1By DICK MORRIS
Published on TheHill.com
on January 26, 2011
Henry Kissinger, in his memoir of the Ford administration, Years of Upheaval
, articulated the central rule of governing: "It is a statesman's duty to
bridge the gap between his nation's experience and his vision. If his vision
gets too far out ahead of his nation's experience, he will lose his mandate
. But if he hews too close to the conventional, he will lose control over
Obama has gone from the first of these dangers to the second.
Is Your Prostate Keeping You Up at Night?
In his first two years in office, he was manifestly so far removed from
America's experience and ideals that he lost the election of 2010. His big
spending, overregulation, government takeovers and bailouts and healthcare
program cost him his mandate. But, in his State of the Union speech, he
hewed so close to the conventional that he will now lose control over events.
His speech marks the real end of his presidency and the ascendancy of
congressional government led by the House Republican agenda.
A president's major power is his ability to set the national agenda. But
Obama's State of the Union agenda was so boring, mundane, conventional and
recycled that it will not capture either the national imagination or even
center stage. It cannot drown out the drama of Republican efforts to slash
spending, repeal ObamaCare, roll back federal regulations, block carbon
taxes, kill union card-check and free community banks from regulatory
paralysis. The ball is now in the Republicans' court.
The central mission of the Clinton comeback was to eradicate the memory and
record of 1993-94. The compelling agenda spelled out by the president
captured the nation's attention and blotted out his early failures. Welfare
reform, deficit reduction, tobacco regulation and Clinton's second two-year
agenda stole the stage from HillaryCare, gays in the military, Waco and the
Clinton tax increases.
But as the Republicans repeal or defund the discredited Obama programs of
2009-10, they will assure that these failed initiatives dominate the
election of 2012. If Obama opts for stalemate -- his only alternative to
surrender if the GOP holds firm -- he will just prolong the shelf life of
these issues and assure that they will provide the issues in 2012 -- to his
On another level, Obama's speech was a plea for a second chance. But his
opposition to the Republican agenda will belie his moderation and will show
it to be the same sleight of hand as was his vague embrace of change during
his presidential campaign. Americans believe in the old adage: "Fool me once
, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." They will give a president a
second chance, but not a third one.
In the meantime, a star was born in the Republican reply delivered by
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. His articulation of conservative principles was
the clearest and most compelling I have heard since Ronald Reagan. The force
of his delivery, the reasonableness of his manner and the positive tone
with which he undermined and discredited Obama's program were all admirable.
When he said that the president's spending programs were "stimulus
repackaged as investments" he rebutted the bulk of the president's speech.
Ryan, who swears he won't run for president, may find himself drafted.
Obama's proclamation that he had "broken the back of the recession" will
inspire howls of disbelief and ridicule throughout the nation. With 9
percent-plus unemployment, how can a president say these words with a
To Obama's credit, this was the first pro-American speech he has given,
embracing American exceptionalism, celebrating the American Dream and
honoring our servicemen and women -- boilerplate for any other president,
but unusual for this one. His calls for recruiters to be allowed on campus,
his rejection of earmarks and pledge to veto them and his embrace of medical
malpractice reform were the only good points in his speech.
This speech was not enough to save this presidency.