Ronald Reagan and Louis Armstrong appeared together in the popular movie Going Places in 1938. Though Reagan is one of the featured stars, no one remembers his role. Instead, we remember Armstrong as Gabriel the horse trainer, his alabaster grin and bulging eyes charming us as he capers gracefully, trumpet in tow. Jeepers Creepers, the horse in his care, is as wild as it is fast. Gabriel discovers that the way to calm the horse down is to sing to it—putting its name to music. In turning the skittish horse into a champion, Satchmo plays his trumpet and sings the words:
Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?
The same tune came to me upon reading President Obama’s latest speech, which was filled with self-congratulations on every front but one, that being the terrible peril of climate change. Never has there been a more smug and self-satisfied philippic than this one. It made me think:
Hocus Pocus, where’d ya get that focus?
Hocus Pocus, where’d ya get those “facts”?
This is how the president summed up the state of the world in his commencement address on June 14th at the University of California, Irvine:
And I’m here to tell you that you’re right to be optimistic…Consider this: Since the time most of you graduated from high school, fewer Americans are now at war. More have health insurance. More are graduating from college. Our businesses have added more than 9 million new jobs. The number of states where you’re free to marry who you love has more than doubled. (Pause for applause) And that’s just some of the progress that you’ve seen while you’ve been here at UC Irvine.
Actually, the number of states that allow people to marry others of their own choosing has not suddenly doubled—from 50 to 100 or more. The president was apparently referring only to same-sex marriages, which are only a small minority of total marriages. And what about those 9 million new jobs supposedly created under the president’s watch since the bottom of the recession? Make that a minus 6 million rather than a plus 9 million jobs—after adjusting for the fact that the U.S. working-age population increased by more than 15 million people since 2008. The proportion of working-age people who are not working is now at a thirty-six-year high.
So why is President Obama telling college students that they have every reason to be optimistic, when they have every reason to be pessimistic about their job prospects? Today one of out every two recent college graduates is either unemployed or under-employed—doing work that doesn’t require a college degree.
Should we be happy that there are fewer American soldiers in war zones today than four years ago? Of course we should, assuming it means the world has become a safer place. Unfortunately, it has only become more dangerous.
The ranks of dedicated terrorists around the world have grown by thousands. None of these hardened killers feels anything but hatred for the United States. According to a report from the State Department in May, deaths from terrorism worldwide increased by more than 60 percent last year; a total of 17,891 people killed by terrorists in 2013 compared to 11,098 in 2012. The continuing civil war in Syria and surging violence in Iraq will drive those numbers to still higher levels in 2014.
Iranian Shias are more dangerous than ever, exporting terror and Islamist revolution through Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. This aggression has impelled the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar to bankroll what has suddenly become (apart from Iran and the Taliban) the greatest terrorist threat in the world today. ISIS, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, an offshoot of al Qaeda, represents the Sunni side of fanatical Islamism. If ISIS gains a strong foothold in oil-rich Sunni Arab states, the monarchs and other powers-that-be know full well that their heads will be the first to roll. But what else can they do?
The overtures that the Obama administration continues to make to Iran have dismayed our traditional allies in the region and left them with little option but to lend their support to ISIS. As the old proverb has it, my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Worse yet, our government has abandoned any serious attempt to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear arsenal. Iran’s progress on this front is sure to set off a nuclear arms race within the Middle East.
But the possibility of an approaching nuclear winter does not figure in Obama’s speech. The only dark cloud in the sky above the planet Earth is “the growing threat of a rapidly changing climate.” The president tells the students that this indisputable change has been observable in the tiny speck of time (twenty-two years) most of them have spent on earth:
“We know what see with our own eyes. Out West, firefighters brave longer, harsher wildfire seasons; states have to budget for that. Farmers and families at the bottom worry about what it will mean for their water. In cities like Norfolk and Miami, streets now flood frequently at high tide. Shrinking icecaps have National Geographic making the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.”
I must include this link to an article that I wrote a few months ago describing Obama as “the most geographically illiterate president in American history.”
After highlighting the state’s water crisis as proof of global warming, Obama spent much of the next two days playing golf at water-guzzling desert golf courses in southern California.