I never got to work on a State of the Union message, although I have written a State of the State speech, as well as a speech for the Republican National Convention, so I have a little bit of an idea about the process.
And I found myself this week listening to Obama's State of the Union address, and almost feeling sorry for his speechwriting team. I mean, here they are, three years into his presidency, and they've got nothing to say. I can almost hear the discussion:
"Well, we could talk about the economy....uh, no."
"Can we point to the progress on unemployment...no?"
"Have we brought down the national debt? No, we've added $4.6 trillion to it."
"Did we help bring gas and other energy prices down? Ummm, no."
"Things are better in the Middle East, aren't they? No."
"We've done all those cool 'alternative energy' things like Solyndra and, um, no, I guess not."
"I know...we set a goal of one million electric cars on the road by 2015. We must be getting close to that, right? Chevy must have sold a couple hundred thousand Volts by now, right? Oh, really? Only 7,500? That's almost a million, isn't it? And a bunch of them caught on fire?"
These poor fellows had to turn over every rock they could find to look for one measure of how the average person is better off now than they were on January 20, 2009, and five minutes into the speech it was clear that they had nothing. So, instead, we got:
Let's increase taxes on some people
Let's force kids to stay in high school until they're 18. (How?)
Let's try to stop the Chinese from selling pirated DVDs
Let's create more government bureaucracy to regulate lending, clean energy and medical research, because government has done such a great job with those so far
As I said, I almost felt sorry for them. Looking back on three years of deficits, failures and decline, the closest they could come to a rhetorical flourish was the laughable (coming from this particular president) call for "No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts."
They probably didn't realize it, but they wrote a great campaign slogan for the opposition this fall.