At long last, we’ve had our final dose of Barack Obama’s hideously partisan, divisive, and dispiriting State of the Union addresses. Tuesday’s 59-minute harangue, fraudulently billed as shorter than his previous offerings and less focused on unfurling a laundry list of policy desires, was as much an exercise in petulance as an exit from the presidential stage; of course, Obama will still be in charge for another year, but his increasing irrelevance seems almost to be a relief to him.
But in this disjointed mess belched forth onto the airwaves, no less than 12 lowlights made your author thank his Creator for the blessing of this as the final State of the Union delivered by the 44th president.
In chronological order, here they were…
1. Hey Obama, Did Anything Interesting Happen Today?
The transcript of the speech came out before the president delivered it, and he never substantially diverted from it. And nowhere in that transcript was so much as a reference to an act of war committed on the United States by the Iranian Navy in intercepting a pair of U.S. Navy vessels and capturing 10 sailors. Obama owed the nation an update on that crisis and an explanation of what he planned to do to secure the release of those sailors; that’s what we pay a president for. Instead, he ignored the issue completely in an hour-long speech — a staggering dereliction of presidential duty given the opportunity given to him to address the American people. Consider this a prayer that the next president of the United States will, should a hostile nation undertake warlike acts against our servicemen on the very day of the speech, not ignore those acts during the State of the Union.
2. He Said He’d Go Easy on Traditional Policy Proposals, and Then Fired Off a Volley of Them.
It was almost humorous how Obama opened the speech, advertising that he wouldn’t go there, and then proceeded to babble about Uncle Sam teaching kids computer code, gun control, minimum wage, and a few other Democrat goodies. He then peppered the next 55 minutes with more demands, though admittedly he didn’t eat up the entire speech with them as he has done in his previous speeches.
Perhaps I’m guilty of selective memory, but I don’t recall the State of the Union being a platform for nothing else but the introduction of a legislative agenda. Not until this man took the office.
3. He Berated His Countrymen for Their Fear of Change, But Has Refused Any Notion of It for Himself.
In what was one of the more poorly-written parts of the speech, Obama extolled the virtues of technological change and how it’s reshaping the American economy, and then compared those decrying the country’s cultural and moral decline to the opponents of the civil rights movement. Which is standard fare for this president, but at the end of his term it’s worth asking — what change have you actually embraced? What have you offered us other than larger and more intrusive government?
The answer is nothing. All of his achievements constitute the imposition of stale, decades-old policy prescriptions from the academic Left. And it’s one reason he’s so painful to listen to.
4. He Actually Claimed the Economy Has Recovered From the Great Recession, and Bragged About Seven Years Of “Progress.”
Nobody actually believes what Obama said about the American economy, though he might be able to show some statistics which in some context might look a little better than how things feel. He had the audacity to boast that America is in the “middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history,” which is as empty a statement as can be made considering the awful labor participation rate persisting through his time in office.
And then he actually, with a straight face, boasted that “we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.”
You would have been excused for giving up and changing the channel. They’re paying me to keep watching. So I did.
5. “Anyone Claiming That America’s Economy Is in Decline Is Peddling Fiction.” Yes, He Actually Said That.
That’s a shot at Donald Trump, of course, but Obama then issued an immediate lengthy walkback to explain why this advancing economy produces declining median income and the worst labor participation rate in decades; blaming it on the technological advances that he’d just said were so terrific.
He then launched into demands for free Pre-K and community college for everybody, in order to fix the damage that his advancing economy is doing.
6. He Wants to Strengthen Social Security and Medicare. Obama Wants To Do This.
The guy who has all but broken Social Security by overseeing the rapid expansion of the rolls of people claiming Social Security Disability benefits and who has robbed Medicare to pay for Obamacare proceeded to talk about making them stronger by making “wage insurance” part of the Social Security menu of offerings.
Why even bother throwing this out there? It’s not going to be policy. He only looks weak and ineffectual mentioning it. Unless we hear about it from Hillary Clinton in the next few days, of course; then we’ll know that’s an election-year promise from the Democrats.
Oh — and he also wants to give out more tax cuts for low-income workers without kids. Because disincentivizing Americans to have kids will do wonders for making Social Security solvent, you know.
7. No, Obama, You Don’t Get to Say There Are Outdated Regulations That Need to Be Changed.
He actually said that, and a bunch of bored and irritated Republicans in the hall rose to their feet to give him Bronx cheers. But rather than follow that statement up with a short list of obvious examples that he proposed to remedy by lawful executive orders — in other words, offering a deliverable to go with his rhetoric — he then shifted gears to scold those Republicans by saying Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis.
You can’t get much more insincere than that. If he actually believed what he said about regulations, it would be damning of his own governance, so it was necessary to immediately change the subject.
8. Now He Wants to Cure Cancer.
Speaking of insincerity, Obama proceeded to declare that it’s time to ramp up medical research to beat cancer once and for all, as though he’d beat that dread disease by focusing on it in his last year in office.
And said he was putting the vice president in charge of getting it done.
No, Mr. President, you don’t come off as sincere about solving a problem when you say you’re laying it off on Joe Biden. In fact, there might not be a better signal for how empty a promise you’re making than attaching his name to it.
9. He Put Out More Crap About Global Warming, Then Claimed Wind and Solar Energy Work Better Than Coal
The proof of global warming, he said, comes from the fact that a bunch of people who are paid to support global warming theory support it. Oh, and so do the general public, though the general public time and again rank global warming as the least important issue extant in American politics.
And then he proceeded to brag about how America’s carbon emissions have fallen, which is wholly attributable to the natural gas revolution that began before he took office and which he has done absolutely nothing to further.
And now he says it’s time to bribe energy states not to develop oil and gas and coal anymore, because those are dirty and old. Because that’s policy he can make as a lame-duck president.
10. Our Enemies Are Not Getting Stronger and We’re Not Getting Weaker, He Says
It might have been a good idea to strike this part of the speech in the wake of the Farsi Island incident earlier in the day, but Obama plowed right through it, taking a dismissive tone to those expressing concern at the growing boldness of Russia, ISIS, Iran and China while the U.S. military is busy trying to lower standards to put women through the Ranger program and fill foxholes with the transgendered.
It was interesting that when Obama said this, the camera panned to a slew of sullen, unhappy faces. That would be the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of whom were hired by Obama and all of whom were distinctly unimpressed with his “What, Me Worry?” act on national security.
11. Then He Bragged About His Iran Policy.
Obama said the Iran deal reflected a “smart” approach, on the same day the Iranians staged a USS Pueblo incident in the Persian Gulf. There really isn’t a lot that needs to be said about the bizarre quality of this part of the speech; it needed to be cut in the final revision.
That was a lead-in to a defense of all his other awesome foreign policy ideas, like his opening to Cuba, his treatment of Syria and Ukraine, the victory over Ebola and a few others.
12. Obama Finished By Saying He Wants Our Politics To Be Less Divisive. Seriously.
He began the final part of his speech by recognizing that the Founders expected us to argue and that’s why they distributed powers among the states and the branches of government, neglecting the irony that he’s done more to disrespect the separation of powers than any of his recent predecessors. Then Obama decried the fact that in American politics too often people we disagree with are motivated by malice, which is the very essence of his core rhetoric and has been since the beginning of his career. Following that was a lament at the lack of compromise from a man who, rather than compromising with those he disagrees with, has simply gone around them to govern as a would-be dictator, until the federal courts stopped him cold.
He did at least allow he could have done a better job, but naturally his ownership of the responsibility would only be in part and of course not be specific to any particular issue.
It would have been too much to expect an honest assessment of his own performance. In fact, it’s too much to expect anything more than what this was — a mailed-in, halfhearted reprise of his previous political aggressions disguised as State of the Union speeches.
It’s likely this one had worse TV ratings than any of its predecessors. Hard to blame the American people; they’ve heard it all before, and it bores them. Obama is out of things to offer, and at this point we’d rather just have him play golf until it’s time to go back to Chicago.
And that day is coming, and soon. After all, he’s finally done with the awful State of the Union speeches.