Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mixed Grades for Obama's 2010 State of the Union

Well, Barack Obama, one of the most gifted orators of this or any generation, delivered a fine, rousing State Union address tonight from the standpoint of style.  He made his points with eloquence, passion, and good humor.   No boor in the audience shouted "you lie," though Associate Justice Alito shook his head and said to himself "not true" when Obama wrongly criticized the Supreme Court's decision to remove restrictions on corporate funding of political ads (Alito was right - the Court's decision was in accordance with the First Amendment).

As to the substance, I give the speech mixed ratings.

What I most liked:

1. Repeal at last of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy towards gays in the military.  It's long since time that Americans were treated equally, in all respects and rights, regardless of their sexual preferences (unless, of course, the preferences lead to crimes).

2.  Challenging both parties to enact some kind of meaningful health care reform.   The loss of the Democratic 60-super-majority in the Senate should not be allowed to freeze this important work.  As Obama astutely pointed out, the Democrats should not run for hills, and Republicans now have even more of a responsibility to step up and help make health care reform happen.

What I most disliked:

1.  Out of Iraq but full speed ahead in Afghanistan is a bad policy - planting the seeds for another Vietnam and Iraq.    With no declaration of war (as required by the Constitution), we have no legal business being there.   As a matter of practical result, it should be clear by now that these sorts of military engagements do not work.

2. Obama's chiding of the Supreme Court decision about corporate funding of political ads, movies, and the like communication was unfortunate.   As I indicated above, I see the Supreme Court's decision as a straight-up First Amendment victory - or, not allowing the government to get in the way of any speech and press.

***

I would say Obama's first year could be best described as actions not following through on the rhetoric.    Now, I find myself in agreement with only some of the rhetoric.   Will Obama will be able to thread the needle, and enact what needs to be enacted, and pull back from a dangerous military commitment and other unfortunate plans?   It won't be easy,  that's for sure.
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