My colleagues Matthew Yglesias and John Dickerson have published close reads of the president's Knox College speech, and of what it was missing. I was just as interested in the rote responses from Republican members of Congress, who agreed in advance to hashtag their opinions #SpeechesDontHire and spool out some disses.
Truth about Obama's economy is the avg unemployment duration has almost doubled since he took office. Now at 35.6 weeks. #SpeechesDontHire— Rep. Walter Jones (@RepWalterJones) July 24, 2013
When Obama first spoke to Knox College in 2005, the unemployment rate was 5%. #SpeechesDontHire— Roger Williams (@RogerWilliamsTX) July 24, 2013
That last one's particularly fun, because June 2005—Obama's Knox College commencement speech, the one that defined his opposition to the (dying) Bush Social Security reform plan, was a mere 30 months before Obama became president. It's also at least a little original, unlike these winners:
What do these members have in common? The president handily lost all of their post-gerrymander districts in 2012. They have no political reason to do anything but laugh at him, and glance behind them to make sure their constituents noticed. And at least some of the goal here is turning the president's "pivot to jobs"—he's done this 19 times!—into a punch line akin to "37 Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare." Speeches are generally pretty useless as opinion-drivers, and more than useless at convicing the opposition to come aboard on policy. But the knock on the "Obamacare repeal" votes is that they take up legislative time that could be used for practically anything else.