There is no need to rehash the entire State of the Union address from last night (text here) to make important points about it. None of the individual instances of insane-clown nonsense needs any added context to reinforce its negative character.
And that’s basically the problem with this president. There is nothing moderate to touch base with. The dangerous thing is that we’re being conditioned to hear it over and over again, spoken by human lips, by a real live person, as if it’s not insane-clown nonsense.
Consider just these three points.
The foolish. Obama emphasized last night that he wants to focus on “middle-class economics.” I was live-tweeting the SOTU (So You Don’t Have To), and when I heard that expression immediately tweeted out the question “WTF is middle class economics?”
It was quickly apparent that what he calls middle-class economics is nothing more than the European-style cradle-to-grave welfare state. It’s about “helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement.” Obama’s examples in the speech were (1) making “quality childcare more available and more affordable”; (2) “helping states adopt paid-leave laws” for workers; and (3) increasing the federal minimum wage.
None of these measures actually helps the middle class. What all of them do – as all increases in government intervention and spending do – is increase the entry price of the middle class. These measures make the middle class less accessible; or – another way of looking at it – they define the middle class down, making it a class in which there is inescapable dependency on government programs.
Americans don’t see being “middle class” that way. The American idea of the middle class has always been that the people in it are the great majority of us who take care of ourselves. Government has a minimal but essential role in promoting middle class success by enforcing property rights and contracts, and managing police and other emergency services. Otherwise, government’s finest contribution is getting out of the way.
Obama isn’t talking about “middle class” as Americans understand it. His concept isn’t even tenuously connected to the American idea. It is completely untethered.
The false. One of the worst insane-clown moments last night was Obama’s segment on national security. It was full of carefully worded half-assertions that don’t reflect a meaningful reality. In a big-picture sense, it was all false. But it is characteristic of the Obama administration to say some things that may, in a limited sense, be technically valid, but that nevertheless misrepresent what matters.
Two examples. Obama said this about terror networks:
We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.
The claim that we have “dismantled terrorist networks” rings pretty hollow, less than two weeks after the attacks in Paris that mapped back to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has existed, undismantled and perpetrating terrorism, for more than a decade now.
If you asked someone from the Obama administration which terrorist networks we’ve dismantled, I for one wonder what the official would say. We have attacked terrorist networks, mainly by assassinating individual terrorists, and have hit them with some temporary setbacks. But Al Qaeda and the Taliban – the ones whose collaboration produced 9/11 – are still in robust operation.
The robustness of what Al Qaeda manages to bring off is on an upswing again, in fact. And – bonus! – we’ve got a jihadi-of-the-week club going in Syria and Libya now, and the eruption of ISIS along the Euphrates and Tigris corridors in Mesopotamia. ISIS is spreading across the Eastern hemisphere like an airborne superbug. The real truth is that we’re headed the wrong direction, and going fast.
Obama also made this point:
Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.
It’s actually clearer in this case that we have done no such thing. Iran’s nuclear program hasn’t been halted at all; it has moved forward. Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material has increased in absolute terms; the only thing that has changed about it is that the higher-enriched uranium (that the IAEA is aware of) has been down-blended to a lower-enrichment state. That measure can be reversed quickly.
Adam Kredo had a nice tweet on that last night.
Obama is about to lie to the nation about halting Iran’s nuke program. This chart shows you how. pic.twitter.com/pMAhclJeSV
— Adam Kredo (@Kredo0) January 21, 2015
The arrogant. For a president who was going to make us BFFs with the world, Obama sure has fallen into some anti-collegial patterns. One of them is saying insulting things he thinks Americans want to hear about other nations, as if those other nations don’t have satellite communications or even newspapers, and aren’t ever going to hear them. (Or, who knows, as if it doesn’t matter if they do.)
His remarks about Russia were a gem of blinkered arrogance:
Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.
This is so juvenile, it’s hard to find a way to critique it seriously. Callow ridicule and cheap triumphalism are a way to talk about Russia? It reminds me forcibly of boys getting together and pretending to fight wars, calling taunts to each other before the “battle” starts.
The most important feature of this passage is that it comes off as making America’s purposes about destroying Russia’s economy. The wrongness of that can’t be overstated. Nor can the egotistical peevishness of the snipe about Putin’s “masterful display of strategy and strength.”
It’s a window into the void of this administration, to see that no one in it prevented that awful passage from being included in the speech. Where is the compunction, the sense of proportion, the firewall of maturity against sophomoric snark?
The bottom line is that they aren’t there. With this president, “normal” is being defined down by the day, if not by the hour.
We have to guard our hearts and minds with all diligence against intellectual corruption by this barrage of evil communication. That’s what it is, and to not acknowledge that is no longer the posture of the skeptic, it’s the posture of the fool. We can each reflect within ourselves on why and how it’s happening. But we need to be clear in our minds what it is, and not be transformed by it. Reality can’t be changed by lying about it. Truth will have its day again, and our minds have to be ready.