Ben Stein's Diary

What’s to Like?

Precious little, it turns out, in a decidedly uncool SOTU.

By 2.13.13

Tuesday
I try very hard to like Barack Obama. And sometimes he helps me out. For example, at the beginning of his State of the Union address yesterday, he made what seemed to me to be some sense about the budget. And he offered excellent free advice to the GOP. Why, he asked, should we hamstring all of our other attempts to work on the budget crisis because some of the GOP are trying to protect the tax breaks of the very richest among us? Why is the GOP going to the mat to defend the richest people in the country -- and he might have added, “Most of whom are liberals in New York and L.A. and the Silicon Valley, who don’t vote Republican anyway?”

That made sense, at least to me.

But he soon wandered off the reservation of rationality and into two adjoining realms: the commonplace perpetual fantasies of liberals and his own special fantasyland.

Let’s start with the worst part of the speech: the part about what the liberals used to call global warming and now, since they can’t back up that “global” part, call “climate change.”

Mr. Obama asked the audience, in essence, “Are you so stupid that you think it’s just coincidence that this country had some unusually hot years recently, and also had a big storm called Sandy, and also had some big brush fires? Or do you agree with me that it’s the result of a conspiracy by American industry? And don’t you think I should bypass Congress to assault the problem from the White House?”

Well, as a matter of fact, “NO.”

First, as to the science: for him to pick a few data points -- temperatures in the U.S., a drought, and a big storm -- out of literally trillions of data points of weather all around the globe for all of the earth’s history, and ask us to disregard everything but those three data points, is silly.

Yes, the USA has been warmer than usual lately, but many parts of the earth were cooler than usual. Yes, there were some big brush fires lately, but this is largely because of U.S. government policies that prevent thinning of forests by cutting down dead, tinder dry trees. Mr. Obama apparently thinks those fires were caused by uniquely severe droughts. But there is no evidence of that at all. We have had far drier years in many regions of this country over the past century long ago than we have had in recent years.

And yes, the big storm, Sandy, was a terrible storm and innocent people suffered terribly. But we have had far worse hurricanes, even in the northeast, within the past hundred years. A big storm in one small region of the globe is not an unusual event, even if that region is where Mr Obama’s most fervent media and finance supporters live.

The unusual event is Mr. Obama taking these data points and ignoring the other data, especially what effect on climate the immense dumping of pollutants into the air by China, India, Brazil, and Russia might have. Whatever changes we make in the USA will be nothing in the global balance of pollution compared with what China alone is forcing into our atmosphere. If we are absolutely certain that industrial and transportation effluence should be curbed (and I think it should, mostly for pulmonary reasons), we are just whistling past the graveyard unless we get the BRIC countries on track.

But what’s far worse in Mr. Obama’s contempt for the Constitution. If Congress does not want to act on a problem, the Constitution does not say that the legislative power defaults to the Executive. Congress would then have spoken and Mr. Obama cannot simply override it and the law. Mr. Obama apparently thinks he has legislative power. He doesn’t.

Was Mr Obama really a professor of Constitutional Law or was that just some fantasy gift title from Harvard Law School?

Mr. Obama is also living in a dream world about al Qaeda. What on earth is he smoking to believe that al Qaeda as we knew it is shattered? They are still powerful in Pakistan, will soon be in the saddle again in Afghanistan, are big players in Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and immense players in Mali. They are in Indonesia. They were in a few caves in Afghanistan when they created the worst civilian mass murder in U.S. history. Now they’re all over the world and show no signs at all of going away? What is Mr Obama talking about?

Likewise, why is he bragging about the U.S. leaving Afghanistan? Yes, our involvement in that war will be over, I guess. But we certainly will not be leaving with anything like a victory. It certainly is not solely Mr. Obama’s fault that his predecessor used up too much effort in Iraq and allowed the Taliban to regroup and grow strong again in Afghanistan. But we are not leaving Afghanistan in good shape at all, and the massacre of the Afghans who believed in us will be fearful after we leave, I fear. (I hope and pray I am wrong.)

What is Mr. Obama talking about when he says he is going to keep the U.S. military as strong as ever when he is in the process of deep defense cuts? I don’t blame him for those cuts: the GOP forced this in many ways. But why would Mr Obama brag about a super defense as he cuts defense?

Then there are his clichés: he’s going to train all of our high school graduates so they are just as good at tech jobs as the Germans. Hmmm. Drive by an inner city high school some day at the close of the school day and have a look at the students and get back to me on that one. Tell me how much they look like tech wizards.

Then, there are his promises to use wind power to drive the U.S. economy. Yes, it would be nice. I wrote about it and tidal power and hot springs for Mr. Nixon when Mr. Obama was a grade school student. It has been just a pipe dream. (Solar actually is working.) Ditto his promises to enlarge Head Start to make our kids better students. It’s been documented repeatedly that Head Start has made only negligible progress in helping inner city kids to achieve. This has been going on since the mid 1960s, and Mr. Obama still seems to believe that it’s going to suddenly start working. Dream world.

But the most disturbing part of the speech was about guns. First, it’s repulsive that Mr. and Mrs. Obama have just now discovered that inner city, largely black gangs are responsible for a huge amount of gun deaths. The crisis has been going on for decades and it’s horrible in their native city, Chicago. It’s been horrible there forever. And Mr. and Mrs. Obama just noticed it in 2013 and want some praise for that? Where have they been all these years?

But the whole subject of guns and death is being lied about by Mr. Obama and his pals. Two thirds of U.S. gun deaths are from suicide. (Why don’t they work on that one? Suicide is highly preventable by a belief in God.) Of the one third that’s left, less than eight percent is from any form of long gun: semi-automatic, rifle, shotgun. If there is an epidemic of gun violence at schools -- and there is and it’s terrible -- why do we punish the hunter in Montana or the gun collector in Idaho who have never done anything even slightly illegal with their guns? Why are we even thinking of punishing people who have done absolutely nothing wrong for the crimes of people thousands of miles away?

And in that same vein, if there are, say, a hundred or two hundred gun deaths a year from semi-automatic weapons, that’s too many. Any is too many. But the real slaughter of the innocent in this country is from abortion -- not from guns, not in America. Add it up: a few hundred from semi-automatic rifles -- roughly a million from abortion. What are we talking about here? Why all the cheering about taking guns away from people and not a syllable about abortion?

And to jump back, why, if a gaggle of genuinely crazy people kill children in one region of America, would we take that out on sane people somewhere else?

I could go on forever. Job retraining? Rarely works. Making banks lend to people they don’t want to lend to? Didn’t that sort of thinking get us into trouble in the first place? Raising the minimum wage? Fine by me, but it hurts kids who need an after-school job. All standard liberal pabulum. Now, that I think about it, standard Presidential pabulum. I try to like Mr. Obama but he does not help me.

Oh, well, what does he care? He has the Beautiful People on his side. I have Julie Goodgirl. And I have to swim now. Enough thinking for one night.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.