President Obama seemed to resist the urge to include the perfunctory phrase "the state of our Union is strong," yet in the end he succumbed to the practice, but without the same energy of past presidents. He knows what this nation faces better than anyone, but realized that he must still be the "Cheerleader-in-Chief."
This yearly appearance by the president in Congress is full of pageantry and posturing by the Chief executive, senators and congressmen and often it feels and looks devoid of any purpose or serious commitment to anything. But in my family we always watch it, from Carter to Reagan, from Clinton to Bush Jr., always with hope and anticipation. We call friends, we get some food some drinks and we listen attentively. This American crowd of liberal/progressive Democrats was particularly ready to hear Barack Obama give the speech of his life, one that would lift our spirits and set the course that the nation would follow and that would ultimately put it back on the road of the greatness to which we all aspire. The majority of the almost 20 people that came to watch the speech said they liked it and that the president had hit the right tone. I wasn't quite convinced for I hoped for some outside-the-box moves by Mr. Obama, more specifically when he talked about foreign policy and the wars our country is involved in. Platitudes about how admirably "our men and women in uniform have performed their mission" sounded so much like a line from a tired George W. Bush speech that I just sank in my spot on the couch. 2010 was the deadliest year for American soldiers and its allies and yet the political line is that we are making progress. We pour billions of dollars we don't have, we stay in Afghanistan 10 years, lose hundreds of soldiers per year, take one hill, give up one valley and we keep saying we are doing better. Bin Laden is still on the loose, a great portion of the Arab world is now erupting into revolts that might take the entire region into a real "domino effect." The more folks say that the Middle East is not Vietnam the more it resembles that American tragedy.
Considering the low point our country was in when president Obama took over the presidency, much has been accomplished. The whirlwind of legislation passed in the last days of 2010 was impressive. Healthcare and the shoring up of our financial markets are two of the most significant achievements of this president and for that he has our gratitude. But now a major battle to deal with Republicans under the influence (of the Tea Party) will ensue: budget cuts are the battle cry from all corners of the political map, most with the caveat of "in my backyard" you will not cut. With all the posturing, the most obvious area of attention should be our military, but we lack (and have lacked for decades) the political will to reduce the number of American soldiers in foreign lands. What on earth justifies such large contingents in Germany, Japan, Italy and so many other spots in the world? How can we justify the economic and diplomatic blockade of Cuba, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba's only benefactor?
This American idea that the entire world is in "our national interest" transcends decades of Democrat and Republican administrations. Where does it come from? I hope that we don't look at what is happening in Egypt and decide we must intervene. We want the State of our Union to be truly strong—strong economically and morally and with our soldiers back state-side enjoying a long and lasting period of peace.
Mr. President, the Russians aren't coming... and neither are the Chinese or anyone else. Let diplomacy be our strongest arm of government. Strengthen our intelligence in the hot spots of the world and secure the cooperation of other governments to stop our strongest concern, which is international terrorism.
– Carlos Wysling, Bend