This State of the Union address was the last time anybody will be listening to this century's most gifted political speaker. Next year all of the Democrats will be fawning around Hillary (or whoever) and all of the Republicans will be looking for talking points for their presidential debates. President Obama's ideology is too far left for the majority of the country, his executive skills and interest are deplorable, and he has made few allies among domestic or foreign leaders ... but he has been masterful in convincing people of good will that his intentions are right and his promises are achievable. So, what did he choose for themes in his last real time on the stage?
1. Washington needs to work together and get beyond petty politics to solving real problems. "Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?"
Never mind the fact that the essence of the speech was laying down markers that he knew had no chance of getting through an energized Republican Congress which is focused on job creation - a $320 billion tax increase; free community college educations for all; guaranteed paid sick leave; enhanced child care subsidies; an increased minimum wage. At the same time, he threatened to veto any changes to Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial measures, his immigration amnesty, the Keystone XL pipeline, or sanctions on Iran.
So much for cooperation. The hypocricy is evident to anybody outside of the lunatic Left fringe. Hopefully the Republicans will send him bill after bill which have the support of the majority of voters and let him show where gridlock begins. And let the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 explain whether their president or the public is wrong.
2. The recession is over. "The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong. At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.
It would apparently have been against the grain to mimic the recent Democratic theme of income inequality - that while the rich are getting richer, average after tax family incomes are down about 6% during the "Obama recovery". Certainly it would have been poor form to note that the real unemployment rate - including those who have dropped out or are working part time - is twice the publicized 6.2% rate, which is itself above the long term average. Leave it to others to explain why he will veto legislation to restore the definition of the "work week" to 40 hours from its artificial and disruptive 30 hours for purposes of Obamacare mandates.
3. America is providing effective global security leadership. "I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference."
Perhaps the President is not aware that ISIS continues to gain strength in Syria in the face of our muddled policies, that the pro-West government of Yemen is on the ropes, that Russia and Iran are formalizing an alliance against our interests, that Putin is starting to make noise about protecting ethnic Russians in Estonia, and that Boko Haram is killing thousands in west Africa. There was, of course, no mention of radical Islamic terrorists.
In fairness, there were a few pearls:
- A request for legislative authority to use force against ISIS - late, but constitutionally appropriate;
- A push for cybersecurity legislation - a subject where security hawks, business interests, and civil libertarians need to thread the needle. He's got the concept, but won't offer specific language.
All-in-all, President Obama chose to make his last significant speech an expression of his ideology with no reflection of the thumping that his party took in November, no realism about a world without American leadership, and little apparent understanding of what can be done to help the middle class.
This week's video is a Fox News panel discussion about the implications of the State of the Union speech for Hillary Clinton. The page has been turned.
bill bowen - 1/23/15