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January 18, 2016

State of the Union: Show v. Substance

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address last Tuesday night was much anticipated. Democrats (and major media outlets except Fox News) all waited with breathless anticipation for what they hoped would be a historic rallying cry for liberal principles. They were disappointed.


Republicans, on the other hand, were bracing themselves for what they assumed would be a progressive onslaught. Their pre-event comments suggested an all-out assault on God, Guns, and Liberty. They, too, were disappointed.


As one could reasonably expect, the president did touch on familiar themes. While some argue his emotion on the gun issue is an act, evidence would suggest that he really, and deeply, believes that if he can further restrict the rights afforded by the Second Amendment, Americans will be safer.


Same with the issue of climate change. To him, it’s the most important issue of his time, which, by the way, is just a few days more than a year of being over.


Instead of using his final SOTU speech to sell a slew of new progressive agenda items, he threw the DCvers a curve ball.


He made a historically significant call for a cancer research “moon shot.” Invoking the memory of President John F. Kennedy, President Obama called for a major commitment to research and investment in curing cancer. His idea is a worthy one. Cancer isn’t a discriminating killer; liberals, conservatives and moderates are all susceptible to its deadly reach.


He also used his national address platform to reach beyond the hallowed (???) halls of the House of Representatives to call on the American people to seek bipartisanship. His brave call rings a bit hollow, though.


This is same guy who ran as post-partisan, but has run the most partisan policy operation of any past U.S. president, including Richard Nixon. To Mr. Obama, the Congress is an annoyance, an irritant to be ignored in the hopes that it might just go away. Think of it as a constitutionally-directed summer evening mosquito.


How does he get away with that attitude, when any grade-school child could tell you that there are three equal branches of government?


Mostly because we all pretty much feel the same way President Obama does about the Congress, that’s why!


One particular line embodies what we’ll call the Obama Dilemma, his essential dichotomy. Sensing the anger and disillusion among the electorate, President Obama spoke about political gerrymandering.


From the speech itself: “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” This one is a classic, sort of the flashing bait skipping just under the surface waiting for the bigger fish to pounce.


Hopefully, all of my brilliant readers here on (and yes, if you read what I write, you are automatically classified as brilliant) will know exactly how Barack Hussein Obama first got elected. On the outside chance that you don’t, or if a non-brilliant reader slipped through the net, Mr. Obama first won his seat in the Illinois state legislature through a tortured gerrymandering of a district that created a district that only a liberal could win.


And if that isn’t cause enough for you to question his honesty on his opposition to gerrymandering, how about the fact that he and his party controlled both houses of the U.S. Congress for the first two years of his presidency?


For two full years, he had the absolute reigns on power in the Capitol. If he considered this blatant manipulation of political jurisdictional boundaries such a threat to our nation, why not float an idea, encourage then Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., NV) to pass it?


The reason is simple. No political party, once in power, wants to change the rules of the game for the future. Once they’ve obtained the power to control the process to their benefit, the last thing in the world they want to do is set up a scenario in which they might have to relinquish that which they’ve worked so hard to obtain.


Finally, this little gem: "If we want a better politic, it’s not enough to just change a congressman or a senator or even a president," Obama said. "We have to change the system to reflect our better selves."


That’s a fact, Mr. President. But from my seat, changing the president might not be a bad way to start.


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