In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Obama: defended his nearly $1 trillion "stimulus" spending package from last year; repeated his plea for comprehensive health care "reform;" proposed taxing banks to pay for his use of TARP funds to bailout the auto industry; and - in an obvious display of the politics of class warfare - insisted on increasing the taxes of "oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year" because "we can't afford" not to.
Yet according to Newsweek's Howard Fineman, that was "one of the most conservative speeches that a Democratic president has given since I think the middle of Bill Clinton's time."
And the theatrics were just wonderful: "If presidential leadership were only about giving speeches, the jackhammers would already be at work on Mt. Rushmore," Fineman exclaimed.
The Newsweek senior Washington correspondent appeared on a second, post-State of the Union edition of MSNBC's Countdown on January 27. He told host Keith Olbermann of his positive reaction to the President's speech to Congress:
If presidential leadership were only about giving speeches, the jackhammers would already be at work on Mt. Rushmore. I thought the guy dominated the room, used humor, occupied the middle ground. It was both theatrically very good, playing in the hall much better than it read on the page, tactically quite smart.
Keith, this was one of the most conservative speeches that I - leaving aside the fact that the tax, some of the Bush tax cuts will lapse, some of the other features in there. By and large, talking about tax cuts, stressing tax cuts, spending freezes, talking about the virtues of the econ, free enterprise and the economy.
In many, many ways, this is one of the most conservative speeches that a Democratic president has given since I think the middle of Bill Clinton's time. And it was tactically quite smart on the President's part.
And his tone, which was all sweet reasonableness, designed, as Rachel [Maddow] said, to force the Republicans to stand up as they eventually did, I thought it was, it was very, very well done, and really left the Republican governor of Virginia very little to say. He didn't have much to say to begin with.
- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.