Oh, what a speech. For this speech, the U.S. Congress was put on notice: The “Expected One” would address it on a matter of the greatest moment. It was about the economy, stupid. And the memorable lines? Where was the never-to-be-forgotten hortatory oratory that would be inscribed 100 years from now on the Obamemorial?
Pass this bill. You should pass this bill. Pass this bill now. Pass it right now. Pass this bill. You should pass this bill. Pass this bill now. Pass it right now. Pass this bill. You should pass this bill. Pass this bill now. Pass it right now. You guys.
It wasn’t so much a speech as it was a session at dog obedience school. I wanted to yell at the television screen what I yell at Leroy, the rebellious family boxer who playfully sinks his teeth into his leash: “No, Leroy, leave it.”
This is no partisan critique. The speech contained no trace that its author had ever read any of the Bible, any of Shakespeare, any American history, anything interesting at all.
It used to be that it was the Democrats who made all the great speeches. (Just ask any liberal history professor.)
Who could forget Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime speeches? “We must quarantine the aggressor.” “The hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor!” “December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy.”
John F. Kennedy could bring Congress to its feet - Democrats and Republicans alike. He told a joint session of Congress he would take us to the moon. And he did. He spoke to the nation on the urgent matter of civil rights. He respectfully urged Congress to “pass this bill,” but he would not have dreamed of hectoring and lecturing Congress to “pass this bill right now.” When he addressed the country on the Cuban missile crisis, he had us ready to fight for freedom or die (even if we chuckled at his pronunciation of “Cuber”).
Ronald Reagan, that ex-Democrat, appealed to the best in us, saying, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.” He comforted a shocked nation the night after the space shuttle Challenger blew up: “We will never forget them nor the last time we saw them this morning, as they … slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God.” Millions of schoolchildren who had watched seven brave Americans die on national TV would be traumatized forever, we were told. They weren’t.
How can it be that this Expected One, who told us, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” - the man whose election would heal the planet and stop the seas from rising, has failed so spectacularly to connect with a distressed people? Take the hortatory oratory challenge: Ask your liberal friends to repeat a single memorable line - other than Mr. Obama’s coda: “Pass it, passed it, paste it, then, put all your money in a sack and post it, or something like that.”
The week leading up to the great speech was a comedy of errors. The White House announced the president would speak to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Not so fast, replied the speaker of the House. Our team has a game scheduled that night. We can see you on Thursday night.
It seems the White House confused an address to a joint session of Congress with the Speech From the Throne by Britain’s queen. There, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod goes ahead of the queen and has the door to the House of Commons slammed in his face.
Why? Because centuries ago, King Charles I invaded the House of Commons to arrest some of his critics. The closed-door tradition is a reminder that Parliament - a body of the people’s elected representatives - rules in Britain. The queen only reigns. And if the elected government of the day decided to do away with the British monarchy, it would be her duty to announce that in her speech from the throne.
Why should anyone hesitate to vote this president another $447 billion? Didn’t he say his $825 billion stimulus bill in February 2009 would keep unemployment under 8 percent? It’s 9.1 percent. Pass health care reform, he said. Pass it now.
Go over the wall, down the hall, around the bend and parachute through the Capitol dome, said then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That she succeeded in passing Obamacare is the No. 1 reason why she is former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
There will be no waste in this bill, we know. Why? Because Joe Biden will make sure. “Nobody messes with Joe,” the president promised us. So who was it who messed with the $535 million in federal loan guarantees to Solyndra, the bankrupt solar-energy outfit? At least all that dough was shovel-ready. Just like the speech to the joint session of Congress. Passitpassitnowpassit: Now there’s a phrase to be carved in stone.
Well, hold the chisels, you guys. Not this time, Mr. President. Your dull, repetitious speech doesn’t help. Your presidential coda harms.
Robert Morrison, who served in the Reagan administration, is a fellow at the Family Research Council.