President Obama is at the point with me that I like him better if I don't have to listen to him talk for an hour and ten minutes. It just reminds me of what I don't like.
Here's what I don't like:
First, the lying. "I've never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight," the president said. Even the person I was watching with, a big fan of the president, laughed at that line and said, "That's such a lie." Mr. Obama had to have been more hopeful on election night, or on his inauguration day, than after a year in which he couldn't get health care or financial reform through Congress and the Republicans won a Senate seat in Massachusetts.
Second, the naked political opportunism. In his speech he spoke of "new offshore areas for oil and gas development." As a candidate, he said "When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts" and "What I will not do, and this has always been my position, is to support a plan that suggests this drilling is the answer to our energy problems." Even when Mr. Obama comes around to the right side of an issue, he has a way of doing it that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Third, the ability to posture on both sides of an issue. "I am not interested in punishing banks," he insisted, while promising to end "tax breaks" for "investment fund managers" and concluding his speech with an attack on an imaginary "banker" who "puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain." Back in 2008, in his remarks on the Senate floor voting for the bailout, he said, "There will be time to punish those who set this fire."
"I 'm not interested in re-litigating the past," he said, while repeatedly bashing the Bush administration for leaving him with a $1 trillion deficit, two wars, and an illusion of prosperity that was "built on a housing bubble and financial speculation." "All this was before I walked in the door," he said, as he re-litigated the past even though he insisted he wasn't interested in doing so.
While speaking of "deference" for the Supreme Court, he stood in front of the robed justices who had come to hear him speak and, essentially, trashed them, saying, "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections." He urged Congress to address the decision by passing a law. And maybe Congress can address the point about foreign influence with a law. But surely Mr. Obama, as a former Constitutional law professor and former editor of the Harvard Law Review, must realize that the Court based its decision on the First Amendment, which Congress can't overrule with a law. That was the whole point of the Supreme Court decision.
"We all hated the bank bailout. I hated it," Mr. Obama said last night. Here's what he said at the time: "So to Democrats and Republicans who have opposed this plan, I say: Step up to the plate. Let's do what is right for the country at this time because the time to act is now." He didn't say anything at the time about hating it.
Fourth, the command-and-control central planner aspect of his policies. "We will double our exports over the next five years," Mr. Obama said, adopting, with a tremendous tin ear, even the exact time horizon of Stalin's five year plans. Some readers will doubtless think it is over the top to invoke Stalin in the same breath as Mr. Obama, and, just to be clear, I don't think Mr. Obama is a mass murderer like Stalin. But the idea that government officials can successfully set and achieve goals for how many goods will be sold abroad is exactly the flawed logic of Communist economics. Exports depend on the choices of individual producers and consumers about what to consume and produce. Government trade policy and financial policies can have some effects on the margins, though if what Mr. Obama means is to promote exports with a weak dollar, i.e., inflation, then we're all in big trouble.
Anyway, if five-year planning is good enough for Mr. Obama's export policy, maybe we could adjust the Constitution so that we only get a spoken-out-loud state of the union address every five years. It might actually help this president's popularity if people saw less of him.
Update: Welcome Instapundit and Commentary Contentions and Washington Examiner/Michael Barone readers. More of my thoughts on Obama's state of the union are available here and here. Please check out the rest of the site, sign up for the email list using the box toward the upper righthand side of the page, bookmark this Web site, or subscribe to the FutureOfCapitalism.com RSS feed using the button on the righthand side of the page.