, Newburyport, MA

February 18, 2013

State of union's impact plays out down the road

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — “So,” I asked Big Freddy after he had settled into his booth seat and waved to the waitress for the usual, “what did you make of Obama’s state of the union speech.”

“Right on target, and he came fully loaded,” Freddy said.

“Target?” I asked.

“Elephant hunt because those in the House and Senate are giving him fits,” Freddy said.

“An Abe Lincoln `House Divided’ speech?” I asked.

“Not in so many words,” Freddy said.

“Democrats increased their majority in the Senate last November. Republicans still have the House, but they lost some seats. Both branches are divided, but Senate Democrats increased their majority, and are better disciplined.

“House hard-line Republicans are losing traction, but they’re still giving their speaker, Boehner, fits. Mitch McConnell has been having an easier time as minority leader in the Senate, but he’s a party target along with Boehner. That shaped a lot of the tone of Obama’s speech, which he took to a higher level to keep those who voted for him involved. He wasn’t able to do that in his first two years and it cost Democrats the House. They gained some back in November, but they’ve got a long way to go.

“That focussed the tone of his state of the union speech, because if they fail, he won’t have the power needed to fulfill the goals of his presidency.”

“Well, he rang a lot of bells,” I said. “I liked what he said about the need to put the nation’s interest before private interests.”

“Which is what push and take is all about,” Freddy said. “The hard right wants less government in its lives. The hard left accepts whatever is needed in support of outcome. Those in the middle lean one way or the other. Both parties include them in their marketing.

“There are three big political realities out there. One is dependency on government to ease our lives. The other is for government to stay out of it as much as possible. The third is we’ve dumped a huge debt on our grandchildren. Go figure.

“What did you make of what he said about `growing the middle class,’” I asked.

“Growing it from the bottom up is one thing,” Freddy said. “But getting taxed for having reached the income Obama wants to tax is something else. It comes down to putting the nation’s interest ahead of private enterprise, but there’s nothing new about that.

“So what’s your bottom line on this speech,” I asked.

“You never know about their outcomes down the line,” Freddy said. “They say Lincoln was not satisfied with his speech after he gave it. Felt it had fallen far short of what might have been said. But look at what became of this speech, and what he would have made of that.

“The state of the nation is what a president sees at the time he makes it, and no one can tell what might follow. All a sitting president can do is to deal with all of the parts of the governmental landscape foreign and domestic, face the challenges at hand with all the assets available to him and bring his conclusions to the people.

“Obama does that. He’s no longer the fresh-faced presidential leader he was four years ago. He has disappointed some and gratified others, and has earned his graying hair.

“Getting that done depends on regaining control of the House two years from now and that had a lot to do with what this speech was all about.”


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is