At times Tuesday night, you didn’t know whether Barack Obama was giving a State of the Union speech or narrating a bar brawl.
He used words such as “fighting,” “vicious,” “grit,” “fearful,” “threats,” “crush” and “explode.”
Obama was two-fisted, in your face and full of fighting words. It was difficult to remember that he had begun his presidential career as a peace candidate.
But in his second-to-last State of the Union address, he wanted to make sure to take his victory laps early.
“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious, that we would crush jobs and explode deficits,” Obama said.
But did that happen? You bet your booties it didn’t!
“Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years,” Obama said.
So score one for his side. And while you’re keeping score, he had a few other claims to make.
That Vladimir Putin fella? The guy whom conservatives praised for his action and determination? “He makes a decision, and he executes it, quickly,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said of Putin last March. “Then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader.”
Yeah, well, what do you think of your Putin now, Rudy?
“Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength,” Obama said Tuesday night. “Well, today it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.”
And Obama even attacked the holiest of holies, the conservative credo that Ronald Reagan had enshrined with these words: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.'”
Big deal, said Obama. “We need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t screw things up,” he said.
And speaking about people who screw things up, let’s talk about the press.
“You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston, where I said there wasn’t a liberal America or a conservative America, a black America or a white America, but a United States of America,” Obama said, referring to his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
It was a speech, by the way, that ABC, CBS and NBC did not carry live, because Obama was a semi-nobody from Illinois who had served barely two years in the Senate. I guess some in the media underestimated him a little bit.
“Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision,” Obama said Tuesday. “How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever.”
The media point to our divisions “as proof not just of my own flaws, of which there are many,” Obama said, “but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided and naive.”
But don’t fall for what the media are telling you!
“I know how tempting such cynicism may be,” Obama said. “But I still think the cynics are wrong.”
And they are wrong, because they fail to grasp Obama’s vision of what he called — and you could hear the capital letters — a “Better Politics.”
“A Better Politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine,” Obama said. “A Better Politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.”
And he deftly talked about decency and fears when he said: “We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely, we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely, we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
Obama said he can see the future, the future this Better Politics will lead to.
A Better Politics, he said, “is one where we debate without demonizing each other, where we talk issues and values and principles and facts rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”
Personally, I found that last point terrifying.
No more “gotcha” moments? No more concentration on trivial gaffes or fake controversies?
What on earth will the press do for a living?