Last night, the president gave his "State of the Union" address to the nation (sorry I missed it).
But as I read the entire speech this morning, what struck me was the high tone, soaring rhetoric reminiscent of what we saw and heard in his initial campaign for president in 2008.
So though last nights address was billed as the "State of the Union", it was really the kickoff of his reelection bid for a second term.
To get a sense of the speech (for others that may have missed it), here's a tiny excerpt of his remarks where the president alluded to the sub prime mortgage bubble bursting:
"In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people's money. Regulators had looked the other way or didn't have the authority to stop the bad behavior. It was wrong. It was irresponsible."
Let's face it; this president is brilliant, can understand and clearly articulate the problem and call it for what it was, wrong and irresponsible.
But rhetoric alone doesn't cut it. Where did he call for investigations and get his Justice Department to prosecute the financial predators who perpetrated the collapse? Where has he stepped in boldly and helped homeowners in foreclosure as a result of the shady business practices that enticed people fraudulently? Why didn't he call for restoring Glass Stiegel, the depression era regulation that separated the commercial banks from the investment banks and overturn Graham, Leach Bliley which tore down the Glass Stiegel regulatory rule? Why didn't he authorize his Justice Department to investigate the regulators "who looked the other way"? These are questions relating just to the one paragraph above of his speech.
Looking back over the past three years, sure there was resistance and obstructionism from the Republicans and "Blue dog" Democrats.
But what was called for was a direct appeal to the people who elected him and from the "bully pulpit", Obama imploring them to push the resisters and obstructionists in the Congress to rectify the wrongs committed during the previous administration. Instead what we got was "we can't look back", followed by appeasement and watered down compromise with the opposition rather than challenging and facing them down on every issue of consequence. That is the reality that can't be ignored.
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected in a landslide because people bought into the rhetoric he was delivering and believed in him. The people's support was there for the asking. But he was virtually silent.
Now it's 2012, he's up for re-election and we see and hear the soaring rhetoric and his "determination" to take on the resisters and obstructionists. Do we now ignore his past three years' performance and believe now he has acquired the fortitude to do what the soaring rhetoric says he will do?