Like many Americans I watched the State of the Union Speech by President Obama Wednesday night. Like most State of the Union speeches it was little more than a defense of the administration, a call for congressional compliance, and is largely, regardless of the President giving it, more pomp & circumstance leaning toward dog & pony show than what the constitution originally intended (like many things) in Article II:
Article II – The Executive Branch
Section 3 – State of the Union, Convening Congress
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
I would be in favor of ending the current annual event as it has lost significance or meaning with regard to the functional political process but merely re-emphasizes & highlights problems with “Washington Politics as usual.” The tradition began with Woodrow Wilson, hardly an example for any President to desire to follow. However, it serves to further agendas. Up until Wilson, Presidents merely wrote a letter to Congress following the example of Thomas Jefferson who did not like the precedent set by Washington & Adams in addressing Congress. Jefferson felt that it appeared too monarchial. But, I digress, my opinion regardless of my track record is rarely headed.
You can read or even watch replays, soundbites, commentary, etc. concerning the Sate of the Unions Speech on countless websites. I listened to some banter after the speech last night from both sides. Chris Mathews was so enthralled by President Obama’s speech that he forgot his racist feelings towards the black race. Democrat & Republican pundits squabbled about points made, promises kept, and things that were pointless regardless. However no one seemingly had a problem with the quote I provide below.
I was shocked at the historical ignorance by our President, and the lack of reverence & respect given past administrations. The quote I have contention with is:
“Now — just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have…”
The President went on to essentially blame the Bush administration. Nothing new there, it’s been a part of the administrations MO however unappealing or appealing it is based on your political views. However, my question is, “Mr. President, What ordinary times are you talking about? In the history of this country would you please point to a 4 year period of normal times?” It doesn’t matter what you would have done Mr. President. In 234 years that this country has existed, we have never known normal times.
As a lifelong student of history, I cannot recall a single President who had executive power turned over to them in these superfluous “ordinary times” that President Obama seems to think are so common. Let’s start with Washington in 1789! He was chosen to be the leader of a country that at the time had just broken away from the most powerful country on the planet. In the history of the world the number of nations succeeding from one country & surviving independently for 20 years is staggeringly infinitesimal. For evidence I give you Europe & the Continent of Africa! Washington never decried the challenge he was given however! A challenge that was greater than any Barack Obama will EVER face in his life. Washington was given the task to hold 13 colonies, each of which had very egocentric independent identities, together in the name of Individual rights & freedom. Washington took over and then passed along to Adams, Jefferson, etc. a government that had to establish a Military, Navy, & later an Air-Force. They had to normalize & coin money. They had to set trade regulations & tariffs. They had to deal with a rapidly expanding country thanks to the Louisiana Purchase. There was a war with Mexico. They dealt with a Civil War! This before the country was 100 years old.
Please someone describe to me the normalcy here. Also, it should be emphasized, that while the policies passed & decisions made look nice and sensible & are presented in a nice light in text books, most of these issues sparked much more fierce debate than the silliness of the recent Health Care Reform debate. The Louisiana Purchase & westward expansion was looked upon with disdain by many. It was better “left to the savages” as Native Americans were oft labeled. The government simply coining money was hotly contested though it is difficult to understand today the fears of restriction of freedom that coining money brought to a people accustomed to taxation without representation & oppression by governmental rule at the time.
Post-Civil War, presidents in turn dealt with reconstruction of the Southern United States & continued westward expansion facilitated as a result of the hotly debated trans-continental railroad who’s placement was a point of contention for states that succeeded from the Union prior to the Civil War. Also on the table for presidents to deal with is how to deal with suddenly freed slaves. What rights would they be given? Were they allowed to vote? Own land? All points of legislative contention. At the turn of the century just after our hundredth birthday as a nation Presidents had to deal with the newly organized territory of Alaska (before Oklahoma even became a territory mind you). Hawaii, Puerto Rico, & American Samoa were annexed.Not all were popular decisions.
In the “ordinary” part of the early 1900s we helped the citizens of Panama rise up and declare their independence from Columbia so that we could build what would become known as the Panama Canal, one of the greatest engineering feats in the history of mankind. Then in 1914 WWI began with the U.S. entering the fray in 1917. However in the normalcy of that 3 -year interim we invaded Haiti, contended with Pancho Villa, bought the West Indies & U.S. Virgin Islands for $25Million, & began the National Park Service.
In spite of the War to End All Wars, the U.S. experienced dramatic financial and industrial growth during the 1920s. Taxation, trade tariffs, infrastructure, all were unsettled & contentious issues despite the popular dance halls in New York City & Chicago. Oh yeah, after nearly being decimated we gave American Indians citizenship! Citizenship after they had been here for a few thousand years. None of this seems normal to me.
Then in 1929, on Black Tuesday, the stock market plummeted and we entered into the Great Depression. We remained in the Great Depression until we entered into WWII. Curious if FDR, when sworn in thought he was taking an “ordinary” job during “ordinary times.”
Since WWII, “ordinary times” as they had been since 1789 were merely naive delusions of grandeur! Post WWII we were immediately embroiled in the Cold War that lasted until the end of the 20th century. We went to war in Korea in the early part of the decade of the 50s. Seems like if anything was normal it would be war & turmoil. After the Korean War it was very long before we had civil unrest in Harlem, NY; Watts in Los Angeles, California; at Kent State University in Ohio, and oh yeah. We were involved in another war. This time in a small country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam. The war in Vietnam, like Korea, was a result of the Cold War. We had a president assassinated, we had a president impeached. We had a missile crisis involving the Soviet Union our adversary in the Cold War & the Island nation of Cuba, a mere 90 miles from our shores. After the war in Vietnam we also had a new drug culture within the United States & an energy crisis. People waited in lines for hours for gasoline, Iran took Americans as hostages. As we entered the 1980s we were gripped with a stubborn recession, inflation, high unemployment, & a bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Doubting that Ronald Reagan felt that there was anything “ordinary” during this period in which he also survived an attempt on his life.
As we entered the 1990s we liberated the tiny country of Kuwait from it’s neighbor Iraq in our first war in the Middle East. We endured an attempted bombing on the World Trade Center, the killing of Americans in the bombing of the Kabul Towers in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the death of U.S. Servicemen in the terrorist attack on the U.S.S. Cole, earthquakes in San Francisco & Los Angeles, floods in the Mid-West that cost billions of dollars not to mention lives. We enjoyed rapid technological growth, & then a bust of the temporary stock bubble that it created which plunged us into yet another recession.
George Bush was elected president in 2000. The first president of the 21st century. He, as when president Obama entered office had grand ideas for the betterment of American citizens. He quickly moved to cut taxes on Americans which helped to alleviate many of the financial problems caused by the tech bubble crash over the next several years. However, On September 11, 2001, after having been in office less than a year. Islamic terrorists hijacked airplanes that they crashed, in the name of Jihad, into the Twin Towers of he World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington D.C., with a third crashing in a field in Pennsylvania due to heroics of Americans on board. Forgive me Mr. President, But I will go out on a limb here & assume that this isn’t the ordinary term in office that then President Bush envisioned.
Without even mentioning prohibition, women’s suffrage, all the assassinations & attempted assassinations of presidents, it’s pretty clear that no President of the United States has enjoyed President Obama’s grandiose idea of this supposed “ordinary time” in which to govern. You see Mr. President, You have the most difficult job in the world. I know that you would undoubtedly admit that, but based on your statement I cannot believe that you comprehend it. You are unimaginably naive if you think any president has not had to face tough times, tough choices, handle criticism, & answer criticism. In fact, the case can be made that you don’t even enter the top 10 list of presidents who took over an office or within the first year in office faced challenges much greater than your own.
There’s no such thing as “ordinary.” The only constants are changes, challenges, & adaptations.
Therefore, cut out the self pity! Self pity is the 180 degree opposite of what the leader of this nation should be doing. I’ve never even heard of a great leader even flirting with the emotion of, much less the conscious decision of embracing, self pity. You were elected in spectacular fashion to perform an incredible job. You have the resources of the country at your disposal. You have enjoyed an unprecedented majority in both the House of Representatives & the Senate for your first year, & other than a nearly Trillion dollar spending bill that has failed, you have largely accomplished nothing. You have the opportunity to do a lot of good for this country. If you cannot get enough of your party on board with legislation, nor enough bi-partisan support for the legislation, you are again showing your ignorance of this country. We have representatives in Washington do agree & disagree with legislation for a reason. If the legislation looks to be bad for the country it doesn’t get passed. That is an issue that falls directly on your shoulders to deal with that you have seemed dismissive to address.
Therefore, if the bill in question can’t be passed…. Change it! Take out the points of contention, work on them later, add whatever is necessary, but make sure that the legislation is beneficial. The more controversial, the less chance it has to be propitious for the nation. Stomping your feet, saying that America “needs” it & then abandoning it weeks later when you didn’t get your way, as you have with Health Care Reform doesn’t & will never work. Hopefully you have learned this.
You still have an big majority in both houses. IF you have worthwhile ideas or concepts present them in the open & transparent manner you have discussed. Consider the criticisms, evaluate alternatives, discuss them openly in specific terms as opposed to rhetorical metaphors & assertions.
But enough with the self pity, it’s Un-American! Coach Boots Garland once stated in the mid 1990s that the American past-time was becoming the transfer of blame. He’s been proven correct. It would be great Mr. President if our leader, instead of transferring blame, provided workable solutions. You have that chance.
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