On my patented measurement system of “feels like” elapsed time, I judge that Obama’s State of the Union speech clocked in at a Castroite three hours. Obama looked great, but the rhythm of his speech tapped out a steady drone. If things don’t work out in politics, he can always go to work for GQ.
Some karmic balance must have placed him at the center of a picture in which he was flanked for the duration by Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. My mind wandered throughout Obama’s speech to a mental tabulation of the cosmetic procedures they have each endured to render them into the waxworks’ status of their present appearances. It looked like Obama was speaking at the Washington branch of Madame Tussauds.
When he opened his speech with his reference to the Union setback at Bull Run, the ordeal of Omaha Beach, the stock market collapse on Black Tuesday and the beating of civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday, I was hopeful that he might make something of it. But whoever is writing this stuff for him must not be thinking about it too hard if he deduces the lesson that “we chose to move forward as one nation, one people” from it.
The Confederacy knew Bull Run as Manassas, and we “moved forward” as enemies from it into several years of slaughter and butchery by comparison with which Bull Run was a walk in the park. Obama’s history is for dummies who haven’t had U.S. History for Dummies. Perhaps we should be content that he did not cite himself as the culmination of this history, at least last night.
While hailing the trials of American history through which Americans remained “one people,” Obama’s motif is the identification of American villains against whom he vows, over and over again, to fight. Among last night’s villains were “the bankers” and the Supreme Court. Hey, even if Obama has come to save us from a rerun of the Great Deparession, the song remains the same.
Obama didn’t stigmatize his political opponents as “economic royalists” or the Court as Nine Old Men, but the bankers and the Court were Roosevelt’s characteristic foils. The falsity of the aspersions he cast on the Court showed him to be peddling “dem[a]goguery of the worst kind.” He depends on and exploits the ignorance of his intended audience. He thinks we are dummies. His attack on the Supreme Court provides an emblematic moment of the low esteem in which he holds his audience and the minimal value he places on the truth of his assertions.
Obama stuck to his guns when it came to the signature items of his first year in office, and stuck to his butter when it came to national security. Without directly addressing his elimination of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, his promise to close Guantanamo, his responsibility for bringing KSM to trial in federal court in New York and the Christmas day bomber to trial in Detroit, he chastised those who would dare criticize his handling of terrorism, declaring that “all of us love this country” and warning his Republican critics to “put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough.”
It is not a schoolyard taunt, however, to say he’s gonna get us killed. And when he threatens (or promises) “growing consequences” to Iran, he makes it unnaturally difficult to stifle schoolyard taunts.
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