I didn’t get around to reading the State of the Union speech until this morning because the idiot White House didn’t post a transcript on their web site before I went to bed last night, and be damned if I’m going to subject myself to the audiovisual torment of a major political speech ever again. So I apologize to both of you for not responding immediately, as I hear that some malevolent homunculus from my former home state, Indiana, did.
The speech can be divided into two parts: the part that recognized and cashed in on all the pressure toward economic justice that Occupy created* during the past four months, and the part that didn’t.
The first part you can just write off to the campaign. Come January 20 of next year—which is a Sunday, so the actual public inauguration might be held on Monday the 21st, but that’s Martin Luther King Day, so maybe it’ll be the 22nd—the Fierce Urgency of Those People will either be misplaced by President Obama or murdered, chopped into bite-sized nuggets and eaten by President Romnich and guests at the inaugural dinner.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep [the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement] alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.
And then there’s a bunch of other economic populist stuff, and the thing about how he’s created a commission to investigate and prosecute financial piracy, and it will work hand-in-hand with the Justice Department task force that has been charged with shielding financial pirates from investigation and prosecution and sending them off with a slap on the wrist and a cup of sweet tea, and some other things, and if for a moment the president thought any of this stuff would put a crimp in his campaign’s capacity to raise pirated funds from the pirate industry, he wouldn’t say it or do it. High-level campaign operatives were dispatched to strategic locations in Manhattan and various Caribbean isles with DVDs of a more realistic speech, along with gift bags containing bottles of 50-year-old single malt whiskey and bags of dried, salted peasant ears.
So you can write all that shit off. Then there was the Pinky and The Brain stuff about taking over the world. He praised the troops that were sent off to fight the war that he called wrong and stupid at the time but now says “made the United States safer and more respected around the world.” I guess that was inevitable; it would be challenging to stand up and tell all those soldiers and such that their lives, vaporized limbs and brutalized minds had contributed mightily to the deeply screwed condition in which we find ourselves today, and incidentally killed, displaced, maimed or permanently traumatized almost everyone who lives in Iraq.
And Iran. We can’t forget Iran. The president stopped short of the full John Bolton on Iran, but did his best to convey the impression that contrary to the opinions of intelligence agencies in the US and, incredibly, Israel, and that of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has a nuclear weapons program and the US will smite the Iranians hip and thigh (old-timey for “nuke the shit out of ‘em”) before we’ll let them get away with building the nuclear weapons that they’re not trying to build.
All props to John Bolton, by the way. Among all the people who imply or insist that Iran is building nuclear weapons and can’t be allowed to succeed, he’s one of the few who advocate what the delusion (or lie) truly demands, which is an all-out attack on Iran to end their ambitions forever. Sanctions? Pfffffft.
And finally, for the best formulation to date, and likely forever, addressing any aspect of the speech, I turn to IOZ:
I seem to recall some generic bellicosity toward Iran and I definitely remember hearing that hoary Albrightism, “the indispensable nation.” I have always enjoyed that phrase. It suggests a single, sad bag of Cheetohs resting lazily between the coil and the glass, refusing to fall into the hopper, and a single, sad, very fat man banging a futile palm against the other side of the vending machine.
*A while back, in response to somebody denying the role of Occupy in the president’s sudden awakening to issues of economic justice, I took a little stroll through the Google News archives to check on the frequency in institutional press sources of the phrase “income inequality” during the period between September 18, when the Occupy protests began, and December 7, when Obama made his Teddy Roosevelt-lite speech. I compared it year to year to the same period in the previous four years. Here’s what I found.
2007: 116 instances.
2008: 112 instances.
2009: 54 instances.
2010: 106 instances.
2011: 3,270 instances.
You’ll notice there’s a roughly 3,000% jump in the 2011 period from the previous high. Hey, I wonder what could account for that?
Just for good measure, here’s the result from the three-month period immediately preceding the beginning of the Occupy protests, from June 18 of 2011 to September 18 of 2011: 44 instances.
So I don’t want to hear no shit about the lack of clarity or effectiveness of the Occupy message and protests. If the president is Newton and economic justice is gravity, then Occupy is the dude who walked up behind Newton and slugged him with a branch and shouted “Gravity!” just as the apple fell upon his head.