It looks like almost every major detail of Barack Obama's State of the Union speech has been leaked to the press, and boys, we are in for a treat: this is Obama's "Dick Morris Moment," almost a year earlier than Clinton's was. (Bill had the decency to wait until he actually lost his congressional majorities.)
Once it became apparent that Bill Clinton's first term had gone off the rails, he was famously advised to focus on small, unimportant initiatives, to prove that he was... who knows, it was Dick Morris' terrible idea and it was stupid. It was! Are school uniforms and V-Chips really why Clinton was reelected in a landslide and left office beloved despite the best efforts of Republicans to destroy him, or was it the fact that everyone had a job?
So what can we look forward to tomorrow? Let's examine the major minor tenets of the New Obamaism!
A Middle Class Bailout!
What: Tax credits, tax credits, tax credits! Also funding for child and elderly care and some minor help for young folks with student loan debt. This is going to be a biggie: look for Middle Class heroes sitting next to Michelle Obama in the gallery!
Why: This, presumably, was Obama's answer to the "where's my bailout?" signs.
Who Benefits: Parents who make less than six figures, but more than zero figures.
Who Will Hate It: This is pretty much the most inoffensive series of legislative proposals ever. Though some people think the tax credit should be refundable, and they have some reason for this that involves helping poor people.
The Volcker Rule!
What: Who even knows how this will be described. Basically it is supposed to stop banks from being too big to fail, and prevent them from proprietary trading. Giant Paul Volcker will hopefully be a special guest!
Why: This is the big "taking on the banks" initiative.
Who Benefits: If it's enforced properly, America benefits! Otherwise, Goldman, as usual.
Who Will Hate It: Wall Street, Republicans, and 90% of elected Democrats, especially those on the Finance Committees.
Something About Bioterror???
What: The AP says Obama will announce a brand new system for responding to bioterror attacks.
Why? Because every SOTU needs something about how we are Winning the War on Terror, and a reminder that the president is Keeping Us Safe.
Who Benefits: I guess people who don't want to die of Anthrax?
Who Will Hate It: Probably the "FEMA trailer" "Obama concentration camp" death-cult loony types. In other words Michele Bachmann and a good dozen other elected Republicans. And Glenn Beck. It involves delivering antidotes via the post office! Antidotes to Capitalism.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
What: Bill Clinton campaigned on letting gay people serve in the military. Once he was in office, Congress promptly re-banned gay people even harder. So Bill came up with a wonderful compromise that has worked perfectly. Now Obama wants to ruin this beloved compromise! See, he also campaigned on letting openly gay people serve in the military. Now, though, no one has any idea what he is going to say about DADT, except that he will say something. (Or... he won't?)
Why: This is part of his "repeat everything Clinton did that has been called a 'mistake' because it involved actually trying to pass the platform that got him elected" plan, along with the health care.
Who Benefits: If he announces that he intends to lift the ban, then gay people who want to serve their country in various immoral and illegal wars of occupation benefit. (Ha ha, j/k gays who want to serve honorably and keep us safe.)
Who Will Hate It: Republicans who are scared that gays will gay up the military.
The Spending Freeze!!!!!
What: Obama's first budget actually included $11.5 billion in cuts to wasteful or unneeded programs—Congress accepted a fraction of his proposed cuts. So he is proposing a bunch of random cuts again, this year. It is not really all that different from the last budget, except that the White House is making a big deal about calling it a "spending freeze," which they are doing to please panicky centrists. Of course it has the added benefit of enraging liberals, which really does seem to be the one thing that gets Rahm Emanuel out of bed in the mornings.
Why: The one lesson Barack Obama has learned in his first year in office is that Americans are not grownups. You cannot speak to them like grownups. A grownup would explain to the American people that it will take years to get back on a fiscally responsible track and that the government should continue deficit spending until such time as America has recovered from its current economic crisis. And, furthermore, a grownup would point out that a populace that demands reliable government services during a downturn while also complaining about government spending is a populace that is easy to pander to but hard to please. (But it is not entirely their fault, as Americans are, on the whole, economically and civically illiterate. Because they have more—and less—important things to worry about! And so they are generally pandered to and often lied to by every politician and media outlet.) Candidate Barack Obama would've tried to explain those things! President Obama is just going to shout "spending freeze," so that the people claim to speak for the 10% of Americans who are "political independents" will announce that Obama is "moving to the center," which is what the beltway press demands of any incoming Democratic president, shortly after they give him a little bit of time to prove that America Still Hates Liberals. So, whatever, Krugman's rage aside, this is mostly depressing not because it is bad policy, but because it is Giving In. Obama is pandering. It just remains to be seen if his pandering will be as substantively damaging as Clinton's or if it'll remain primarily cosmetic.
Who Benefits: People who still pretend Clinton's "Dick Morris" moment was a Good Idea.
Who Will Hate It? Oddly, Dick Morris.
Health care will probably come up, but who knows what the hell he will say! Also, Afghanistan. And perhaps our beloved Underpands Bomber? The fun is always in the details. We're guessing, this year, all the Republicans will shout "you lie!"