The SOTU: Steph Responds (Part III)

Now it’s time to tackle Obama’s foreign policy statements, after which I will discuss my general impression of the whole speech.

America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom, justice, and dignity. And because we have begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.

This is not 100% true. In countries where, arguably, our standing matters most – places like China or Pakistan or Turkey – a plurality of the population is anti-American (at least – in the latter two cases, the majority hate America). Anti-Americanism also persists in Russia and Germany despite the inauguration of your glorious Era of Hope and Change.

Obama then goes on to discuss recent developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Personally, I worry about what will happen once we do pull out according to Obama’s arbitrary timeline. We should pull out when we’ve completed our mission, not when it is politically convenient. Even if we were wrong to invade in the first place, it’s too late to have that fight now. We are already involved, and the only honorable thing to do is to take full responsibility for that involvement. The worst thing we could possibly do is leave the door open for more extremist elements to take over once we’ve left; that practically invites an increase in anti-Americanism. “Yeah, those Yankees will storm in and break stuff, but they won’t stick around to fix anything.”

On nuclear proliferation, Obama has this to say:

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before.

Even the Associated Press recognizes that Obama is lying through omission here. As the AP fact checker observes: “But what Obama didn’t say was that U.S. diplomacy has failed to persuade Tehran to negotiate over U.N. demands that it take steps to prove it is not on the path toward a bomb. Preliminary talks with Iran earlier this month broke off after the Iranians demanded U.S. sanctions be lifted.”

After this, Obama makes more innocuous statements about strengthening our alliances in Europe and in the Americas and encouraging democracy around the world (including Tunisia), all of which I find relatively unobjectionable. Then he addresses the make-up of our armed forces:

We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.

Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as they have served us – by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.

Our troops come from every corner of this country — they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.

I’ve already made clear my support for the repeal of DADT, so I don’t have much to add here except to say that I’m interested to see how our institutions of higher learning respond to Obama’s challenge. In my observation, the academic objection to ROTC and military recruitment goes deeper than whether or not gays are allowed to openly serve. Many professors are militantly anti-American and believe our armed forces should be completely gutted. I don’t think repealing DADT is going to change this attitude much.

I do have some good news, though: At this point, Obama delivers a peroration about the greatness of the American people and their willingness to do “big things” – also unobjectionable – and mercifully closes for the night.


So what are my thoughts about the speech as a whole? Like many people on our side of the aisle, I find it very unimpressive. While Obama makes the obligatory promises to do something about our debt, those promises are belied by the new spending initiatives he proposes minutes before. He dances around the necessity for entitlement reform, digs in his heels on health care, and refuses to list any specific programs he would be willing to cut. In short, he fails to exhibit any genuine sense of our dire financial situation. The mainstream media is busy trying to push the narrative that Obama is jumping to the center, but as far as I’m concerned, that jump is more like a tiny baby step — or it’s utterly nonexistent.

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