Thursday, January 30, 2014

SOTU afterthoughts

I didn't watch the State of the Union speech. Watching Barack Obama is too painful. So many had such hopes for him, for change. And so little has changed. Worse, I fear that when he's out of office, I'll remember him as the most sympathetic Democratic party president of my lifetime, for all the many-faceted disappointments of seeing a path-breaking figure get chewed up by his own instinct to placate and the inertia of empire.

Charles Blow encapsulated that sadness today:

The president who was fond of proclaiming that under his leadership, the country was beginning a “new chapter” on everything from diplomacy to climate change, is now just trying to get his paragraph right.

Peter Beinart, who has learned a thing or two himself, points out the terrible hollowness of the President's failure to own up to the crimes he inherited and is leaving behind.

In lauding America’s exits from Afghanistan and Iraq, he didn’t cite a single thing the United States has accomplished in either country. How could he have? Parts of central Iraq are today in the hands of jihadists, and the carnage there has never been worse. When the U.S. and its allies leave Afghanistan, one expert recently predicted, “the likely outcome is a civil war, much more fierce and widespread than the one fought during recent years.”

The harsh reality is that America did not leave Iraq, and is not leaving Afghanistan, because we accomplished our goals there. We are leaving because we decided our goals of defeating the Taliban and fostering Iraqi democracy weren’t important enough to justify spending billions of dollars and losing more American lives.

They never were. …

And don't get me started on Obama's dumb drone war, the NSA, and Guantanamo.

Then Obama proceeded to use a mutilated veteran as a prop and all the Congresscritters jumped to attention. James Fallows is on fire about this.

In preparation for the speech, a slew of progressive advocacy outfits did their job, sending out laundry lists of what they (we?) wanted the Prez to talk about. These filled our mailboxes, hoping we'd be convinced that somebody, somewhere, was sticking up for all that Washington seems unable to accomplish. There were so many examples of the genre that a friend and I started passing them back and forth, critiquing and noting which ones seemed most adept at including the most comprehensive agenda. We chuckled at the occasional awkwardness or incongruity with past positions.

But this activity is neither just funny, nor futile. As has always been the case, the Obama trajectory shows that what this country becomes can't be left to politicians. Progressive infrastructure at all levels matters, even when it can seem only weak and silly. We never quite know where some vital initiative is going to take off, so build we must.


Hattie said...

We have become a can't do country. Atlanta gets two inches of snow and everything stops. Just an example.

Rain Trueax said...

I didn't watch. We were on the road but not sure I would have anyway. His presidency will be evaluated better later. It's a tough game with one side determined to make the other fail and not caring about Americans other than as fodder.

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