President Obama may be a fine orator, but his speech was chock full of wishful thinking and spin. Some of his wishes might come true, though they will not have the results he is portraying, while some of his pipedreams are just whistling in the dark.
It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.
Contentious, yes. Comprehensive, hardly. Those debates have been most remarkable for the deeper perspectives kept off the table, hallmark of a carefully managed sham of a democracy. If that is what sets USA apart, it is nothing to crow about. Most genuine democracies have debates between more than two sides of the same coin. Considering how often and willingly Obama has caved in the face of opposition from the right, I wonder what it would sound like if he really did fight fiercely for his beliefs. One must expect a President to have reasons for actions that cannot be divulged, but I wonder, what does he really believe?
But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.
That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.
A common creed? The President ought to speak for himself. There is a creed Democrats and Republicans share, which allows both to justify the war on terror specifically, and the aspirations of empire in general. This creed is based on a value system that prizes dominance, power over, US exceptionalism, military supremacy. Jared Loughner did not believe women ought to be in positions of authority. He represents the logical extreme of that value system, but his crime was in principle little different from the war crimes committed in the name of protecting US interests. Violence is glorified and justified by the principle that might makes right.
Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.
I believe we can. I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.
Yes, Democrats and Republicans will move backwards together, or not at all. Obama is right about the challenges being bigger than party politics, but neither his approach nor those of his mainstream opponents will meet those challenges.
At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.
What leadership is he calling a light to the world? Until recently, this nation was the biggest polluter on the planet, though China may have overtaken that dubious distinction by now, or will soon. This nation is also one of the worst international scofflaws, waging illegal wars of aggression against governments that did not threaten this nation in any way, except that they dared to resist the attempts of this nation to dominate the world, and in the case of Afghanistan, provided shelter to those willing to kill civilians to that end. I cannot condone such tactics, but when legitimate grievances with an aggressive superpower are ignored and compounded, blowback is bound to be horrific. Besides, USA has no problem with dictators killing innocent people to maintain their power if those tyrants are considered allies, unless there is enough of a spotlight to create embarrassing publicity, as in Egypt at the moment.
We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.
Yes, the economy has been flooded with enough cheap money to create another bubble, creating some jobs but not enough to make a dent in unemployment. When that bubble pops, the crisis Obama inherited will look like a picnic. There has been no progress toward resolving the issues that caused that crisis. The financial reform bill was too heavily watered down, saturated with loopholes, and none of the too-big-to-fail culprits were broken up. On the contrary, they have gotten bigger.
But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.
That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.
We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.
But we have more work to do. The steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession – but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.
This is one example of wishful thinking. The recession is still alive and kicking, and about to get much worse. The steps taken to this point only papered over the problems, which have been centuries, if not millennia, in the making. The economic system is hopelessly corrupted, since it is based on a fundamentally corrupt value system. The quality of life is going in the wrong direction, and the tepid proposals of our politicians will do nothing to right the sinking ship. Those tax cuts may have reduced withholding from paychecks a bit, but at what price? Republicans got what they wanted, an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That two percent not withheld from paychecks will not help average people if their cost of living is inflated as a result of the deficit ballooning, or their retirement benefits have to be cut because less money goes to the Social Security trust fund.
In these times, winning the future is a strangely inappropriate metaphor, though it fits the aspiration of maintaining US supremacy. The future holds many perils. If people do not get their act together fast, the species will be history. The challenge of the future will be to survive without a horrendous decline in the quality of life. But Obama seems oblivious to that; he goes on to lay out his vision of how to “win the future,” as if what the country needs is to beat the competition of other nations. All nations need to take stock of the havoc conventional wisdom has wrought and cooperate to change course.
What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.
Now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.
How many students answer questions about what they would change in the world? Is he honestly saying this is a nation of critical thinkers? Wishful thinking, and from what I understand, the educational reforms he has pushed are moving in the opposite direction, teaching the vast majority of children to pass standardized tests in preparation for a life as an unquestioning cog in the corporate world. Politicians need to take responsibility for the deficit, true, but there are more significant deficits in imagination, honesty, respect for diversity of opinion and life.
This tale of immigrants coming here to pursue their own destiny may have been true long ago, but nowadays many immigrants risk a great deal to come here because USA has wrecked their local economies, so the displaced face a life of abject misery, if they can survive at all.
Usually when a politician speaks of creating the best place to do business, that is code for giving businesses a break on taxes and regulations. Regulations are already porous enough to allow businesses to endanger their workers and foul the environment. Obama gave as an example of a silly regulation the EPA requirement to treat saccharin as a toxic waste. Since FDA approved it as a safe sweetener, Obama says the EPA regulation is just plain dumb. Wrong, FDA was just plain dumb, corrupt, or both to approve it in the first place.
The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.
None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.
Innovation is a good thing, when its purpose is good. Some innovations serve no good purpose, such as the financial innovations that contributed heavily to the financial crisis Obama inherited. Liar loans? Yes, some did make a pile of money with such innovations, and other innovations have also been hugely profitable, but should never have been developed at all. I speak of nuclear power, genetic engineering, the innovations of more efficient ways to kill. Obama has no problem with any of those. He may have a problem with liar loans, but not with bailing out the institutions that made a killing on those loans before the game inevitably backfired.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.
Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”
That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
Same old Obama, calling nuclear power, clean coal, biofuels, and natural gas clean sources of energy. This goes beyond wishful thinking; it is just plain dumb. This planet cannot afford to burn carbon much longer, period, end of story. Nuclear power is just as dangerous, in different ways, even discounting the risk of another catastrophic “accident.” Obama showed how interested he was in protecting the planet during the summits on climate change. There is no political will to do what it would take to prevent catastrophic climate change among Democrats or Republicans. They want to promote business as usual, pretending high technology will save the day. Most scientists agree that in order to make biofuels cost efficient, plants will have to be engineered for that purpose. This is a direct threat to biodiversity, and will only slightly decrease the production of carbon dioxide at best. When compared to burning gasoline or diesel fuel, biofuels could decrease carbon dioxide substantially, but not compared to powering fuel cells with cleanly produced hydrogen. Meanwhile the subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol are still in place, and that technology is hardly better than burning gasoline, if at all.
The technology to use sunlight and water to produce hydrogen is hardly a new idea, though the efficiency of the process is improving. That is a genuine part of the answer. Once fuel cell vehicles become affordable, there will be no need for any other fuel for transportation. Battery powered electric cars are also part of the answer, but until there is surplus truly clean electricity to charge the batteries, they will not do much to slow down the generation of greenhouse gases.
The hardest problems in what Obama is calling clean energy would be to make nuclear power safe, coal clean, and biofuels a means of significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Trying to solve these problems would waste an inordinate amount of money and time, because they are impossible. However, it seems likely that is where most of the money and effort will go. That way, politicians can claim they are valiantly trying to stave off climate change, without doing anything constructive at all. The technology to actually prevent catastrophic climate change is already available, though its efficiency is improving and could be further improved, but without the political will to deploy that technology on the necessary scale, Obama and his crew of scientific hacks are leading humanity like lemmings straight off a cliff.
Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future – if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas – then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.
Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”
Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.
What is best for kids? More wishful thinking. The standards he is talking about, high expectations and performance, are measured by tests. Students can learn what they need to know to pass tests without understanding or retaining anything, without developing critical thinking skills, without learning to challenge conventional wisdom. Good teachers lose their motivation in a system geared toward passing tests. Their skills are not valued in that system, which makes the love of learning oxymoronic. No wonder so many children have trouble paying attention in school. The kind of innovation Obama likes does not challenge conventional wisdom; it facilitates business as usual.
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Many teachers would not agree that Race to the Top treats them with any more respect than No Child Left Behind. Why all this emphasis on the sciences? Are the arts and humanities less important? Is technology supposed to be the answer to all our problems? Since it has exacerbated and created many problems, it cannot be the only or best approach to solving problems. Science and technology are only tools. They are not the source of creativity, and will not be useful to create visionary alternatives to the sick value system that constantly creates more problems than it can solve.
Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.
I have no problem with high-speed Internet, but I do have a problem with the proliferation of wireless technology. The level of microwave radiation that will accompany what Obama is proposing will have bad effects on the health of most living beings. The effects already manifesting are the subject of heated debate, but as usual, that is because there is too much money at stake, so the promoters of wireless technology want to reassure people there is no problem. This is denial of reality so they can continue to line their pockets. It may be possible to develop technology that uses less power, perhaps on a higher frequency, that would not pose health risks, but to proceed as if there is no danger flouts the precautionary principle, and there is ample reason for precaution.
Before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers, and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia, and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.
Is Obama saying with a straight face the trade agreements keep faith with US workers? Why is it those agreements have cost so many jobs? Those agreements were all advertised as promoting US jobs, but they delivered the opposite. Not to mention the race to the bottom in worker safety and environmental standards those agreements promoted.
To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.
Our food, water, and air are safe? Who does Obama think he is kidding? They are safe for corporate profits, not people. The financial “reform” will not prevent another crisis, and the health “reform” does not prevent the health insurance companies from exploiting patients. But then, this is the man who wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal which gave as an example of a regulation that is just plain dumb,
the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals.
As if EPA must have made up its toxicity, because that thoroughly corrupted agency charged with regulating the safety of food and drugs, FDA, signed off on it!
It appears what qualifies as common sense safeguards are regulations on things whose dangers are so obvious, they are impossible to deny. One might think some of the more toxic pesticides and medications would qualify, but many of them were used for many years before finally being withdrawn from the market when the consequences became too obvious to deny, and others are still being approved, such as methyl iodide to replace methyl bromide, a notorious ozone destroyer. Both are extremely toxic and carcinogenic, but evidently they do not meet the bar of requiring a common sense safeguard. Neither does fluoridating water, though its benefits are nonexistent and its risks manifold. FDA cannot even make up its mind whether mercury amalgam fillings are dangerous. I am not an expert in biochemistry, but I do know enough to know fluorine and mercury are toxic to life in all forms, though some forms are more toxic than others. But the regulations are crafted to help big business make money, not to protect people, so putting fluoride in water, mercury in dental fillings and vaccinations, and deadly poisons on food crops is par for the course. In a token gesture, the amount of mercury used as a preservative was reduced to “trace” levels in some vaccines. The only reason people can survive the toxic onslaught is because life has some ability to detoxify and excrete toxic substances. Is there any wonder there is a rapidly growing epidemic of mental disorders, and cancer has become the number one killer?
Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.
There are plenty of ideas about how to improve that law, but Obama made sure they were kept off the table. I see no reason to believe he has changed his mind about single payer, or his attempt to mollify abortion opponents by his executive order enshrining the Hyde Amendment, the infamous ban on federal funding for abortion, or the ever increasing vaccine mandates, or the poisoning and engineering of food to increase the profits of agribusiness, or the bizarre way doctors treat cancers and immune system disorders. Some of the worst abuses of the health insurance companies have been outlawed, but they will still be in control of health care.
Now, the final step – a critical step – in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.
We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.
He means, that was necessary to bail out the crooks deemed too big to fail. Meanwhile, the monetizing of debt called quantitative easing goes on, to prop up the flailing “recovery” and the stock market. The mountain of debt is already big enough to declare this nation bankrupt, but China is not yet willing to pull the plug on its biggest export market.
But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.
This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we have frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.
Drops in the bucket. The military could do without most of its funding, especially if Obama gave up trying to win the wars Bush started. Not a chance; this “peace candidate” never had any intention of allowing his opponents a chance to cast him as weak on terror. 400 billion may sound like a lot, but notice he said over the next decade, which means the savings would average 40 billion per year. If the military budget were really pared down to what would be required for self-defense, as opposed to maintaining military supremacy over the world, this country could put its fiscal house in order quickly, retire all polluting forms of energy generation, and so much more.
The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.
This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.
From what I understand, that expected slowdown in rising costs is supposed to come from cuts in Medicare. Already many doctors refuse to accept Medicare coverage because it does not pay them enough. What exactly is meant by this term, frivolous lawsuits? There have been some truly frivolous lawsuits, which get blown way out of proportion by media and those who want to clamp down on legitimate lawsuits, for obvious reasons. Medical malpractice is a huge problem, and it does not help matters that many of the standard practices to treat and “prevent” diseases do not work. I have argued elsewhere on this blog (see the Health and Environment section) that practices such as vaccinations and mammography do more harm than good. If industry were forced to respect the precautionary principle, there would not be such a huge problem with cancer.
Health care costs are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit? I doubt those costs come close to the costs of the military-industrial complex, which is almost all waste, but perhaps if those costs are broken into pieces, health care would outweigh them.
In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.
As if the primary reasons people distrust government are how tax money is spent? Corruption permeates government and business, which is to be expected when government officials are so cozy with big business. Why do lobbyists have any influence whatsoever? Why is there a revolving door between government and industry? So there will be a website showing where tax dollars are spent. Will that include black projects, “intelligence” agencies, military research? The devil is in the details. The budget has always been in the public domain, but the details of secret expenditures have never been, and I doubt that will change.
A 21st century government that’s open and competent. A government that lives within its means. An economy that’s driven by new skills and ideas. Our success in this new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.
This is blatantly wishful thinking. Open, competent, responsible government is virtually an oxymoron, not inconceivable but not something I have ever witnessed in action. Military supremacy is inherently incompatible with such a government. Look at the attitude toward Wikileaks; Vice President Biden called Julian Assange a cyber terrorist, and the Justice Department is looking into having him extradited to face trial. Others have called for his assassination. Why, because he has helped expose how far from open the government has been? I have issues with his actions and attitudes toward women, but the “crimes” for which he could be prosecuted and possibly executed here are shining some light on what this allegedly open government wanted to keep under wraps! Blowing the whistle is supposedly encouraged in an open society, but not if people in power are embarrassed! Government could live within its means, but that will never happen without changes in policy that go far beyond the reforms Obama is proposing.
Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West; no one rival superpower is aligned against us.
And so we must defeat determined enemies wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. 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 American exceptionalism on display. What moral example? US foreign policy has been diametrically opposed to freedom, justice, dignity. Lots of noise is made about human rights, but bottom line, USA supports leaders who accommodate the interests of big business. But Obama goes on to stick his foot firmly in his mouth.
Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end.
The official troops are being withdrawn, replaced by mercenaries. This is progress? Heads held high? What about Abu Ghraib? Oh, that was just a few bad apples, right? Iraq has been destroyed, over a million of its people killed or maimed or sick, birth defects and rare cancers proliferating. It appears Iraq will be left in shambles, mission accomplished?
Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we are disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.
Yes, our skies are so secure, thanks to those full body scans officials assure people are perfectly safe. What respect for the rule of law? USA breaks international law and its own Constitution in the pursuit of “national security,” an unattainable chimera exploited by countless politicians to justify their abuses of power. It is said the attack of 9/11/01 changed everything, but it did not change the wisdom of the admonition of Benjamin Franklin,
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
We have also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan Security Forces. Our purpose is clear – by preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe-haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.
In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe-havens are shrinking. And we have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.
More wishful thinking. The enemies Obama thinks to defeat are growing in numbers and strength, because the war on terror is such a powerful recruiting inducement. People want revenge for the deaths of their friends and relatives. Obama speaks like an emperor assuring his people the enemies will be defeated, while the opposite is happening. He is whistling in the dark. The leadership in Pakistan is on especially shaky ground, its alliance with USA becoming steadily more unpopular with the people. When the Pakistani people have had enough of that alliance, all hell will break loose, and that catastrophe is moving relentlessly toward fruition. I have cited and commented on many articles showing the folly of US policy toward Pakistan, mostly in this entry.
What a euphemism, “There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance.” The Afghan government is comparable to the Taliban, perhaps even more corrupt, and certainly comparable in its hostility to the rights of women. Karzai pretends to respect the rights of women, but his actions speak louder than words. Obama should pay some attention to the words of expelled member of Parliament Malalai Joya. The war on Afghanistan is going poorly and it will only get worse.
American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START Treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed. Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists.
That treaty was a smokescreen to avoid the responsibility of USA and Russia to destroy all of their nuclear weapons, as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Instead research to develop worse bombs will continue apace. It is a laudable goal to lock down nuclear materials, but they should all be decommissioned, not just locked down. Those efforts will come to naught once the government of Pakistan falls. Then USA will have to negotiate with those called terrorists, for real.
Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.
Iran has not violated its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, unlike USA. Tougher sanctions represent progress to Obama? Since this country has no leverage against Iran, and a sordid history of meddling, all these sanctions do is cause Iran to dig in its heels, and increase the suffering of its people. Iran might have had a revolution against the rule of its mullahs, but thanks to US pressure backfiring, they have been able to maintain control.
This is just a part of how we are shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO, and increased our cooperation on everything from counter-terrorism to missile defense. We have reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, and built new partnerships with nations like India. This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances for progress in the Americas. Around the globe, we are standing with those who take responsibility – helping farmers grow more food; supporting doctors who care for the sick; and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.
What does missile defense and expanding NATO have to do with peace and prosperity? Nothing. How is USA helping farmers grow more food? By foisting the products of our genetic engineers on them, supposedly they are growing more food, but at a high cost to their health and soil. India is facing a plague of farmer suicides because the high-tech seeds and chemicals increase their costs beyond what they can earn. Many commit suicide by drinking a lethal dose of pesticide. This is shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity? Big business is prosperous, not the people. And how can Obama claim to be combating corruption while so many US allies have tyrannical corrupt governments?
We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.
The people of Egypt are rebelling as well, but USA has staunchly supported its tyrant, Hosni Mubarak. Since his efforts to suppress the protests are embarrassing Obama, Hillary Clinton is calling on Mubarak to implement political, economic and social reforms, and Obama is hinting aid may be cut off. More empty rhetoric. This country should go to the United Nations and sponsor a resolution for sanctions on Egypt until Mubarak steps down, instead of issuing these tepid expressions of displeasure while Mubarak tries to squash the protests. This wringing of hands is allowing Mubarak to get away with murder. He will ignore this call for reforms, or make empty gestures in response, much as Israel has dealt with requests to stop building settlements. USA has considerable leverage with both Egypt and Israel, since they have long been considered allies and are recipients of a great deal of foreign aid, but it appears the leaders of both Egypt and Israel know how to call the bluffs of disgruntled US politicians. The people of Yemen are also rebelling, but their aspirations must be suppressed, because their tyrant is considered another valuable ally in the war on terror. The rebels are fed up with their President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been cooperating with US efforts to kill alleged affiliates of al-Qaeda there. USA only supports democracy when it likes the results; otherwise it has had little compunction about trying to overthrow popularly elected governments. USA certainly did not support the democratic aspirations of the people of Gaza, because they elected Hamas to represent them. Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela are a few more examples.
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.
Veterans know how well their health care needs are being met. The victims of Gulf War Syndrome have been told their problems are all in their head, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them are extremely sick or have died. The stop loss policy has forced many veterans with major health or mental issues to go back to the front. Why should colleges open their doors to military recruiters and ROTC? As if the only problem principled colleges had with military recruiting was Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? As if young people are being recruited to risk their lives for a noble cause? Fighting to preserve military supremacy is far from noble; it is futile, immoral, a total waste of resources, and wrecks the lives of everyone involved, except for those enriched by that pursuit.
And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.
We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything’s possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.
Most democracies are more representative than this one, in which two parties engage in an endless dance of blasting the corruption and mistakes of the other side. The Constitution has been trashed in the name of national security and patriotism, as in the Patriot Act. Theoretically anything is possible for anyone, but in practice, this is far from reality. Far too many people do not “make it” out of a stultifying life of drudgery, no matter how hard they try. There will always be a few examples of people who rise far from humble beginnings, but they are the exception that proves the rule, and for young people nowadays, it will be much harder to find fulfilling meaningful work that they enjoy. The American Dream will remain just a dream for most, until and unless the entire value system underlying the way things are run is totally revisioned.
The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.
Our destiny is the choice of the elite few, who welcomed Obama to their club, because they knew this man of half African descent was their man, a skillful orator who could convince those yearning for genuine change that he would bring that about, but who actually would defuse and demoralize that yearning, delivering precious little change of any substance, throwing a few crumbs to women and minorities, but posing no threat to the plans of the powers that be. Instead, he bailed them out, pretending what he did was necessary to stave off a depression. His actions may have delayed that for awhile, but the state of our union is pathetic, and getting worse, unimaginable disasters lurking dead ahead. The financial disaster was bad enough, but the looming environmental disasters will cause even greater chaos and suffering, and those will not be possible to paper over. It does not have to be this way, but it will take a feminist revolution to right the course of history.