The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SOTU: "Turning the Page"

One of the amusing things about Barack Obama is just how predictable he is. In my comment on the upcoming State of the Union yesterday, it wasn't hard to provide a preview of his well-delivered speech. In fact, I pretty much nailed it.

As an orator, Barack Obama is unmatched. As a leader, a strategist, a president—he seems to live in a fantasy world in which everything he touches turns out well. In Obama's fantasy world—failure is success, liabilities are assets, everything is "free" to everyone who needs or wants it, those who have succeeded should feel guilt and carry even more of the burden of big government, "smart power" has succeeded in damping the surge of radical Islam, and there is no foreign threat that can't be mitigated through negotiation and understanding.

John Podhoretz comments:
The president is right to remind us of the unique good fortune Americans enjoy in the world, and you can’t blame him for trying to get the public to give him some of the credit for it.

But as for “turning the page” away from a time of “austerity” into a glorious left-liberal future filled with free college and child care and tax increases and the like, it seems like the book he’s reading can only be found in the section Amazon dedicates to fantasy fiction for tweens.

Politically, the page that turned in November 2014 was the page in which Democrats held majorities in legislatures. The page didn’t just turn — it was torn out of the book, crumpled up and tossed in the garbage bin.

The GOP took control of the Senate with a nine-seat gain, an outright slaughter. Republicans increased their margin in the House with the largest majority the party has held in more than 80 years. Of the 99 state legislatures, Republicans are now in charge of 68.

It’s interesting, to put it mildly, that the president should so resolutely ignore these results.

Interesting because, in the most substantive speech he’s given in a long time, he has committed his presidency toward policies that have no hope of a serious hearing from the legislatures whose job it is to turn policies into law.

And as for “turning the page,” what about American involvement in Iraq?

The centerpiece of his State of the Union last year was extensive back-patting about pulling all our forces out of Iraq.

And last night? He called on Congress to give him a new authorization for the war against the Islamic State — a war that is being fought in . . . Iraq.

As he put it: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership  —  including our military power  —  is stopping ISIL’s advance.”

In order to preserve his back-patting, he followed that up with: “Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.”

That’s a transparent absurdity; there are thousands of Americans on the ground in Iraq right now. So the page turned, and then it turned right back.
In fact, most of the claims this president made in his speech were tenuous at best and "transparent absurdities" in the main.

Toward the end of the speech, in an attempt to appear statesmanlike, Barack Obama told the audience that he has no more campaigns to run, implying that his motives were pure. Derisive applause emanated from the GOP side of the chamber, and Obama, always combative, showed us his true statesmanlike qualities when he responded "I won them both."

That's true. Barack Obama did win both of his presidential campaigns. Sadly, it's the country that lost.

The inimitable Richard Fernandez comments on the speech from a foreign policy front:
The Greeks had a word for it: hubris. Just as president Obama claimed in his state of the union that “the shadow of crisis has passed” and proclaimed that American firepower had stopped the advance of “militants” in the Middle East, the Washington Post is reporting a possible coup in Yemen. “Shiite insurgents from the rebel Houthi faction stormed Yemen’s presidential palace and attacked the residence of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa on Tuesday.”

The Wall Street Journal says the development is “sparking fresh concerns about a country that has become a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.” CNN reported that it threw “a wrench into Obama’s terror message.”
Fernandez goes on the write:
There is something faintly ridiculous, not to mention tragic, about a leader who vaunts his success over the fates even as the platform gives way underfoot. He must be thinking, as the Iranian proxies cavort in the presidential palace of his ally, the words of David Beatty at Jutland as he watched his battlecruisers blow up one after the other, “Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.”
The Greeks believed there was something about Hubris that inevitably attracted the arrival of Nemesis, “the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods)”. It is like those scenes in Hollywood movies where the protagonist turns his back on the jungle and assures everyone that the dinosaur is finally dead, only for the beast to charge out that very moment from the foliage.
Don’t turn your back to the monster in the movies. And never proclaim it is dead in the SOTU — not unless you want it to spring back to life. Of course there are those who would dismiss such embarassments as “bad luck”. But as Glenn Reynolds recently observed “bad luck” is often just the name we give to the consequences of our stupidity and arrogance.
The monster in the jungle lies just behind the tree line. Barack Obama and his ideological supporters refuse to see it or even acknowledge that it exists. More on that in tomorrow's post.

UPDATE (1/22/15):
The Associated Press, certainly not a news organization that has been unkind to Barack Obama over the years, has published a fact check of his SOTU speech. To their credit, they find its veracity to be ... well ... read the whole thing.