Last night’s State of the Union address revealed that the state of this president is still delusional. He can’t level with the American people because he can’t or won’t recognize the reality that we face.
The best part of the speech wasn’t anything the president said. It was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting over his shoulder, signaling the change that Americans voted for. The president also got a lift from the “ordinary heroes” that he recognized at the end of the speech. But when it got to substance, the president seemed bored with his own words as he trotted out his pledge for more of the same.
For this president, the economy is great and we need to stay the course. The Democratic response by Senator Jim Webb offered a glimpse of the reality that the president doesn’t get – that this economy isn’t working for most Americans. No wonder less than a third of Americans think the president has any clue about the problems they face.
For this president, we have a strategy for moving forward in Iraq, and we’re garnering global support for our foreign policies. Maybe he’s back on the sauce – he certainly isn’t reading his briefing papers or listening to his own generals. The president called for bipartisanship, apparently not aware that Senators from both parties are already coming together – in bipartisan opposition to the president’s escalation of the war in Iraq. Again, Webb offered a dose of reality in his response, stating flatly that it was time to bring the president’s war to an end, and that if he couldn’t understand that, “we will be showing him the way.”
Even where it has dawned on the president that there is a problem to be addressed, his proposals are gestures, if not mockeries. The health care system is broken. The president’s reforms, by his own exaggerated numbers, might provide health insurance for maybe 3 million of the 47 million that now go without, while taking a whack at workers who have decent plans (read unions) and public hospitals (read Hillary Clinton’s New York which takes 40% of the hit).
Catastrophic climate change and our dependence on foreign oil are a clear and present threat to our security. The president recycles his ethanol enthusiasms (substituting “woodchips” for last year’s “switch grass” as a potential source). But his plans won’t even cover the projected increase in US oil demand for oil over the next decades. He still defaults on the imperative for a dramatic national drive for energy independence – like that called for by the Apollo Alliance, which can generate jobs even as it helps address global warming.
Our education system is not providing the basics – children with the nutrition and health care to be ready to learn, universal pre-school, smaller classes in the early grades, skilled teachers, affordable college and advanced training. The president offers only to continue the No Child Left Behind reforms that he has failed to fund.
Immigration reform is a vital necessity. The president calls for comprehensive reform, in the face of growing right-wing opposition. But he insists on a guest worker program, simply a subsidy for exploitative employers, insuring them a pool of second class workers.
The president’s speech was more striking for what it omitted than for what it contained. No mention of our unsustainable trade deficits, the loss of 17% of our manufacturing jobs, the growing indebtedness to foreign creditors, particularly the Chinese and Japanese central bankers. No talk of the worst corporate crime wave in modern history, with executives cooking the books and plundering their own companies. Not a word about the worst inequality since the Gilded Age, the rise of families in poverty. Obscenely, the president said not a word about the beleaguered survivors of Katrina, who having weathered Katrina’s winds, now must struggle to survive the administration’s broken promises.
Speaker Pelosi’s presence and Senator Webb’s response offered the only solace for Americans watching last night. This president remains in his bubble, divorced from a reality he can’t see, committed to a course at home and abroad that won’t work. But it matters less and less. Americans have already tuned him out, and the Congress no longer dances to his fancies. From now on, it is the new leadership in Congress that “will be showing him the way.”