Speech inspiring, disconcerting

I watched most of the president's speech the other night in the newsroom (the part our cruddy satellite dish would let us watch anyway when it wasn't resetting transponders, whatever that means.)

I have to say, I was impressed. Somewhat.

Now before all my conservative friends start screaming at me and my liberal friends start saying "I told you so," let me tell you what I didn't like because I was also a little worried.

First, I'm not so sure we're going to spend our way out of the recession. I think spending money we didn't have is what got us here in the first place. The release of the federal budget on Thursday did nothing to assuage my fears about that.

Second, planning to reduce the deficit by half - but not until you first triple or quadruple it - doesn't seem like much of a plan.

Third, while breaking our dependence on foreign oil should be one of our nation's top goals, that "carbon cap" stuff sounded suspiciously like a way to add yet another tax to a burden that doesn't need increasing.

Fourth, boosting strength in Afghanistan while making plans to fold the tent in Iraq doesn't quite make sense to me. True, everyone is weary of the Iraq war, but if we pull up stakes and that nut Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invades and conquers Iraq six weeks later, we'll be in an even bigger mess.

So, I wasn't completely impressed by all of the ideas. A few did make sense though.

The president was absolutely right when he said the banks have to be held accountable for what they spend the bailout money on. As it is, they don't have to tell anyone anything, and many have outright refused to let anyone know where the tax dollars went. Obama's plan to make sure bank CEOs aren't spending the money on jets, retreats and fancy furniture is something I can stand behind.

There's also absolutely no reason why our health care system should be the costly, convoluted, patient-last mess that it is now. Finding a way to make it more patient-friendly and affordable is an absolute necessity. How you do that, I'm not sure. But getting everyone involved in the same room, as Obama plans to do, is the right first step.

Third, Obama told the members of Congress that their first duty is to their country and that the best thing they can do is put aside the partisan bickering that Americans are so weary of and instead focus on getting things done. Do I think they'll listen? Nope. But at least their boss stood up there and said it in plain English because it needed saying.

I also heard some hints of pushing Americans to manufacture and buy stuff here at home again instead of buying everything from or outsourcing everything to overseas companies and workers. And making us an educated, competitive country again is another idea that's been ignored for too long.

And so that brings me to what I liked the most - the attitude.

Two of the hallmarks of a good leader are shooting straight and knowing when to give a pep talk. The people of this country have had enough smoke blown up their collective you-know-whats to last 100 lifetimes. And while many would like to think it's all Wall Street's fault, the truth is most of us share some of the blame. We needed the mild scolding we got Tuesday about recklessness and responsibility.

But we also needed to see some light. We needed to be told that somehow, someday, it'll turn around and get better. We know how bad it is. We needed to be reminded of how good it can be again, and that's what the president tried to do Tuesday night.

Now if we can just figure out a way to pay for his way of doing it.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.