What did last week's State of the Union and Tuesday's "Lost" season premiere have in common?
If you guessed, "a drinking game," you'd certainly be correct, but if you also guessed, "more twists and turns than your small intestine" you'd be right on the mark.
Obama's address was not the stuff of Clinton-era small ball that we, and others, expected. That left Nancy Pelosi's exuberant clapping to be one of the most reliably predictable aspects of the evening (and happily, gave everyone playing at home a reason to drink).
Nail-biter: The pop culture blogosphere was abuzz in anticipation of the season 6 premiere of "Lost," but even the two-hour kick-off couldn't compete the with the political suspense of Obama's next move.
In fact, Obama came out swinging, re-emphasizing critical priorities - health care reform, financial reform, climate/energy, and competitiveness - while detailing his added focus for the coming year, which will in large part involve curbing the growing deficit, or at least symbolic efforts on that front.
The Administration dropped the President's 2011 budget this week, announcing the expected three-year spending freeze on, well, all the spending that doesn't actually contribute much to the deficit. With two wars and entitlement programs in need of reform, even a spending ice age wouldn't hack it if we neglect to address these two factors.
In reality, there's really only one three-pronged route out of the deficit trap: real entitlement reform, responsible disengagement from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the re-ignition of America's engines of economic growth.
Mr. Freeze: If Obama really wants to turn the deficit he probably shouldn't take his cues from Arnold.
But here's the catch: the third leg of that strategy is poised to run headlong into Obama's symbolic spending freeze. The President is the first to admit clean tech and American innovation are the country's most promising routes to economic growth but outcompeting China
and Asia's other rising clean tech tigers
won't come on the cheap.
Luckily, Obama's 2011 budget doesn't freeze investment in innovation
and funding for basic science, clean energy R&D, and energy education
are all upped in the 2011 request, raising some hope for a happy clean tech ending.
Of course, it'll take more than an incremental bump in DOE research budgets to win the clean energy race. Thanks to the deluge of stories on Red China's green dominance - including one by ITIF President Rob Atkinson
- there's no need for tea leaves and sorcery to understand what America needs if the President really has his eye on first prize. Jesse Jenkins may have said it best as he Skyped (yes, it's a verb) with Diane Sawyer (yes, she knows how to use Skype): "We need a national strategy for clean energy competitiveness."
If all the SOTU surprises weren't spicy enough, Obama left more jaws hanging last week by joining the GOP for a House luncheon that was more reminiscent of a school-yard game of dodgeball than a political gathering. If it were a game of dodgeball, however, Obama would have been the last guy standing who, with a surge of adrenaline, catches everything that's thrown at him, disqualifying all his opponents. Or as John Stewart aptly put it, "It was awesome
." (emphasis assumed)
See for yourself here
or see John Stewart's condensed version below.
Obama's willingness to publicly take on the barrage of Republican/Fox News talking points that stymied most legislative progress in 2009 proved to be a wild plot twist in a Democratic narrative that was starting to evoke panic.
But in case you were starting to feel a bit of catharsis and maybe just a flicker of confidence, the Obama administration began sending mixed signals about the future of climate and energy legislation in the Senate. With some news outlets reporting that Obama has lost all hope
in cap and trade, Greens cringed as eyes turned to the possibility of an energy-only bill.
If You Can Dodge A Republican...: Obama's publicly broadcasted attendance at the GOP House luncheon threw a wrench in the assumption that the Obama administration was panicking.
Then came the twist: Republican Senator and anointed savior of stalled climate legislation Lindsay Graham
quickly round-housed that idea, calling it "half-assed"
(a direct quote!) and promised to find a path to 60 votes
for a so-called comprehensive energy AND climate bill -- no matter how many ugly, ugly compromises he and Democratic ally Sen. John Kerry have to make along the way.
Meanwhile others reported that Obama had been misinterpreted
and he was actually
calling for Senate Dems to buck up and fight
for a cap and trade policy that is still no closer to 60 votes than it was yesterday, or ever?
Perhaps the cap and trade conundrum is an attempt at a cliff-hanger ending that'll make sure we stay tuned for the next
Rose Garden Speech.
The writers of "Lost" couldn't make this stuff up.