The Executive Order Speech

January 20, 2015 10:58 p.m.

Much of it is embedded in the words of the speech itself, which you can see here. But like any speech and especially with this speech, the words on the page only captured part of the presentation. I said late in the speech that what stuck out to me most was how few of those lines and flourishes there were aimed at drawing bipartisan rounds of applause, or even more the ones aimed at pulling the opposition into the festivities. Republicans did seem particularly unreceptive. But there were plenty of passages on the order of “You thought X. We’ll X didn’t happen. Sorry.”

This passage about the Russian annexation of Crimea is a good case in point. The speech was jaunty, bumptious, with a certainly crackling of aggressiveness. But more than anything, with respect to the new Republican Congress, which is the big new show in town, the attitude was one of indifference.

This passage here, though early, remains the fulcrum of the speech.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.

Again, not so much aggression or combativeness as indifference. We were right. You were wrong. We’re not moving backwards; and I can stop whatever you try.

The feisty if not cocky tone was captured in this seemingly off-the-cuff line: when Republicans cheered that he “had no more campaigns to run”, he shot back “I know because I won both of them.”

As Sahil Kapur explains, based on conversations with White House aides, President Obama wanted to be a Ronald Reagan of the Center-Left in tonight’s speech, not so much focused on passing laws in the next two years (which isn’t happening regardless) as embedding a clear blueprint of progressive activism into the structure and rhetoric of American politics for years or decades to come. So he’ll make his arguments, cheer successes and vindicated predictions and promises, take aggressive executive actions to the limits of his authority. But more than anything else he’ll try to push the whole package, the logic of his administration and his policies as a touch point and reference for the future.

He was talking over and past the new GOP majorities on many, many levels.

Let us know your take in this new thread in The Hive (sub req).

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