Obama and the Gipper

After last nights speech, some pundits were comparing Obama’s speech to Reagan’s “Morning in America”.  I didn’t see it, other than the similarity that both were trying to get the country out of deep recession.  Obama, to be sure, was more optimistic in this speech than any other he has given as President.  Frankly, I think it is his best speech in over 6 months, and certainly superior to his inaugural address.

What is funnier, though, is how different liberal commentators project the comparison between Reagan and Obama.

For Howard Fineman of Newsweek, it was a negative.  Why?  Because he simply thinks that Obama’s entire belief in being able to cut the deficit is a fallacy.  So he thinks Obama is falling into Reagan’s trap; that is, that you can plan as you like, but reality often sets in when discussing the deficit, and it is much harder to reduce than people think.

The fact is, our indebtedness is reaching levels unseen since World War II, but unlike then, we are not the sole manufacturing and marketing power in the free world. We have competition.  We are the world’s “reserve” trading currency, the rise of the euro and the yen notwithstanding. The experts that I talk to say the basic problem is not that there are too many dollars in the world, but that no one in the private sector is willing to invest them – so Washington has to print more and spend them on its own.  Can that process continue indefinitely? I don’t think so.

For Fineman, that is almost scathing, considering how in love with our new President he is.

Alan Silverleib of CNN was almost ecstatic that Obama is being compared to Reagan.

Delivered against a backdrop of dismal economic news and with polls showing overwhelming majorities of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track, Obama’s first speech to Congress amounted to a political tour de force. He proposed what many claim is a complete overhaul of the country’s economic foundation while ripping his conservative predecessors for transferring “wealth to the wealthy” and gutting regulations “for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.”

And he did it while employing some of Reagan’s favorite rhetorical tools. Obama stuck to a fairly short list of priorities while invoking traditional American values of responsibility, hard work and thrift to pound home a back-to-basics message.

I still think Obama has a ways to go before being compared to Reagan in any way.  Reagan was a persistent optimist.  Whether in public or private, he exuded the belief that America’s best days were ahead of us.  With Obama, the first time I can remember him saying anything of the sort was last night.  He has been almost depressive in his speaking ever since the inauguration.  I don’t think his somber tone is wrong, it is just different.  And even last night, I would not call Obama exuberantly optimistic.  So, yes, there are similarities, but those are far outweighed by the differences.