Last evening was the State of the Union message. That speech that seems to command the attention of all major networks and cable news channels for three days prior and two days hence.
Article II, Sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution requires that, “The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
Prior to 1923, the address was delivered in written form and made public through newspapers. Woodrow Wilson was the first President to present the address to Congress in person. Calvin Coolidge was the first President to broadcast the address to the nation by radio. Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the phrase, “State of the Union” message and his successor, Harry Truman was the first President to deliver a televised message. The practice of the “response” by the opposition party of the President began in the term of Lyndon Johnson.
Several Presidents have actually made history with their State of the Union messages. James Monroe used it to establish the Monroe Doctrine, which barred further colonization of the Western Hemisphere by Europe. In 1862, Abraham Lincoln used this message to state his wish to end slavery. The Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from want and Freedom from fear, were introduced by Franklin Roosevelt in his message in 1941. And most recently, in 2002, George W. Bush outlined his plans for a “War on Terror” and stating unequivocally that nations that harbor and support terrorists and those nations that support them in that effort will constitute an “axis of evil” and specifically named Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
Which brings us to the 70 minute rambling remarks that was the first State of the Union message given by the current President. For a person with arguably the most remarkable oratory skills of any current politician and one who mesmerized a nation just two years ago into thinking that he could actually bring about the “hope and change” that he promised, this inital foray into the “State of the Union” exercise could at best be described as underwhelming.
For the past 8 months we have heard nothing but the need to pass health care reform. It was essential, it was a priority, and it had to be accomplished post haste. As the speech progressed, it was about two-thirds through the address when Health Care Reform was finally brought up; more or less in a manner more fitting of an afterthought than the all-encompassing, obsessive way that it has been presented in the months leading up to this speech.
It is so ironic that the one person in the United States responsible for taking the health care reform discussion off the table and diminishing its importance was not even in attendance last evening….because Scott Brown has yet to be sworn in as the duly elected Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Instead there was finger-pointing and a continuation of the innocuous blame game. BIOB: Blame it on Bush is the lexicon of this administration. Without even having his name mentioned, Mr. Obama’s immediate predecessor, it was learned, single-handedly ruined the American economy, caused 15 million Americans to lose their jobs, and accomplished little or nothing in fighting the War on Terror. Talk about revisionist history!
But Mr. Bush was not the only target of Mr. Obama’s ire. By a 5-4 decision last week, the Supreme Court has corrupted the American electoral system forever by allowing (ee-gads) corporations and all of their money to flow freely to finance ads in support or to oppose federal candidates…never mind that labor unions and special interest groups such as Planned Parenthood and Sierra Club were included. It was when the President stated that “foreign corporations’ money [would be] used to influence our elections” and Justice Alito mouthed “Not True” that provided the take away moment of the evening that will be repeated and provide fodder for commentary not seen since the “You Lie!” moment of Congressman Joe Wilson of last year.
And last but not least, it was the Republicans, that group that has a minority of members in the House of Representatives, and still hold a significant minority in the Senate that have been the stonewall to this President’s agenda. This group , the party of “No”, has had the audacity to hope that there would be no change. It is the Republicans who have blocked cap-and-trade energy legislation and prevented real health care reform from taking shape. Both accomplished with a minority in both houses of Congress…amazing!
When Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont decided in 2001 that he no longer could vote with the Republican caucus, he switched his party affiliation leaving President Bush a very slim GOP majority in the Senate. Even with that and because of bi-partisan support, President Bush was able to pass landmark education reform, “No Child Left Behind” with Ted Kennedy as a sponsor no less; a significant tax-cut package; and established a new department of government: Homeland Security in response to the terrorist attacks of 2001. He did not have the 60-vote margin that the current President has had for his first year, but yet was able to garner the support that he needed from Republicans and Democrats to get these important initiatives passed.
By now President Obama has recovered from his temper tantrum of last evening. He has had the ability to have it his way for a year now. It is now his economy..not the one he inherited. Cap-and-trade energy legislation has been defeated not because Republicans opposed it, although they do, but because responsible legislators from both sides of the aisle know that it will impose overreaching restrictions on industry and raise energy prices significantly for all Americans. The 2000+page Health Care Reform debacle could have easily been passed last fall, now appears to be dead in the water. Remember those promises of transparency and hearings on health care broadcast on C-SPAN for all to see? Who can forget the stimulus package that had to be passed so that unemployment would not rise above 8% and 4 million jobs for Americans would be created, but to date has failed to measure up to its promises, let alone the hype. Most importantly there are more Americans unemployed today that at any time since the Great Depression.
So instead of looking for scapegoats and wagging his finger, this President would be better served by taking a deep breath, swallowing some of that pride and then put a call into Bill Clinton to find out how he managed to triangulate a Republican victory in 1994 into a second term in 1996. But most importantly, Mr. Obama should start listening to the American people not preach to them. He needs to get government out-of-the-way of private enterprise to allow American business to retool, rebuild, and reestablish a base for job growth that is so desperately needed at this time. President Obama must understand that governing is about leadership, and that compromising with those who may not be on board 100% with his agenda is not always a bad thing and the best way to get something accomplished.
Next year’s State of the Union message may not afford President Obama the luxury of impertinence. Instead of an audience of the same or more of his party standing and cheering at every new initiative that is introduced while the current Speaker of the House is getting her cardio workout for the day with her jack in the box routine; he may well find that Speaker Boehner will lead the Republicans in polite applause because they will know that they will have the votes to pass their agenda, and cause this President to ride out the last two years of his one term Presidency most likely looking for more people to blame and looking over his shoulder as the candidates start to line up to challenge a sitting President in the Democratic primary fights of 2012.