An article in The Finger Lakes Times following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address quotes DeWayne Lucas, associate professor of political science, “It was a good speech, sort of a necessary speech to show he’s still in the game. It showed he’s prioritizing the big problems, but it was not inspiring.”
According to the article, Lucas “applauded Obama’s call for monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican party leaders” and was surprised by Obama’s mention of ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies in the military.
“One of the things that did stand out was his comment to Republican senators that they’re also a part of governing,” Lucas is quoted. “He said that if you’re going to make us do everything with a filibuster-proof supermajority that you now have to step up and be a bigger part of the process.”
A member of the faculty since 2000, Lucas teaches courses on Introduction to American Politics, Elections and Voting, Political Parties in the United States, and The American Congress. He holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his M.A. and Ph.D. from State University at Binghamton.
The full article follows.
The Finger Lakes Times
Obama: Push forward: Some say State of Union speech lacked punch, specifics
Some applaud call for bipartisan leadership; others criticize the blame game
Sean McCracken • January 28, 2010
Perhaps not surprisingly, local reaction to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night appears mixed.
DeWayne Lucas, a political science professor at Geneva’s Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said the speech was exactly what you’d expect right now and not much more.
“It was a good speech, sort of a necessary speech to show he’s still in the game,” Lucas said. “It showed he’s prioritizing the big problems, but it was not inspiring.”
Lucas said the partisan politics commonplace in Washington, D.C., were exemplified by Obama giving Republicans opportunities for applause that they repeatedly refused. One of the speech’s defining moments was when Obama took Republican lawmakers to task for their current way of doing business, he said.
“One of the things that did stand out was his comment to Republican senators that they’re also a part of governing,” Lucas said. “He said that if you’re going to make us do everything with a filibuster-proof supermajority that you now have to step up and be a bigger part of the process.”
Lucas applauded Obama’s call for monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leaders, saying such sessions aren’t unheard of but are less common in the current political climate.
In a conference call earlier in the day, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped the president would “focus like a laser on jobs, the economy and helping the middle class.” And that seemed to be where the bulk of the speech went, Lucas said.
There weren’t many surprises, but at least one sentence caught Lucas off guard.
“I was sort of surprised about the fact that he talked about [ending] ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” Lucas said.
Wayne County Republican Chairman Dan Olson said he found the contents of Obama’s speech disconcerting and was particularly troubled by a shift in his demeanor at the end.
“I found the last minute and a half a little unsettling,” Olson said. “I thought I was listening to John McCain. That was kind of on the odd side.”
Olson said he thinks Obama made a fairly substantial political gaffe by pinning some of the problems his administration has faced on his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“There are seven places in my notes where he blames the previous administration. I don’t remember Ronald Reagan doing that in 1981 with Jimmy Carter,” Olson said. “That’s just not done. Lincoln never blamed James Buchanan for the Civil War.”
If things remain the way they are leading up to the midterm elections, Olson predicts trouble for congressional Democrats.
“I don’t think he did his guys any favors,” Olson said, referencing the fact that local Democratic congressmen face re-election campaigns this fall. “I think we’ve seen that one party rule clearly doesn’t work.”
David Soule, treasurer of the Yates County Democratic committee, was a bit less scathing in his review of the president’s speech. But he still wasn’t completely satisfied.
“One striking impression I had was he couldn’t have devoted more than two minutes to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Soule said. “I would’ve like to hear more about those, and that was about all there was with foreign policy.”
Still, Soule liked that the president was willing to take others who wield power in Washington to task, in part echoing Lucas’ sentiment about challenging Republicans on the responsibility of governance.
“One of the highlights for me was when he was staring down at the Supreme Court justices, because he wasn’t happy about their recent decision, and how he hopes to correct it through legislative action,” Soule said, referring to the court’s decision to strike down restrictions on corporate campaign donations.
Soule found some things Obama mentioned either surprising or unrealistic, including claims that the nation’s energy policy will include an increased focus on nuclear power.
“That won’t happen realistically. There aren’t going to be more nuclear power plants in this country,” Soule said. “That was a little strange.”
Soule’s biggest complaint was a lack of detail in Obama’s speech, a concern echoed by Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning, specifically when it comes to a proposed spending freeze.
“We need to cut spending across the board and a spending freeze may be one way to go about doing this, but I’d like to see the finer details of the president’s plan first,” Massa said in a press release. “The best way we can reduce our spending and return to fiscal responsibility is by ending our welfare payments to Afghanistan and its narco-government, which has already cost us billions of taxpayer dollars.”
Gov. David Paterson praised Obama’s call for fiscal responsibility.
“As 48 of the 50 states in the Union, including New York, face deep budget deficits, we must work together to continue the president’s calls to not only address skyrocketing budget deficits, but also to restore security and confidence in government,” Paterson said in a press release.
But Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio found Obama’s speech less worthy of praise, especially when it came to security matters.
“Tonight, President Obama called upon Americans to ‘do what it takes to defend our nation,'” Lazio said in a press release. “That statement is at odds with a fundamentally wrongheaded policy that treats terrorists not as the enemy combatants that they are, but as common criminals.”