The last time President Obama addressed the Congress the most controversial part probably occurred when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” when the president's claimed that illegal immigrants would not get special treatment under health care reform.
Political pundits and the mainstream media talking heads called this an unprecedented breach of protocol (the most polite comment made).
Last night, the president himself committed an unprecedented breach of protocol when he claimed the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision would “open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.”
“I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people,” the president said, looking straight at the Supreme Court justices sitting stoically in the front row.
Although he prefaced his criticism with the words “with all due deference to the separation of powers” he ignored the spirit of that principle by misinterpreting the courts decision.
The president, purportedly a Constitution scholar, expressed his disdain for the separation principle later in the speech as well. Since Congress blocked a bill to establish a fiscal commission to review the budget for “programs that we can’t afford and don’t work,” he said he would sign an executive order to set up the commission anyway.
Other than an opening remark noting the Constitutional origins of the State of the Union address, the president never cited a section or article of the Constitution to justify any of the programs he proposed.
This was ostensibly the State of the Union address, but with the Democrats jumping up and clapping for standing ovations every few minutes, with a smiling Speaker Nancy Pelosi beaming over his shoulder, and with the scholarly Vice President (Uncle) Joe Biden nodding approval, it had all the trappings of a yet another stump speech.
Throughout the speech, President Obama keep referring to “Washington” in the third person, adding to the aura of a campaign event.
The president did not back off his pledge to reform national health care. He said he would not “walk away” from the issue and challenged the Congress not to walk away either.
“Let's get it done,” he said.
Most of the speech, however, focused on the economy and jobs. President Obama claimed credit for preventing the “Second Depression” with his stimulus package, including tax cuts for 95 percent of all Americans, and he defended the bank bailout.
He said the one thing that united Democrats and Republicans was that they all hated the bank bailout, but it was necessary to prevent a meltdown of the financial system.
“I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal,” the president said.
The president noted that most of the stimulus money given to the banks had been recovered, but he then proposed to give the recovered $30 million to small banks for small business loans. He also proposed a fee on the “biggest banks” to recover the rest of the stimulus money.
The president announced a plan to freeze government spending in three years, but it would not start until 2011 because “that's how budgets work.” However, he budget freeze would not include national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which compose the bulk of the Federal budget. In addition, large portions of the defense and national security expenditures are “off the books.”
“But,” the president hastily added, all other “discretionary funding” would be included.