First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

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A Tale of Two Speeches – Bonus Features

January 23rd, 2015 · 4 Comments

So a couple of things I would have liked to have added to my RGJ column about the contrast between Governor Sandoval’s State of the State and President Obama’s State of the Union addresses, but didn’t fit for space or flow reasons:


I didn’t actually watch either speech.  I’ve always preferred to listen to State of the Union addresses on the radio or read a transcript.  Even when I’ve live-blogged them in the past, I couldn’t really see the TV screen while I was writing.  In this case, I read both of them (here and here), and that’s where the contrast really, really shows up.

Numbers and thoughtful policy specifics tend to be boring for most people, which is why people who rely on rhetoric instead of substance try to avoid them.  A good delivery or a speaker you’re already predisposed to buy into can make complete nonsense sound profound.

 You can get by on this stuff and win elections.  But if you want to actually improve policy, you need to dig into the numbers and master the mundane.  Re-read those two speeches, and it’s clear that only one of the two men was even willing to consider doing that.  The other one is playing a ton of golf.


In reading the SotU, I rolled my eyes HARD at the Presidents paeans for civility, as they were prepared for delivery.  I’m all for the things he said, but in between joking about using the IRS to punish his enemies, overtly deciding on a campaign strategy of character assassination, or just not knowing how to treat people even within his own party who challenge him, it’s pretty hard to swallow.  (Seriously – watch that clip where he flips the bird with all the subtlety of Beavis and Butthead, and then listen to how smugly pleased he and his audience are with themselves.  If you don’t understand why that ought to embarrass every grown man and woman in this country, well, let me know how you feel about it after you graduate from junior high.)

So it wasn’t until a little later that I heard about his classless little “burn” that got people all atwitter.  But yes, I did and do realize that a bunch of classless losers in my party decided on an ill-timed cheer when he mentioned he wouldn’t be running again.  I’m embarrassed by them and for them.  But Obama’s response was so telling, and as the President of the United States instead of a back bench congressman, so much worse.  And when you’re the President of the United States, it’s time to retire, “He started it!” as an excuse.

If’ he was an adult, if he believed the empty words he’d just got done saying, he would have frowned in irritation, shook his head, and said, “Is there a better example of what I’m talking about?  I’ve done too much of that myself in this town.  No more – there’s too much to do.”  Eve I would have cheered that.  But that’s not his nature or his character, and so he taunted them instead.  He fanned flames when he had an opportunity to put them out, and resentments set just that much harder that day.  He “won” the exchange, I guess, but only if you see Mean Girls in the same way others of us see The Federalist Papers.

Can you even imagine Brian Sandoval acting like that?  Can you imagine what his prospects for getting anything he wanted out of the Legislature this year if he did?

I don’t agree with everything the Governor proposed.  But I’m damned glad to see an adult leading our state.


Kind of a funny accidental bonus – check out this post from 4 years ago, which I’d forgotten about, but which also contrasted these two men giving these two speeches.  The more things change…


Tags: Brian Sandoval · Obama · Partisanship