After a great event on school choice with Juan Williams in Cleveland last night –www.schoolchoiceweek.com– I am headed for the airport and a return trip to California in time to broadcast the run-up to the president’s State of the Union speech. Former presidential speechwriter Clark Judge has an excellent set-up piece below, and I suspect a week from now we won’t be talking about the president’s speech at all because the initiative lies with the House GOP, which is why the second speech tonight, the one by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, in fact matters much more than the president’s traditional turn in the spotlight.
Democrats are already trying to demonize Ryan for his truthtelling and his urgent message that the fiscal ship is sinking. This New York Times’ profile has the outline of the attack, but such attacks don’t persuade and don’t matter as November showed. People understand the fiscal peril the country finds itself in, and if the president dances around the issue or ignores it, his deeply damaged credibility will erode even further. By contrast, Ryan has got lots of credibility, and his task is to deliver an adult speech, full of details and serious purpose, a setting-of-agenda-and-tone for the House GOP.
From the perspective of one who wants the country to come to grip with its major domestic problems, the set-up could not be better. The president’s poll numbers have been improving as my pal John Hinderaker notes, but this is largely because of his fine speech in Tucson and because he is staying out of the public’s view much more than last year when it seemed like he had decided to be on the tube very day for a large part of the day. Not being reminded of the mistake of ’08 makes voters feel better about the country generally.
But the debate over the size and scope of government is rejoined in earnest tonight, and by far the key speech is the one that represents the serious party with serious solutions, and that is Chairman Ryan’s.