton and his policies. I also think that the notion that President Obama is responsible for our current economic situation (whether you consider it to be good, bad, or improving) is equally disingenuous. I do not personally believe that we can responsibly govern our country based on short-term returns. It's not realistic. That's what corporation now do, and that's arguably not good for the long-term interests of the company. For either party to suggest that they know what the right thing to do is simply dishonest. They don't know. No one knows.


  5. BTW, I always love when our current politicians speak about what the Founding Fathers did, and / or would do today, to suit their arguments. I always find that there is far more complexity to such an assertion than first meets the eye.

    As I type this, CSpan2 Book TV is about to air a program on Edward Larson's book entitled, The Return of George Washington: 1783 - 1789.

    Edward Larson, history professor and chair in Law at Pepperdine University, talks about his book, wherein he describes George Washington coming out of retirement to attend the Constitutional Convention.

  6. Two points:
    1. The more time a political party has to "ingratiate" itself (or pander to the public, if you prefer), the more it will sell itself to that public... as it wants to expand and maintain its power. Think of it as a living organism.
    2. The more time a political party gets in power, the more embedded its policies become. This is why we are still dealing with the consequences of the FDR era.
    So I oppose anything more than 5 year terms and I happen to like splintered government with a large and effective opposition, I do not like monolithic power structures... corruption becomes the norm.

    1. From my perspective, removing the conflict and political jockeying might be good for this country, even though in theory I too support divided government. However, I think that in reality, our governance model has lost the ability to get things done efficiently and effectively. When a bill is passed, even when it is bi-partisan in nature, it is so watered down and compromised that it amounts to a convoluted mechanism or band-aid and does not efficiently and effective address the issue concerned.

      As for the 5 year period, most societal problems can not be efficiently and effectively addressed during such a small period of time under our current governance model. I question whether they can be addressed over a period of 25 - 30 years. Very little in society, particularly one as large and complicated as ours, happens in a matter of 2, 3, or 4 years.

  7. One More Thing:
    Read this article: http://www.creators.com/opinion/john-stossel/no-gatekeepers.html

    1. Interesting article. As you know, I used Wikipedia heavily and find it extremely valuable.

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