Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Parsing The Speeches

That would be Obama's first speech to the joint session of the Congress and the Republican answer by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

My overall impression of the speeches was "awww" and "ouch", in the order that they were given. Barack Obama is a great orator, Bobby Jindal not that much (popping suddenly into sight from around the corner is scary, too). But riding the emotional wave of a well-given speech is insufficient. What the words are matter, too. How convenient, then, that I also liked Obama's words much better than Jindal's words.

Obama hit most of the major points from the expected 'centrarian' angle. He also included some quite lovely progressive bits (health care reform (YEAH!) and getting rid of torture, for example) and a few bits that I wasn't happy about: the concept of clean coal, the support of charter schools and a mumbly reference to doing something about Social Security.

I doubt that clean coal can exist and although American schools need a lot of work charter schools cannot be the answer to the general problems. Social Security is not an urgent problem when compared to, say, Medicare, and had the Republicans had their way with it in the past we'd see the elderly begging on the streets today.

Jindal, on the other hand, used the Katrina disaster to demonstrate that the government cannot work! That this was because George Bush didn't let it work appeared not to occur to Bobby.

But mostly Jindal kept repeating that Americans can do ANYTHING. To be fair, Obama also flattered the American people. I have to check if this behavior is common among politicians in all countries. Somehow I doubt that. But if there is a time for excessive stroking of citizens it probably is now, because we want to turn confidence up a notch or two, at least consumer confidence.

To add something trivial to my criticisms, I dislike the term 'working families' and wish it to die a painful death. It brings to mind images of little children toiling away in sweatshops and nineteenth century mines and it omits everyone who lives alone as well as those who are retired. I know why the term is used. I just dislike its artificiality.