President Obama’s speech on jobs and the economy Wednesday in Illinois took 1 hour, 6 minutes, making it longer than every State of the Union address of his presidency except the one in January of 2010 when he spoke for 1 hour 9 minutes.
And yet many pundits were left wondering what the point was to Obama’s lengthy remarks at Knox College today.
The Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes called it a “predictable bust” with “tired ideas” that proved Obama, whose approval ratings are at their lowest point since 2011, may be older but is anything but wiser:
And remember the “sequester”? It was his idea to force spending cuts of $100 billion or so for 10 years. Now, though the sequester’s impact has been chiefly to reduce our military strength, he blames Republicans for “leaving in place a meat cleaver” that’s done everything from costing jobs to gutting education and scientific research.
As usual for an Obama speech, there’s plenty of pie in the sky. He’ll “rebuild run-down neighborhoods.” He’s for making preschool available for 4-year-olds—no mention of the cost—and providing “a vital support system for working parents.” Translated, that means taxpayer paid babysitting.
Forbes contributor Doug Schoen, a Democrat, derided the “much-hyped” address as little more than a campaign-style speech that doubled down on his 2012 approach: division, polarization and moving to the left.
Washington Post‘s political blog “The Fix” said Obama’s address would change very little despite being billed by aides as a major moment for his second term:
And yet, during that same OFA fundraiser, Obama acknowledged that no matter how lofty his goals or his rhetoric, the fundamental realities of the politics of the economy were almost certain to remain unchanged. ”I’m excited about the speech, not because I think the speech is going to change any minds,” he said.
Truer words were never spoken.
“The Fix” editor Chris Cillizza added afterwards, “You could be forgiven if you thought you had heard President Obama’s speech on the economy today before. Because you have.”
Before the speech, liberal Washington Post columnist and frequent MSNBC contributor Dana Milbank pondered whether yet another attempt to “pivot” to the economy showed the chief executive was “fresh out of ideas”:
If he’s to break through the resistance, Obama will need some bold new proposals. That’s why his speech returning to the oldies would seem to confirm that the White House has given up on big achievements.
To build interest in the new series of speeches, the White House scheduled an invitation-only briefing (RSVP required) for Monday, then set cloak-and-dagger ground rules requiring that the briefers not be quoted, even anonymously. Reporters protested, but they needn’t have worried: The official who gave the briefing made clear that there would be no new policies announced, at least not major ones and not initially.
Even the royal baby stole Obama’s thunder. News that the young prince had been named George Alexander Louis of Cambridge came during his prepared remarks.