"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Promises, Promises - Obama's Saturday Morning Talks

Oh, promises, promises
This is where those promises, promises end
I don't pretend that what was wrong can be right...
--Dionne Warwick

It goes without saying that President Obama is a man for whom rhetoric is paramount.   Where would he be without his ability to deliver a speech?   In 2008 his oratory was elevated to almost legendary stature, to the point where it was inevitable that he would deliver a speech standing before Greek columns, as if a latter-day Demosthenes had come back to life.   At the time, many of us called it for what it was... fake romantic liberal B.S.    But many more bought into the mythmaking of Obama as a great speaker (notably without ever analyzing the degree to which lauding Obama's ability to speak was similar to how sportscasters used to describe black athletes as "articulate" when they never described white athletes who spoke with similar fluency in similar terms).  

The problem with relying on speaking in the Internet age is that your speeches tend to live on for eternity and can be exhumed by anyone with a laptop and thrown back in your face.   There is so much Obama out there now, too much, that it is easy for the Romney campaign to just quote Obama making statements that, in the fullness of time, seem ridiculous.  

Toward that end, consider this:  every Saturday morning since his inauguration, the President has given a short "fireside chat"-type talk on video.   All of them are available on the White House's website.  

Here is what he had to say three years ago this week:

As we continue to recover from an historic economic crisis, it is clear to everyone that one of its major causes was a breakdown in oversight that led to widespread abuses in the financial system. An epidemic of irresponsibility took hold from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street.  And the consequences have been disastrous. Millions of Americans have seen their life savings erode; families have been devastated by job losses; businesses large and small have closed their doors. 
In response, this week, my administration proposed a set of major reforms to the rules that govern our financial system; to attack the causes of this crisis and to prevent future crises from taking place; to ensure that our markets can work fairly and freely for businesses and consumers alike. 

So, as of three years ago, in his June 19, 2009 radio address, Obama was already saying that we were "recovering" from the economic crisis, and that his policies would "prevent future crises."  

There is more, much more in these radio addresses -- paeans to clean energy (Solyndra?  hello?), for instance.    Expect the Romney campaign to be mining these past statements by Obama to great effect in commercials, whether on television or simply "broadcast" via new media (Youtube, networks of bloggers, etc.).  

Look, this might be unfair.   No one wants their words quoted back to them.   I would imagine that if you looked at the Regular Guy Believes from two years ago, much of what I've said would look foolish too.   But the difference is this... policy is always a prediction.   If I support a policy to create jobs, I am predicting (read: promising) that the policy will, in fact, create jobs.   If it doesn't, that means that my policy was wrong, just as if an experiment fails in science, it means that the hypothesis was wrong.

Obama was full of predictions and promises in 2009.   Very few of them have been proved in the crucible of experience. 

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