Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Less Ambitious State of The Union

For the first time in several years, I was not glued to my TV screen for the annual State of the Union. There was not much anticipation surrounding this years speech.

This was definitely a speech from a President who is on his way out. Unfortunately a Republican Congress was at least partially successful in its mission to block or disrupt most of his major initiatives. At least for the time being, they have at least partially won the argument on healthcare reform.... in part because they have a much better PR game, and Progressives still cannot seem to sell their ideas to a public that, for the most part, already believes in core Progressive principles. This is astonishing to me.... but I predicted as much. The PR surrounding the Affordable Care Act has been a train wreck. Progressives could not sell a lifeline to a drowning man. The fact that Obama and Co outsourced one of their most important projects to a bunch of tech amateurs and didn't triple check the work also didn't help their cause.

In this speech, President Obama seemed to focus on remaining goals that were actually reachable.

Unlike previous State of the Union messages, there were no repeated demands in this speech for Immigration Reform. I think Obama & Co has accepted the reality that getting something done regarding comprehensive immigration reform is unlikely. A good PR campaign could help (the public has consistently expressed support for immigration reform), but the Democrats, being so bad at PR, are not even putting up much of a fight, even though it could help them in midterms, and in 2016. It's an illogical approach on their part.

Most of the speech was trite... much of the same blah rhetoric. I did hear a few positives.... or at least President Obama seemed to lean in a positive direction in a few areas, particularly in foreign policy. He expressed a willingness to stand up against Congress on at least some of his foreign policy moves. He expressed a desire not to allow Congress to interfere with negotiations on Iran. He also seemed to raise the bar, although slightly, on the future use of force, at least until the next pro-war American President takes office. For the first time, in about 15 years (since Bill Clinton's Kosovo adventure) an American President emphasized the need for the U.S. to "move away from a permanent war footing". First, he acknowledged that this was a problem, and secondly, he pointed out other means of asserting American influence besides using military force. However, there were several points where he ended up negating or contradicting those statements. The best example would be the obligatory declaration of support for Israel at all costs (even at the cost of America's best interests and security) obligatory declaration that all American Presidents must give because Israel has such a strong influence over money and politics within the U.S.

I guess it has not dawned on him that putting Israel ahead of the U.S. and blindly supporting and defending Israel, even to the detriment of this country, means that the U.S. will literally be on a war footing forever. So which is it? The U.S. can't have it both ways. Unfortunately with Israel, it's an either/or proposition.

In describing what America is all about, he went on to say we "free other nations from tyranny and fear. He was basically reiterating America's role as global cop. But I would argue, that's not our job. You cannot really hope to end the state of perpetual war, while at the same time, continue to push the role of the world's police force. So unfortunately, there was no groundbreaking shift from war in this speech at a time when we should have heard something more definitive. All I heard from the President on this front is that for the next couple of years, he was hoping to avoid any wars, and that we might.... just might... be able to avoid a big disastrous war with Iran. It was not the convincing message that I wanted to hear. There were no signs that the country was making a fundamental shift from outdated & nonsensical cold war, Truman Doctrine, or Bush Doctrine foreign policy. The U.S. is still headed in that wrong direction. Meanwhile, the U.S. will not be able to pay down its debt and will continue to fall behind in education, energy, education and tech.

I would have liked to hear more about student loan debt relief and reform, patches to healthcare reform, immigration, job creation, a national energy strategy that makes sense; and investment in urban communities in terms of eliminating blight, providing jobs and job training.

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