The 2016 SOTU: A Delusional Denial of Reality

Of all the descriptions of President Obama’s last State of the Union address, the most apt and succinct that I’ve seen comes from Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He simply called it a “delusional denial.” Sadly, Obama fits perfectly the definition of a demagogue: “someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.” Demagogues prey on the emotions of the poor and uninformed; they know how to exploit crises to enhance their own power. In the memorable words of Rahm Emmanuel (at the time he was Obama’s first Chief of Staff), "You never let a serious crisis go to waste."

James W. Ceaser, Professor of Politics, University of Virginia, described the difference between ordinary politicians and demagogues, “While all politicians in a democracy must make occasional small sacrifices of truth, subtlety, or long-term concerns to maintain popular support, demagogues do these things relentlessly and without self-restraint. In trying to shape the historical record his tenure in office (AKA, his legacy) the 2016 SOTU was packed with distortion, misrepresentation, and demagoguery, in the expectation that future students, like today’s low-information voters, will look only at his smooth rhetoric rather than jagged reality.

Certainly, on the surface, it would be easy to declare the speech a success -- the president sounded good and looked confident; he even cracked jokes. A CNN poll revealed that 53 percent of viewers had a “very positive” response to the speech, “most positive ever.” Of course, it is necessary to note that the polled audience was primarily Democrats and Pro-Obama watchers (44%), but even among those viewers nearly half (48%) indicated that President Obama’s presidency has “fallen short of their expectations.” Obama would do well to remember the memorable epigram attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

President Obama certainly convinced New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoff. He tweeted, “Fair for @POTUS to brag a bit domestically. Unemployment down by half. Deficits by two-thirds. 18 million have gotten health insurance.” Contrast that sugarcoating with the series of nine graphs that made the rounds this Fall indicating that in nine specific areas the president’s policies had had measurable horrific outcomes. Five specific areas showed outrageous increases: Student Loans, Food Stamps, Federal Debt, Money Printing, and Health Insurance Costs. These increases affect everyone’s well-being in every possible way. Four areas showed dramatic, disastrous economic impact: Labor force participation has declined so much during Obama’s seven years in office as to make the decline in unemployment during the flaccid recovery meaningless; Workers’ Share of Economy and Median Family Income have dropped significantly as did Home Ownership. No amount of glossy delusional demagoguery can obscure the impact of these outcomes for the American citizenry. Hardly anyone, other than the top 1%, is better off than they were in 2008. Certainly not the shrinking middle class.

To add insult to injury, the SOTU was full of the in-your-face rhetoric deriding the public for not wholeheartedly swallowing his agenda to “fundamentally transform” this county that we have had to endure for far too long. He was most passionate about defending the Muslim faith and gay marriage (talk about contradictory!).

On the one hand, President Obama claimed that the economy is the best it’s ever been, then he admits, “All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire.” His goal has been to cut the cost of college, yet those costs have significantly exceeded the increases in the general cost of living. He praises the Affordable Care Act and claims it’s working, which flies in the face of the reality that the vast majority of Americans are struggling with as they search for ways to cope with rising costs, decreasing choice and greater obstacles to getting good health care. He bragged about America’s space program -- twelve years ago (glossing over the reality that the program has been gutted). He got into the climate change debacle and the dirty energy controversy. The expressions on the faces of the military’s top brass as he talked about American military strength resoundingly repudiated his lofty rhetoric about “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”

If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable to hear the president claim that “no nation dares to attack us” when we are under attack almost daily by terrorist agents in our midst, while Iran had just seized 10 of our sailors. Likewise, his spurious claim of leading a “global coalition” against terrorism. Once again, he was far more emotionally invested in defending Muslims, saying, “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.”

The self-righteousness fairly reeks. His biggest regret, he says, is that “rancor and suspicion” have become worse during his presidency, BUT it’s really our fault; he cannot do it alone. Oh no, we have to change our political process!! All would be well, if Americans just wouldn’t “fall back into tribes,” “scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.” The man who has created the most division in the nation’s history, been the most aggressively partisan president ever, and who has tried to destroy the Judeo-Christian heritage on which this nation was founded, urged the rest of us to “see ourselves not first as black or white or Asian or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.”

But, in spite of all the ways we have failed in his eyes as American citizens to live up to the president’s goals for us, he concluded his delusional denial of reality with a passionate statement of his “unconditional love” and “belief” in us, the people. That’s why he is hopeful about our nation’s future and “confident that the State of our Union is strong. Meh!

He is still fooling a lot of folks, liberals and the readership of the New York Times; but mainstream Americans are counting the days until November and desperately longing for change!