All of us who have spoken publicly know that there’s the rare occasion when you must speak extemporaneously - and there's the norm, when you have time to prepare enough to make the speech look extemporaneous. Those are the best speeches.
It’s been 48 hours - enough time to let it settle in - since the State of the Union speech. My initial impressions have not been modified by the pundits, but they have been generally confirmed.
Essentially, it was a very poor speech. It rambled, lacked cohesion - even a theme - and it was full of inherent contradictions or statements that were false on their face. Obama talked about the country having great debt - yet he never took responsibility. Obama claimed we needed a Sputnik moment to replicate the commercial successes of the Space Program - yet he never mentioned gutting NASA’s budget and essentially shutting it down. Obama talked about American exceptionalism - but he praised not only the failed Soviet Union, but modern Communist China. Obama called for a budget freeze but in the same breath referred to it as a budget cut - and at the same time insisted we needed to hire 100,000 new teachers. His examples of American ingenuity, which he employed as a lever for more “investment,” meaning taxing and spending, were achievements which had been accomplished by people and businesses without any support or interference from the government. His joke about salmon fishing and canning regulation also fell flat - partly because it wasn’t funny, but mostly because he was making light of how his cronies spend most of their time - regulating, legislating and controlling other people’s lives. It was like he was mocking his audience.
But, what I haven’t heard said is how thin the speech was. It lacked the trappings of leadership. It was absent the heart-felt rhetoric or emotion or a personal conviction. I don’t think even Obama believed what he was saying. In fact, I’m certain he didn’t.
I remember a friend, a performer, once telling me that when you perform - you must not hold back. The audience can tell when you’r holding something back and they won’t like it.
In my opinion, we didn’t hear what Obama is really thinking, what he’s really planning for his next two years. But in our hearts, I suspect we know what it is, and we know for sure, it isn’t good.