The Big Question: What should Obama NOT say in tonight's speech?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

What should President Barack Obama not say during the State of the Union address?



Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said:

Obama should refrain from using the word "I" more than once or twice. I'm not expecting that, though.


Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

He should not make commitments to deficit reduction. He has to remind the public that the obsession with budget deficits (while ignoring much larger trade deficits) created the imbalances that led to this crisis. The Robert Rubins and Peter Petersons of the world are the real villains in this story. The president's job is to get the economy back on its feet and create jobs, not assuage Wall Street deficit hawks.

For this reason, he should focus on his plan for generating jobs and show nothing but scorn for the deficit hawks who would leave millions of people out of work to advance their fixation with budget deficits. The markets have spoken — the people putting their money on the line are prepared to buy U.S. bonds at very low interest interest rates. We don't have to waste our time with deficit hawks who are spiraling towers of bad economic advice.


Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said:

Obama should not say his stimulus spending of $787 billion created 2 million jobs (Since his spending bill passed America has lost 2.7 million jobs).  Obama should not say that he will not raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000.  (Because it was an unseemly 16 days from inauguration to the day he signed a tax hike on all tobacco users.  The only smoker who earns more than $250,000 in America today is named Barack Obama).
 
Obama should not say that his presidency will be transparent.  Obama should not say his legislation will be negotiated out in public forums with C-SPAN coverage. Obama should not say he will not have labor union lobbyists writing legislation at the last minute in secret in the White House.  Obama should not say he does not know much about a group called ACORN.  Obama should not say he will withdraw from Iraq faster than Bush planned.  Obama should not say he will restore civil liberties lost during the Bush Administration.  Obama should not say "heckuva job Janet" to his secretary of Homeland Security. Obama should not say, as he has told Democrats in private, that the difference between 1994 and 2010 is himself -- that will elicit too much applause from the Republican caucus in the House.


Mike Ferner, president of Veterans For Peace, said:

A few of the things President Obama should not say in his State of the Union address tonight 

 
He should not say:
"Nobody wants to do more than I do for our fellow Americans who are jobless and homeless," unless he's ready to fire the gang of Wall Street Wonders he hired as his advisers and replace them with someone who has actually been in an unemployment line or had their home foreclosed. 
 
He should not say:
"America's middle class needs relief," unless he pledges to pay for it by stopping the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted every year on war.
 
He should not say:
"We seek no wider war," unless he wants the spirit of Lyndon Johnson to appear, wrapped with chains and locks binding him tightly to the tragedy of Viet Nam; binding him to a war where millions are killed; to a war where his hopes for a more just America are thrown to the dogs; to a war that ultimately destroyed his presidency.
 
He should not say:
"We seek quality health care for every American," unless he is willing to say "Enough!" to insurance companies; enough of their campaign contributions; enough subservience to their interests; enough quaking in fear to battle them for the public interest.
 
He should not say:
A single thing about the benefits of mass transit unless he is willing to tell U.S. car company executives they will retool to build mass transit vehicles just as their predecessors did to build weaponry for WWII, or be taken over by the public who will do it for them.
 
He should not say:
"And there stands America, still a shining beacon of democracy," unless he is willing to speak and act against the Supreme Court's ruling that corporations are "persons" under the law and are now able to contribute endless cash to political campaigns. 
 
He should not say:
The word "terrorist" without two things: 1) a PowerPoint presentation clearly illustrating that the U.S. manufactures more weapons than the rest of the world combined and that weapons are the #1 U.S. export and 2) actual video footage of a pre-dawn house raid on an Iraqi family and photos of the last Afghan wedding party our Air Force mistakenly bombed.
 
He should not say:
"Mark my words, we will win this war," without being able to state exactly what it means to win whichever war he's talking about.
 
And he shouldn't say:
"America is a peace-loving nation," unless he is ready for his pants to catch fire.


Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, said:

President Obama should not suggest that his difficulties from the last year were not due to failing to be bipartisan. Rather, the failure to achieve bipartisan outcomes stemmed from a failure to change how Americans learn about policy options and hold their elected officials accountability. Americans are hungry for a change they can believe in, to use his 2008 campaign slogan, and such change will not come from ceding control of policymaking to the same old special interest-ridden processes we see today in Congress. Congress obviously must have a key role, but Americans want more transparency and more signs of their voice being heard.


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

Perhaps it would be best if he didn't even mention either of the two wars we're engaged in: that way, when he talks about the fact that we're teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, that we're bleeding jobs, and that more Americans are out of work than at any time since the stagflation '70s, Americans won't be reminded that we spend more on the military than all of the major countries of the world combined.

I wouldn't bring up the spending "freeze" -- it might remind people that military spending is exempt. And please, Mr. President -- PLEASE!-- don't do what your predecessor did. Don't remind us of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a way to rationalize all this military spending, "nation-building," and overseas bribery-on-a-mass-scale. Because, just as Osama bin Laden predicted, we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy in an effort to corral the phantom of "terrorism."


Michelle Bernard, President of the Independent Women's Forum, said:

No More Stimulus Money!

The President will be talking a lot about how to improve the economy, encourage the creation of new jobs, and create sustainable growth—he should avoid talking about more government spending to “stimulate” the economy.  The government has already pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy—on “green jobs” initiatives and all sorts of local infrastructure projects—and our unemployment rate is still above 10 percent, far higher than the President's advisers promised it would be if Congress rammed through the $787 billion last spring.

More spending isn't just bad policy.  It's bad politics. The Independent Women's Voice polled voters in Massachusetts voters following the election to see what motivated them to vote and what they want policymakers in Washington to do.  Forty-six percent of voters believed increasing government spending would slow down the country's economic recovery, while 32 percent believed it would speed up the recovery.    http://iwvoice.org/poll-massachusetts-voters-undo-conventional-wisdom/

Yes, nearly half of voters in Massachusetts—one of the most reliably liberal states  in the country—recognize more government spending would be bad for the economy.  That should be a big sign to the President that he should strike any announcement of another so-called spending stimulus.

Bruce E. Gronbeck, professor of Political Communication at the University of Iowa, said:

He should not say "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.


Frank Askin, professor of law at Rutgers University, said:

He should not say that he is abandoning his quest for a health care bill which will extend coverage to millions of Americans not now covered; he should not say that he is abandoning his quest for a cap and trade bill because of opposition from the energy industry; he should not say that he is abandoning his quest to bring the banking industry and Wall Street under tighter regulation; and he should not say that he will allow a minority of 41 Senators who represent less than 40 per cent of the population of this country to abort the program on which he was elected.


John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

He should not use the word "fight." Nobody believes that he is fighting for them, and the more he says it, the less authentic he becomes.  


Peter Navarro, professor of Economics and Public Policy at U.C. Irvine, said:

King Teleprompter should NOT say that he has been well served by, and has great confidence in, his “smart guys doing dumb things” economics team — Bernanke, Summers, Geithner. He should not say the economy has “turned a corner.” He should not say that the Democratic leadership in Congress has been doing a good job and that the fiscal stimulus is working. If he says any of this crap, his teleprompter will melt down.


Larry J. Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, said:


“The state of our union is good.” Because it’s not.

“We’ve accomplished great things together over the past year.” After the collapse of healthcare reform and inaction on a wide range of other matters, this claim won’t seem credible to many.

“I inherited a giant mess a year ago.” You did indeed. But a quarter of your term has expired and, like it or not, you now own the mess. Anything that smacks of finger-pointing will earn you considerable criticism.


John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

President Obama should not use the word "change." And he should not posture as a frugal chief executive because he is completely unworthy of such a description.  

Instead, let me suggest that he employ such words as "cut," "abolish," "reduce," "terminate," and "close," while applying them to an array of unconstitutional federal departments and agencies (Education, HUD, Energy, HHS, OSHA, EPA, EEOC — just for starters).

It would be absolutely wonderful if he would then point to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution he has solemnly pledged to honor, specifically the power possessed by Congress "To ... coin money ..."  He should explain that this portion of Constitution does not now and never has permitted the creation of the Federal Reserve, and that any reference to it to justify the Fed's existence is based on a tortured and completely erroneous application of the congressional power just noted. Then he should urge Congress to repeal legal tender laws and allow the people to create real money once again.

Our beloved country is in deep trouble.


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