For those who skipped Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night—and I know it was a lot of you—here is the shorter version.
That’s right, President Obama’s main theme was to declare how awesome it is to live in the wonderful new era of peace and prosperity that no one but him has noticed.
We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
But tonight, we turn the page.
Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.
Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.
America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong. At this moment—with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production—we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.
Wow, it’s almost like it’s the 1990s again: we’ve won the big war, tamed our adversary, enjoy a booming economy, and are now free to chart our course into a glorious future.
If that was a bit of a delusion then—we hadn’t reached the “end of history,” after all—it’s a total delusion today.
The air of unreality is summed up in another line that struck me, when he capped off a call for unity and common ground between himself and the new Republican Congress by referring to the issue of immigration—where he has just unilaterally declared a policy of amnesty in defiance of Congress. I can understand why he wouldn’t want to bring up the late unpleasantness on that issue, but I don’t understand how he can imagine that Congress would ignore it.
Or there’s the line when he declared, “We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance.” Doesn’t he realize that he just did that to millions of people, after promising them they could keep their plans?
This delusion of adequacy applies to his whole description of the state of the domestic economy. We had one quarter of 5% growth, and he is declaring that it’s morning again in America. Reagan did that after five straight quarters of 7% growth. Those astonishing years of growth were what we needed to get the country back onto its long-term trend of annual growth between 3% and 4%, after two brief but sharp recessions. We have had no such reversion to the long-term trend after this recession, and there’s no reason to think we’re going there. Which means we have actually begun a new, low-growth future.
As for unemployment, under Reagan, unemployment fell while the workforce was growing. Under Obama, unemployment is low mostly because people are withdrawing from the workforce, giving up on seeking work. Wages are stagnant and there is zero sense out in the real world that we are all living in a land of opportunity.
But the gap between reality and the president’s universe is widest when it comes to foreign policy—which is the only really relevant part of the speech. Obama’s many domestic proposals should be ignored, and in the Republican response, Joni Ernst wisely did just that. (Too bad the rest of her speech was so bland and formulaic.) But in foreign policy Obama has the ability to act, and in fact he is the only one who can do so.
But he is living in a different world.
He begins by declaring that “we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.” But of course, he was conspicuously absent from the streets of Paris, only belatedly sending John Kerry and his crack folk-song brigade.
In the real world, Shiite rebels aligned with Iran just overthrew the government of Yemen, a big blow to our anti-terrorism strategy in the Middle East. Obama’s speech did not mention Yemen. At all.
Earlier this year, Obama cited our policy in Yemen as a model for our approach to fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. That’s an ominous comparison, so it’s no surprise that while Obama confidently declares that we have “stopped” the Islamic State, it has doubled its territory since he announced the beginning of airstrikes against it in August.
In the real world, there are reports that another wave of Soviet—excuse me—Russian troops has invaded Ukraine. Yet Obama declared, “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.”
President Obama declared progress in stopping Iran’s nuclear program. The progress consists of an extension of negotiations on an agreement with Iran, after the previous round failed.
Oh, and Obama briefly mentioned Ebola in West Africa—but failed to make any reference at all to Boko Haram in Nigeria, which is expanding, committing larger atrocities, and announcing its own caliphate modeled on ISIS.
Obama is a man so committed to acting as if we live in an era of peace that he simply pretends that no war, strife, or threats exist. Except one: Obama did hype “climate change” as an “immediate risk to our national security.”
But we can’t say we weren’t warned. Obama once told a reporter that he’s the kind of guy who actually believes his own BS. We’re finding out the full extent to which that’s true.