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SOTU - Final Mic Drop Edition
Author: BobR    Date: 01/13/2016 14:16:46

Last night President Obama gave his 8th and last State of the Union address. He broke with a lot of traditions with this one, and it may have been for the better. Unlike every address in recent memory (even preceding him), he did not start out with the cliche "The state of the The Union is strong!" ... Instead, he started of indicating there was little point in laying out a grand agenda for his final year in office when it was pretty clear that he wouldn't be able to get it done. He thanked Speaker Ryan for working with him on getting a budget passed, and then laid out a framework of goals he felt the nation should embrace to move forward.

In that opening, he threw down on Republicans being afraid of change, or promising to "take America back" (all quotes from this transcript):
America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the "dogmas of the quiet past." Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America's promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did — because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril — we emerged stronger and better than before.

Then he rehashed his laundry list of successes (recovering from Bush's economy killer, essentially), and noted 4 areas he wanted to cover: the economy, technology, security, and positivity in politics. Here are some of the highlights...

ECONOMY

He started out with a serious mic drop on the naysayers about the economy:
Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We're in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the '90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we've done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.

He tempered it with the realization that the lower and middle classes are anxious because of reduced job opportunity and money flowing uphill to the richest. He made the case for free and/or lower cost higher education. He also took a shot at Congress by saying "After all, it's not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber." It was a good shot, because it's the Republicans in that House that are fighting unions and workplace regulations aimed at securing employees futures.

He also noted the success of Obamacare and it's positive effect on the economy. He closed out this section of his address by echoing some of the policies promoted by the likes of Senators Sanders and Warren, with supporting Social Security, Medicare, social programs "economic insurance", and Wall St, reform.


TECHNOLOGY/INNOVATION

Keeping America competitive in the 21st century will require supporting and investing in emerging technologies and research. He took a shot at the anti-science crowd by saying:
Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny Sputnik was up there. We didn't argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.

He pushed for an expanded internet, with the tools and resources scientists and technology startups need to get ideas off the drawing board and into a production facility. He also put Joe in charge of finding a cure for cancer:
But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they've had in over a decade. Tonight, I'm announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he's gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I'm putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we've all lost, for the family we can still save, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

He also made the valid claim that clean energy makes economic sense, something the fossil fuel industry funded Republican politicians were not happy to hear:
Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average. We're taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we've cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad, either.

Now we've got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future...


SECURITY

As expected, he delivered the de rigueur comments about how America "is the most powerful nation on Earth" . He also made the valid points that we cannot be the world's policeman, and that the threats to us are no longer other powerful nations, but failed states. It is these failed states where desperation fuels resentment, which can be harnessed by skilled propagandists to create deadly results. He pointed out that the Middle East is in the middle of a long-running transition, not likely to end soon, and more likely to create problems for us the more we try to intervene.

For the safety of America, that means a couple main priorities: 1) Protecting Americans by going after terrorist networks, and 2) Not trying to take over failing countries. He poo-pooed those that refer to this as WWIII, and made the point that this strengthens ISIL. He pointed out ISIL is not Islam - it's a bunch of fanatics using the religion as a means to achieve their goals.

He also briefly mentioned the success of the Iran Nuclear deal, which history will view much more favorably than the Congress did, based on the tepid applause delivered. He tried to sell the TPP, but no one was buying. He mentioned Cuba, and that helping other countries (such as managing ebola outbreaks) ultimately helps us as well.

He made the (somewhat Quixotic) call for closing Gitmo... again. Sigh...

Finally, he called out the haters:
That's why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that "to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place." When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.


POSITIVITY

He started out his final section quoting the Constitution:
"We the People."

Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we've come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

From there, he took a shot at the haters, the name-callers, the suspicious:
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn't work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn't matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

He also pointed out that the Congresspeople themselves are not happy with the system:
But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know; you’ve told me. It's the worst-kept secret in Washington. And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor.

He chided gerrymandering, derided money in politics, and criticized voter ID laws and other restrictions meant to reduce voter participation as unAmerican. He segued into an overly long laundry list of American archetypes that he said he's seen quietly doing American things to make America more American.

Finally, he finished - as if to bookend his presidency from 1st address to the last - with the proclamation:
That's the America I know. That's the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That's what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That's why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.


I don't think we realize just how lucky we were to have him as president just when the country needed him, and how much we'll miss him when he's gone.

18 comments (Latest Comment: 01/13/2016 20:06:07 by livingonli)
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