State of Confusion

President Barack Obama gives a lot of speeches, more than even his most ardent admirers now bother to hear, but it’s almost a patriotic duty to listen in on a State of the Union address. Being dutifully patriotic only to a reasonable extent we sat down to read the transcript instead, figuring it would save time and spare us the soporific effects of Obama’s sonorous baritone, and we found the text quite confusing.

The speech opened with praise for the veterans of the Iraq war, with Obama saying they have “made the United States safer and more respected around the world.” We’re always happy to hear to praise for our fighting men and women, and gladly welcome Obama to the crazed cowboy warmonger camp, but we couldn’t understand how such a happy outcome might have resulted from what Obama had called “a stupid war,” or how it might have occurred without the surge strategy that Obama had opposed while calling for an early surrender.

Moving on to paint a Norman Rockwell-esque portrait of the America he hopes to create, Obama said he envisions a country “where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.” Recalling the president’s recent decision to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, we were left wondering if Canada can truly be considered an unstable part of world.

Waxing nostalgic about his grandparents’ halcyon days of World War II, when hard work guaranteed a happy life, the millions of hard-working but unhappy Americans of the time notwithstanding, Obama said he hoped to “restore an America where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” This led us to think Obama would announce he was revoking the many waivers from his health care reforms that had been handed out to his political allies, but no such announcement followed.

Obama then mentioned how technological innovation causes unemployment, a favorite them, but he offered no specific plan for returning to dial-up internet access or other primitive technologies.

The next part, where Obama explained the mortgage crisis that led to the economic downturn, was especially confusing. He said that only after the recession Americans “learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them,” but somehow forgot to mention that it happened because government policy encouraged and required it, political allies such as ACORN protested for it, and lawyers such as Barack Obama sued banks to do it. He went on to lament that “regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior,” but neglected the key point that it was his own party that ignored and slandered the regulators who had tried to warn of the impending collapse of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. Obama added that he “will oppose any effort to return to the policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place,” but we are unaware of any Republicans advocating more subprime lending.

Moving on to a vigorous yet vague call for a new manufacturing policy, Obama took time to boast of bailing out General Motors and Chrysler. While reeling off the companies’ successes, the Chevy Volt conspicuously unmentioned, Obama said that “Some even said we should let it die.” We can’t recall any saying that, and are sure that most opponents of the government argued that the companies should be re-structured under new private ownership through a proven bankruptcy system, but perhaps Obama did meet someone of that opinion, so we’ll let it slide. What made the boast utterly baffling, though, came what seemed to be several hours later into the oration when he sternly demanded that “It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bail-outs, no hand-outs, and no cop-outs.”

We found ourselves drifting further at sea when Obama made his pitch for a jobs re-training program. Beginning with an obligatory personal anecdote, this one about Jackie Brey, a single mother — the best kind, for personal anecdote purposes — who went from being an unemployed mechanic to a manager of a robotics plant by attending her local community college, Obama then demanded that the government “cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need.” This left us mulling why Brey is smart enough to run a robotics plant but too stupid to choose from a variety of educational options, and why private enterprises or local governments should be barred from offering services in the name of simplicity, but perhaps Obama hopes to spare us further confusion by giving only one government-run choice.

Oh, and he also demanded “Let’s make sure that people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress.” If he also wants to make sure that bundlers can’t lobby the White House for things such as guaranteed loans to their phony baloney solar panels he didn’t mention it, but that might have been a mere oversight.

There was plenty more, of course, including a laid-off furniture-maker who is now making wind turbines, despite the devastating economic effects of high technology, some shameless kowtowing to the teachers’ unions, and the usual soak-the-rich rhetoric, complete with Warren Buffet’s now-legendary secretary. We’ll save that for another day, though, as we’re starting to feel dizzy from confusion and really should lie down.

— Bud Norman