I didn’t watch the State of the Union address.
I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I have a good excuse. I was hard at work putting Wednesday’s paper together and, from what I read in several newspapers and from the text of President Barack Obama’s speech, I didn’t miss much.
The State of the Union address is a President’s opportunity to posture, to try to convince the American people that his policies and his vision are what are best for the country, all to the soundtrack of the half-hearted applause of a disillusioned and fractious Congress.
But, with that being said, some of the things the President proposed make sense. We need to simplify the tax code, we need to deal with immigration in a sensible way, we need to fund education wholeheartedly, we need to expand domestic energy production while funding research of cleaner sources of energy and legislators need to legislate rather than hold dozens of votes to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act. The American people get it — Republicans in the House don’t like Obamacare. I don’t like it either, most of my liberal friends who supported the law wholeheartedly when it was a concept don’t like it now that it’s a reality, but holding repeated votes that have no chance of advancing simply to make a political point is shameful, counterproductive and a waste of time and congressional salaries.
Whether Obama is able to transition those commendable philosophies into policies is yet to be seen. His track record on advancing the economy as Commander in Chief speaks for itself.
But if the President’s economic policies have been bad, his wartime foreign policy has been nothing short of disastrous, and it’s my hope that future Presidents will take lessons from those disasters, and not make the same mistakes Obama has repeatedly made.
He spoke briefly about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He patted himself on the back for withdrawing our troops from Iraq, while ignoring the fact that that country is in worse shape than it was when the U.S. first began dropping bombs on innocent Iraqis and that nearly 4,500 American men and women lost their lives in a military operation that the President didn’t have the fortitude to see through to its end, setting aside how foolish it was to engage in both conflicts in the first place.
The situation in Afghanistan will likely play out the same way. The President will get to say that he ended American involvement in the War in Afghanistan during his tenure. That will be a true statement, and you can make a safe bet that it will feature prominently in his next memoir.
But it ignores the fact that the Middle East will be left a smoldering pile of rubble for years to come. It ignores the fact that the region will be shattered by sectarian violence, that terrorist organizations will flourish under the watchful eye of power hungry dictators.
That, to me, is far more telling of Obama’s legacy than any domestic initiative.
Michael Gebelein is managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News.