The most revealing congressional reaction following President Obama's State of the Union address came from Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina: "He sort of took us to the principal's office, didn't he?"(via reader Doug J.)
And not just Congress, but all of us. The nation's principal was calm but firm. Democrats were scolded for their resemblance to frightened rabbits. Republicans were reprimanded for obstructionism and betraying their responsibility to govern. Washington was rebuked for its partisanship and pettiness. . .
The speech should raise questions among elected Democrats about the quality of Obama's party leadership. Obama used the Democratic majority as a foil. On the uninsured, he said, "I will not walk away from these Americans," implying that less virtuous Democrats might be tempted. And he offered no path for congressional Democrats out of their health-reform maze -- a maze that seems to have no exit. On health care, Obama preened at the expense of his party.
And the speech raises concerns about Obama's capacity to be a unifying national leader. An effective leader usually shares the passions and purposes of his countrymen. Rhetorically, Obama attempts to stand above the political process, above his own party, even above the country. He seems isolated in the tower of his own wisdom and purity. He judges. He lectures. We must strive to be worthy of him, not he of us.
Monday, February 01, 2010
Michael Gerson on the SOTU, in Friday's Washington Post: