SOTU open thread: Blame the lobbyists! Fund high-speed rail boondoggles! Spending freeze plan met with near-silence, laughter; disses SCOTUS in front of SCOTUS
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We’re an hour and a half away from President Obama’s Swagga Recovery Speech. He’s going to get his mojo back, we’re told, by acknowledging missteps — and then dumping the blame on lobbyists. Seriously. I know a lot of folks are organizing SOTU drinking games. But I don’t need the headache. This White House’s rhetorical writhing provides enough hangover to last until 2012.
From excerpts of the speech posted at NYT:
Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time for something new. Let’s try common sense. Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let’s meet our responsibility to the people who sent us here.
To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.
That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why – for the first time in history – my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.
But we cannot stop there. It’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my Administration or Congress. And it’s time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign companies – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single website before there’s a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.
Obama lied, transparency died. That was clear a year ago. From my May 6, 2009 column, here’s a reminder of how committed Obama is to disclosure and the public trust:
[H]ostility to transparency is a running thread through Obama’s cabinet:
• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for years fought disclosure of massive donations from foreign governments and corporations who filled her husband’s library and foundation coffers.
• Top Obama advisor David Axelrod ran fear-mongering astro-turf campaigns in support of a huge utility rate hike – and failed to disclose that the ads were funded for Commonwealth Edison in Chicago.
• Labor Secretary Hilda Solis failed to disclose that she was director and treasurer of a union-promoting lobbying group pushing legislation that she was co-sponsoring.
• Attorney General Eric Holder overruled his own lawyers in the Justice Department over the issue of D.C. voting rights (which he and President Obama support) and refused to make public the staffers’ opinion that a House bill on the matter was unconstitutional.
• And as I reported last month, Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, former King County, Wash. Executive Ron Sims, has the distinction of being the most fined government official in his state’s history for suppressing public records from taxpayers.
President Obama set the tone, breaking his transparency pledge with the very first bill he signed into law. On January 29,  the White House announced that Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act had been posted online for review. One problem: Obama had already signed it – in violation of his “sunlight before signing” pledge to post legislation for public comment on the White House website five days before he sealed any deal.
Obama broke the pledge again with the mad rush to pass his trillion-dollar, pork-stuffed stimulus package full of earmarks he denied existed. Jim Harper of the Cato Institute reported in April 2009: “Of the eleven bills President Obama has signed, only six have been posted on Whitehouse.gov. None have been posted for a full five days after presentment from Congress…”
It’s this utter disregard for taxpayer accountability that prompted hundreds of thousands of citizens to take to the streets on Tax Day 2009 for Tea Party protests. The trampling of transparency inspired signs that read: “No legislation without deliberation” and “READ THE BILL FIRST.” Obama’s response was first to claim that he hadn’t even heard of the Tea Party movement and then, on his 100-day celebration, to deride all those Americans he is supposed to represent of “playing games.”
Projection, anyone? When it comes to toying with transparency, President Obama is a master at “playing games.”
Hey, President Obama, how about your pal SEIU president Andy Stern’s illegal lobbying activities at 1600 Pennsylvania? Let the sun shine in.
How about Alston and Bird lobbyist Tom Daschle’s undue influence in your Oval Office? Drain the swamp.
9:07pm Eastern. Instead of drinking, I’m going to do a push-up every time O says “I,” “change,” “jobs,” “investment,” or “clear.”
Obama arrives. There are more forced smiles in the room than at a Miss World beauty pageant.
Obama clunkifies Tom Paine: “These are the times that tested the courage of our convictions.”
He blames failures of Washington DC. “Numbing weight of politics.”
Has someone clued him into the fact that HE is Washington DC. HE is the numbing weight.
O: “We all hated the bank bailout…it was as popular as a root canal.” Biden grinning from ear to ear. Quickly moves on to rationalizing the bank bailout. “I supported the last administration’s efforts…we made it more transparent…we recovered most of the money.”
Except for the money that Geithner allowed AIG to fork over to its counterparties in secret, of course.
Obama lambastes Wall Street for a few minutes more, then pats himself on the back for cutting taxes. Not mentioned: Massive tobacco tax hikes to pay for SCHIP expansion.
Praises his recovery/stimulus behemoth. Here we go: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
Gotta do my push-ups.
9:30pm Eastern. Oh, no. Here comes the high-speed rail boondoggle. Unions rejoicing.
Clean energy boondoggle. Unions rejoicing.
9:38pm Eastern. Obama tosses a bone to the Right — paying lip service to support nuclear power and offshore drilling — before championing cap-and-tax. Pelosi bolts to her feet. O downplays the ClimateGate scandal (Republicans boo) and argues that massive intervention should be pursued despite the junk science.
9:51pm Eastern. Time for a Blame Bush interlude.
9:54pm Eastern. Snort: Obama’s spending freeze proposal falls totally flat. Not even a smattering of applause. A smittering. Is that a word?
Obama says the freeze won’t take place until next year.
LAUGHTER from the chamber. LOLOLOL.
Snippy Obama: “That’s how budgeting works.”
10:05pm Eastern. He’s lambasted GOP obstructionism, lambasted permanent campaigning (”We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions”) and political ambitions, and lamented the loss of unity after 9/11.
“I’m not interested in re-litigating the past.” Just in litigating jihadis in American civilians courts!
10:18pm Eastern. In one breath, Obama promises to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” guarantee gender pay equity (he did this last year already with passage of the Lily Ledbetter Act), and to push for shamnesty. Phew.
Wrap-up summary of final speech remarks: People are cynical. Don’t blame me. I never promised you peace and harmony. Let’s fight. Let’s get things done. Forget about all my missteps over the last year. CHANGE (the subject)!
The full text of the speech is here.