Is the State of the Union Address finally over?
Just kidding. I know it finally ended a few days ago. But golly, was that sucker l-o-n-g. If I were to dissect every bit of deceptive rhetoric in it, this column would be even longer. That’s not going to happen. But there was one section that I found particularly outrageous.
Before I get to it, however, I want to mention the folks who were sitting behind our Dissembler in Chief. Every time the camera showed Obama, there was Vice President Joe Biden behind his right shoulder and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi behind his left. Those two got to spend the entire evening staring at the President’s back. What fun.
I have to say Joe was the absolutely ideal audience. Every single expression that crossed his face—his smiles, his frowns, his chuckles, his glee—seemed perfectly timed to match to the script Obama was following. It was almost as though the Veep was an audioanimatronic creation of the Disney imagineers. Joe, you were perfect!
I can’t say the same thing about Madame Speaker, though. For much of the President’s speech, Nancy Pelosi looked as though her mind was elsewhere… and she wished her body was, too. I had to wonder what thoughts were troubling her stern visage. Maybe she knows that her dreams of presiding over the socialization of America are over. Maybe she realizes her record and her reputation are heading straight for the dumpster. Whatever the reason, she looked nervous to me. Good.
Now, on to the speech itself. Anyone expecting a milder, more conciliatory approach from the president had to have been disappointed. There were very few mea culpas in his 70-minute address. Instead, his basic message seemed to be that anyone who doesn’t support his programs just doesn’t understand them. So he’s going to ‘splain it all again. It reminded me of Desi talking to Lucy, but without the Cuban accent.
The weekend before SOTU (that’s an abbreviation of State of the Union, in case you saw the acronym and wondered what it meant), Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s top advisers, appeared on Meet the Press. Asked if losing a super-majority in the Senate would change the president’s strategy, she replied, “He is going to fight for what he’s always been fighting for… We’re not hitting a reset button at all.”
Even more telling was the president’s decision to bring David Plouffe, his 2008 campaign manager, into the White House. Plouffe immediately said that he’d be working to pass healthcare reform legislation “without delay.” His message for his fellow Democrats? “[Let’s] prove that we have the guts to govern. Let’s fight like hell.”
Doesn’t sound very conciliatory, does it?
It’s got to be tough to be a conservative back-bencher at one of these performances. All of the president’s allies fill the first half of the House chamber. And by tradition, they’re supposed to cheer like crazy for every rhetorical flourish that comes out of his mouth, no matter how wrong or ridiculous it is.
But the group I really felt sorry for this time were the six members of the U.S. Supreme Court who were in attendance. There they were, dressed in those flowing black robes and seated front and center, directly below the president.
By tradition, the members of this august body are supposed to sit there looking straight ahead. They are not supposed to show any expression, no matter what the president says and no matter what the sycophants in the audience do. Under the best of circumstance, it’s got to be tough to sit there for an hour-plus without moving a facial muscle.
But these weren’t the best of circumstances, because right in the middle of his speech the president lambasted them. The justices had to have been absolutely stunned to hear the president say: “Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”
Even before he finished urging Congress to right this terrible wrong, hundreds of Democratic senators, congressmen and cabinet officers had jumped to their feet, cheering and applauding the president’s remarks.
Talk about being blind-sided. As law professor Randy Barnett observed in The Wall Street Journal, “the head of the executive branch ambushed six members of the judiciary, and called up the legislative branch to deride them publicly.”
But there was something worse than the president’s bad manners. It’s that his remarks weren’t true; the Supreme Court ruling had done no such thing. Yes, in a landmark case known as Citizens United, the Court had the previous week reversed a 1990 ban against political advertising by domestic corporations and labor unions. But it left standing a 100-year-old ban on foreign entities doing so.
Yes, Barack Obama—an honored graduate of Harvard Law and one-time professor of Constitutional Law—had his facts wrong. Apparently, among the several dozen people who vetted the State of the Union Address, not a single one bothered to check the facts of the matter. While that’s awfully hard to believe, it’s better than the alternative—that Obama knew what he would say was false, and he just didn’t care.
The television coverage of that part of his speech got played over and over again on national TV. In numerous broadcasts, the scene was darkened so only one face showed clearly—that of Justice Samuel Alito. As the camera slowly focused on him, he could be seen shaking his head from side to side and mouthing the phrase, “not true.”
But it could have been worse. He could have emulated Joe Wilson and shouted, “You lie!”
Oops, we’ve run out of room for this week. I’ll have to save the rest of my remarks about POTUS’ SOTU for next week. So be sure to be back here next Friday morning, when we discuss the president’s jobs-creating and deficit-fighting promises.
If you think we’ve seen some fairy-tale forecasting before, folks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Until then, keep some powder dry.