Jewish World Review Jan. 28, 2011 23 Shevat, 5771
Is Obama Now a Tower of Jell-O?
By Roger Simon
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president made clear that compromise, not fighting, is the order of the day, not just in the future, but retroactively to the past.
Remember that big health care bill the Democrats fought so hard to pass last year? The bill that cost some of the Democrats their jobs, which they were willing to sacrifice for the good of their fellow citizens?
Remember the bill that was Barack Obama's great achievement, accomplishing what no president had ever accomplished before, putting him in the history books along with Franklin Roosevelt's passage of Social Security and Lyndon Johnson's passage of Medicare?
Well, forget about it. President Obama has turned into a tower of Jell-O when it comes to defending it.
"Now, I've heard rumors that a few of you still have some concerns about the new health care law," Obama said. "So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved."
The president doesn't want to re-fight the battle over the bill, but instead "let's fix what needs fixing and move forward," he said.
Fix what needs fixing? I have a feeling the president doesn't mean he is going to fight for a public option, which is what the liberals in his party wanted. I have a feeling he means he wants to fix what the Republicans think needs fixing.
I am baffled as to why so many commentators were so dazzled by this speech. No, scratch that, I am not baffled. It was a dazzling speech. It was designed to be a dazzling speech.
But when you dig the stardust out of your eyes, what do you find? You find a beginning that somberly and genuinely honored Gabby Giffords and the others who were gunned down in Tucson, Ariz., just two-and-a-half weeks ago.
But do you find a single word about gun control? Do you see any attempt to use the public outrage over the six dead and 13 wounded to make this country safer and try to prevent such slaughter in the future?
You do not. Because that would be controversial. That would be a fight. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, assured reporters Wednesday: "I wouldn't rule out that at some point the president talks about the issues surrounding gun violence. I don't have a timetable or obviously what he would say, but I wouldn't rule that out in the future."
So we do not know what the president will say about guns or when he will say it. All we do know is that he did not want to shine the spotlight of a State of the Union address on the issue.
I am not saying the president did not propose or mention some good things. He did. But most were carefully balanced: He supports gays in the military, but in return he wants military recruiters on campuses.
He wants to keep workers safe, but he doesn't want unnecessary burdens on business.
He wants to lower the corporate tax rate, but he wants to do this by eliminating loopholes.
It reminded me of the old joke by Harry Truman about how he wanted a one-handed economist, because his economists were always saying, "On the one hand, but on the other."
President Obama wants to protect Medicare and Medicaid, but he wants to slow their rising costs and he is willing to throw the Republicans a big bone: medical malpractice reform "to rein in frivolous lawsuits."
There was a lot of important talk about spending and deficits and numbers. But how about some different numbers: How about a sentence or two about our epidemic of military suicides, which reached 334 in 2009, a higher number than those killed in combat in Afghanistan?
And how about the number of U.S. troops killed by IEDs in Afghanistan in 2010, which rose by 60 percent over 2009 and amounted to 268 killed and more than 3,360 injured, an increase of 178 percent.
The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party was a peace wing, but there isn't really a peace wing anymore (unless you count Bill Maher and a few others with the guts to continue to talk about the issue). And when you hear how U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan in 2014, you do the math from the paragraphs above and pause for a moment to consider all those families whose loved ones will be killed or injured.
But we didn't hear about those numbers Tuesday night. They were beneath the dignity of a State of the Union address.
The ending of the address was pure Obama: "The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it's because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong."
It was upbeat, emotional, sincere … and absolutely dazzling.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate