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Form vs. Substance, Obama’s State of the Union

  • Form vs. Substance, Obama’s State of the Union

  • 31 January 2010 by 0 Comments

Form vs. Substance, Obama’s State of the Union

By Richard Larsen

Published – Idaho State Journal, 01/31/10


Barack Obama is a masterful speaker when he has his teleprompter turned on . I guess that’s why I have such a hard time listening to his speeches. In the Platonic dichotomy of form versus substance, I’ll take substance any day. That’s why I like to read his speeches rather than listen to them. Then again, maybe I’m just afraid I’ll end up like so many who were simply mesmerized by his talks without giving due consideration to their substance.

His State of the Union address Wednesday provided a classic juxtaposition of form versus substance: a masterful delivery of a speech that nonetheless was substantively replete with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and errors. I’m always critical of political extravaganzas but Obama just presents so much low hanging fruit on his elocution tree that to not pluck it would be tantamount to acquiescence.

Having lived through the administrations of 11 presidents, I have never seen one who is so adept at saying one thing while doing the complete opposite. Praising small business and private enterprise while doing everything to destroy them; denouncing health-insurance companies while promoting legislation to force all citizens to own health insurance; talk of “fiscal responsibility” while engaging in an orgy of governmental spending; talk of tax cuts while advancing tax increases at every turn; talk of job creation while implementing policies that further hamper job creation; etc., etc. ad nauseam.

While there were many such inconsistencies to select from, here are just a few from Wednesday’s presentation. Obama said, “We face a deficit of trust -– deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.” Is that why he has over 30 former lobbyists working for him? Somehow I don’t see that as conducive to bridging the “deficit of trust.” Those 18 “Czars” in the administration probably don’t help your claim either, Mr. President.

He claimed that he’s cut taxes for “95% of working families.” I guess they didn’t teach math at Harvard, Occidental, or Columbia. More than 40% of Americans pay no taxes, which figure is about to drop because he and congress will allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. What he has done is increased subsidies, including the home buying credit. Those are by definition not tax cuts, and they most certainly didn’t benefit 95% of working families.

Perhaps the most audacious fabrication was, “Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.” And what steps were those? He was referring to the stimulus bill which was about 95% political payback and 5% job creation and economic stimulus.

Cato Policy Analyst Tad Dehaven has written, “Actually, the U.S. economy has lost 2.7 million jobs since the stimulus passed and 3.4 million total since Obama was elected. How he attributes any jobs gains to the stimulus is the fuzziest of fuzzy math.” Three of his top economic advisors over the past week have each given different figures and even his website only lists 640,000, and most of those have been proven fictitious. The only thing more ludicrous is that they can claim millions of jobs saved. There is no viable economic means of calculating “jobs saved.” I think all their jobs figures are either drawn from a hat or extricated from a dark orifice between their gluteus maximi.

Equally perplexing is the President’s castigation of Republicans for not being accommodating to his agenda. They’re too “partisan.” Excuse me, Mr. President, and you’re not? Robust political discussion and the balance of power are the essence and strength of American Democracy. It is what protects us all from audacious and presumptive politicians.

Until last week’s special election in Massachusetts your party could pass anything. You had the numbers. If you didn’t get everything you wanted, the blame lies squarely on your own party. And why is it that in order to be “bi-partisan” those who oppose you have to sacrifice their principles? If it’s truly bi-partisan doesn’t that mean both sides give a little for compromise? The independents, Republicans and not a few conservative Democrats in Massachusetts have reminded us of the limits of partisan power, and the power of political discourse in a democracy.

For those who prefer form to substance, Wednesday night was a celebratory event. But for those of us who love what America became because of the principles upon which she was founded and prefer substance over form, it was little more than another narcissistic and superficial lesson in the “audacity of hope.”


AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board.  He can be reached at


About the

More than anything, I want my readers to think. We're told what to think by the education establishment, which is then parroted by politicians from the left, and then reinforced by the mainstream media. Steeped in classical liberalism, my ideological roots are based in the Constitution and our founding documents. Armed with facts, data, and correct principles, today's conservatives can see through the liberal haze and bring clarity to any political discussion.

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