Obama’s Campaign Speech Roundup

Yesterday we posted on Obama’s so-called “deficit reduction speech” which turned out to be nothing more than a demogogic sop to his far-left base. Today I thought it would be useful to do a quick roundup of how others perceived yesterday’s 2012 campaign kick-off speech.

Yuval Levin:

Obama offered a kind of “Robert Bork’s America” description of the Ryan budget, filled with ludicrous distortions, and then argued that he could achieve the same fiscal goals by different means. What means? Apparently there are four: First, discretionary spending cuts that amount to an extension of the cuts in this year’s budget. Second, defense cuts that will be decided after yet another review. Third, health-care cost reductions that will be achieved by giving even more power to the panel of experts created by Obamacare to make one-size-fits-all rationing decisions and by assigning that panel even more ambitious goals than the ones that the actuary of Medicare and Medicaid says the panel is already very unlikely to meet. And fourth, greatly increasing taxes.

A fact sheet put out by the White House offers a few more details, though no clearer sense of how the president expects these steps to add up to the kind of savings he says they will achieve. It includes some fairly silly gimmicks. For instance, the president defines his near-term goals using a 12-year budget window, to give the illusion that he would achieve savings on the level of the fiscal commission and the Ryan budget (both of which use the usual 10-year window required by the budget process). He guarantees long-term budget reductions (and therefore on paper guarantees the achievement of his goals without specifying particular means) through a “trigger” that would go into effect at the end of Obama’s second term, forcing arbitrary budget cuts upon his wretched successor when the Obama “framework” has failed to reduce spending.

Clive Crook:

The speech was more notable for its militant–though ineffectual–hostility to Republican proposals than for any fresh thinking of its own. It was a waste of breath.

Larry Kudlow:

Of course, the president’s formula of estimating higher revenues to lower the deficit is completely wrong. The reality is that higher tax rates will slow the economy, inhibit new start-up companies, penalize investors, and may very well lose revenues and increase the deficit.


In total, President Obama is claiming $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. But we’ll never see it. Interest expense savings is supposed to make up $1 trillion of that amount, while the rest will somehow come from a concoction of fewer tax deductions, higher tax rates, and $400 billion in defense-spending cuts. In effect, the president has moved to the left. He has embraced the Democrats’ so called progressive caucus in the House by slashing defense and jacking up taxes, all while offering no serious entitlement reform.

Wall Street Journal:

Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.


Mr. Obama then packaged his poison in the rhetoric of bipartisanship—which “starts,” he said, “by being honest about what’s causing our deficit.” The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards.

Investor’s Business Daily:

As 19th-century economist Frederic Bastiat put it: “Government is that fiction whereby everybody believes he can live at the expense of somebody else.”

That bit of wisdom, in a nutshell, is the essence of the Obama plan. Sure, he pledges a “balanced approach,” including both cuts and tax hikes. But he also vows to protect “the middle class, our promise to seniors and our investments in the future.” You can’t have it both ways.

Those “promises,” by the way, pretty much take real entitlement reform off the table. Though entitlements now make up nearly 60% of our budget and are growing daily, Obama pushes spurious, nonspecific cuts in Medicare and none at all in Social Security.

James Pethokoukis:

Did the White House A/V dude load the wrong file into Obama’s teleprompter? While the president’s class-warfare attack on Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” would probably have earned rousing applause at a Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the speech failed to accomplish its advertised purpose: outlining Obama’s long-term blueprint to avoid a debt crisis.

Even if a) his doubling-down on Obamacare’s unproven cost controls works and b) his trillion-dollar tax increases don’t slow the economy, this new plan only stabilizes government debt as a share of the economy for maybe a dozen years. After that, the march to financial crisis continues apace.

Michael Tanner:

President Obama’s speech today was reminiscent of Stalin’s Order Number 227 to the Russian generals at the Battle of Stalingrad: “Not One Step Backward.”

Essentially, the president declared that he still wants to raise taxes, that he is opposed to any substantive changes to entitlements — oh, and he wants to raise taxes. He did suggest that if somehow he hasn’t been able to cut spending by 2014 (anyone taking bets?), he would appoint a commission to recommend spending cuts and (surprise) tax increases. A commission: Now there’s an original idea.

Mark Steyn:

There’s something sad about a man so carelessly revealing himself as entirely inadequate to the moment. Government spending is an existential threat to the United States. Whether or not anyone at the White House knows this, the viziers decided to shove the sultan out on stage with a pitifully unserious speech retreating to all his lamest tropes – the usual whiny, petty and unpresidential partisan snippiness, and the ponderous demolition of straw men even he barely bothered to pretend he believed in:

Politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse –that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices.

Yeah, right. Why don’t we start by eliminating whatever dope got paid to write that sentence?

This speech failed Rich’s “What’s yours?” test. In fact, it more or less declared to the world that this Administration has no plan, and has no plan to plan on getting a plan anytime soon.

Victor Davis Hanson:

The president gave the sort of scare speech he not long ago warned against, and blasted the income-tax rates he not long ago agreed were necessary — in a context in which he has just presented a budget with a $1.6 trillion deficit of the sort he now says is unsustainable, and has warned about recklessly voting against raising the debt ceiling in a fashion that he himself had once done, in a larger landscape in which he had once damned attacking Middle East countries in optional wars, Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, intercepts, wiretaps, Predators, and leaving troops in Iraq, and then embraced or expanded all that and more (this list is infinite and includes everything from drilling to campaign financing to earmarks).


Has Obama in his past careers never been called to account and so reached a point where simply being Obama means that we are not supposed to apply standards of accuracy, memory, and consistency to him in the way we do to all others?

Jonah Goldberg:

I listened to Obama’s speech on my drive down to North Carolina for my talk tonight. I thought it was a breathtaking tour de force of dishonesty and tendentiousness for all the reasons covered around here. It was also just weird and annoying. A small gripe: he keeps saying “win the future” like it’s a phrase A) everybody understands and B) everyone has a positive reaction to. Neither is the case.

More substantially, Obama’s speech was just plain reactionary. It was an amazing about-face for a guy who ran in 2008 on a “yes we can” message of fundamentally “transforming” America. Now the philosophical thrust of his approach is that we must not change the America we “grew up with.” Uh, okay. I guess his 2012 slogan will be “Let’s All Go Down With the Ship — Together!”


Obama’s centrism has only one substantial component: He desperately desires to remain at the center of political life for another term.

Jake Tapper: Throw Grandma From the Train

The final word goes to Charles Krauthammer:

I rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest, outside the last couple of weeks of a presidential election where you are allowed to call your opponent anything short of a traitor. But we’re a year and a half away from Election Day and it was supposed to be a speech about policy.

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