Fate of the Union

There was a character in Chicago who felt himself so inconsequential, so invisible, to others that he dubbed himself “Mr. Cellophane.” Barack Obama is neither invisible nor inconsequential, but he is so transparent as to deserve the moniker “The Cellophane President.” Just read or listen to the State of the Union address, and you can see right through him.

It is conceded that he delivers a speech well. Some of the boasts can be forgiven as well, despite their detachment from reality. The deficit has been cut more than half, not that difficult considering that he ran up multi-trillion dollar deficits in his first four years in office, an unprecedented feat. America leads the world today in the production of oil and natural gas, a fact having absolutely nothing to do with the White House which has stymied the production of both since 2009. The proliferation of energy is entirely due to the private sector, which has been clamoring for years for the right to drill offshore and build the Keystone XL pipeline and has been thwarted by President Obama. The price of oil has dropped precipitously, which he touts despite his utter uninvolvement.

The pleas for bipartisanship are by now so hollow as to be risible. He implores Congress to talk to him – and then flies off to Idaho and Kansas to complain that Congress won’t talk to him. Huh? Perhaps he should stick around for a day or two. He has pioneered the permanent campaign because campaigning is his natural skill: the articulation of sentiments and the dispensing of rhetoric, sometimes lofty and inspiring and sometimes rancorous and tenebrous, are his stock-in-trade. He should never be the CEO of any corporation (much less the US), but he would excel as Vice-President of Marketing. The marketer need concern himself only with selling the product, and not at all with the nature of the product itself – its uses, its viability, and its manufacture. Just sell the product. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor!” Enough said.

His method of governance, so to speak, is galling. Catch the words, not just the tone. Accept his policies or be castigated as “partisan.” (He is never partisan.) Adopt his “practical” solutions, or you are playing politics. If Congress tries to undo anything that he has done – whether or not it is working or popular – it will be vetoed. If he and Congress do not agree, then “work with” him where they do agree. The thought that he should work with them – indeed, the thought that any idea that he has not spawned has any merit – has clearly not dawned on him. And by the snarky but likely rehearsed crack (“I won both elections”), it hasn’t yet hit him that everyone on the flooe with him also won their elections. He is not the only elected official in the nation. Oh, and then lament the sour tone of modern politics. That’s rich. Or oleaginous. Or both.

It is a clever polemical tactic – take credit for whatever good and ignore (or blame someone else – Republicans? Bush? Partisan hacks?) for the bad. Figures lie and liars can figure. One can parse the economic statistics in five different ways, pro and con. Official unemployment is down, but tens of millions of Americans have dropped out of the work force and/or are not looking for jobs (so they don’t register in the unemployment rate) or are working part-time (so they count as employed but cannot support themselves). The recovery would have happened if Donald Duck was the president – it’s the natural economic cycle – but growth, jobs and personal income are being artificially suppressed because of the increased costs to businesses for Obamacare and over-regulation. That is why his solution is more handouts to the “middle class,” rather than health care freedom, lower tax rates and deregulation. Tax and spend, again? Really?

But the President is most dangerously out of touch on foreign affairs. After years of saying that Al Qaeda is “on the run,” “decimated,” etc., a resurgent Al Qaeda went…unmentioned in the speech. Terror still has an amorphous provenance – “extremists!” – and not, perish the thought, radical Islam. How will decent Muslims deal with the catastrophe unleashed on mankind by their co-religionists if the so-called leader of the free world accords them no role in the process, indeed, deems it repugnant and inaccurate to link terror to Islam at all?

Perhaps nothing demonstrates Obama’s disconnect as much as this: the enemy de jour is ISIS (ISIL, as he persists in labeling them, contra their own designation), and that enemy’s advances have been halted, or so Obama opines. Well, here’s this morning’s report from the Institute for the Study of War, which daily tracks the conflict in Iraq and Syria, region by region, town by town:

      “The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has begun to expand its presence in the Syrian central corridor which stretches from the Jordanian border through Damascus to the central cities of Homs and Hama. The “central corridor” is highly-contested key terrain for both the Syrian regime and its armed opposition, while ISIS presence has generally been limited in the area until recently. As one major exception, ISIS maintained a notable foothold in several opposition-held areas of Damascus in early 2014 before retreating due to pressure from local rebel groups. A small ISIS contingent, largely overlooked, endured quietly in the southern suburbs of Damascus throughout late 2014. Over the past two months, ISIS has once again escalated its military and public relations activities in this area, threatening to divert both regime and rebel resources away from active fronts in the Damascus area in order to contend with the ISIS threat. This development may provide an indicator of ISIS’s broader expansion plans in western Syria and the potential response of Syrian opposition fighters to this expansion.”

If you just peruse the map, you will see that ISIS, rather than being on the run, now controls almost half of Syria and most of western Iraq. Israel is well aware of the danger, as is Jordan, as is Saudi Arabia. Only Obama seems blithely dismissive of their prowess and progress, as the success of ISIS does not fit his political narrative as the omnipotent shaper of world events “from behind.” Yemen, a US ally, is about to fall to radical Islam. Obama has still not reconciled himself to the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. Finger-wagging does not seem to be a sufficient deterrent to people who readily wield hatchets and massacre with abandon.

As was forecast here several times, Obama has little interest in halting Iran’s nuclear program, and will negotiate and negotiate with them until the initial blast. His best scenario is kicking the can down the road so it becomes the next president’s problem. “Not my job!” That’s what makes Congress’ invitation to PM Netanyahu to come address a joint session next month on the twin threats of radical Islam and Iran’s nuclear ambitions so intriguing. Rarely does one find a congressional smack down of a president so blatant, transparent and delicious. The President can hardly complain that Congress did not consult him when he never consults Congress before acting unilaterally. And Congress – on a bipartisan basis, led admirably for years on this issue by our own Senator Bob Menendez – clearly is in favor of passing strong sanctions legislation now, to go into effect when the current round of negotiations fails in June.

In essence, few presidents have been distrusted by Congress more than Obama is by the current legislature, and there are few leaders in the world who are as disliked by Obama as is Netanyahu. What a triangle – Congress is using Netanyahu to poke and prod Obama, and rally support for the two-thirds Congressional majority that can override Obama’s expected veto of sanctions legislation. Netanyahu loves it as well.  Right in the middle of a heavily contested election campaign, Netanyahu gets to look magisterial in the well of Congress, defending Israel’s interests and tweaking an American president who is widely disliked in Israel. It can only win him votes and support, one reason why his visit might be sabotaged by the administration before he even arrives, and why Obama’s favorites in Israel ‘s upcoming elections – the malleable Herzog and Livni – will dutifully condemn the proposed visit as a gimmick. It is a chess game.

Except for the fact that there are real dangers in the world to which Obama seems detached as he pushes for universal child care or something, always paid for by someone else. Terror has grown exponentially on his watch. Country after country has been pulverized, and most security experts see another devastating attack in the US as simply a matter of time. America is the country most equipped to lead the world and engage the enemy. It has the capability. Does it have the will? The leadership?

Not yet. And no amount of verbiage, empty promises, recycled speeches, boasts and cellophane can cover that up.

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18 responses to “Fate of the Union

  1. “The deficit has been cut more than half, not that difficult considering that he ran up multi-trillion dollar deficits in his first four years in office, an unprecedented feat.”

    Oh thank goodness! I’ve been waiting for this day for years. We can finally stop debating whether or not the deficit is shrinking and instead debate who (or what) deserves credit for it’s shrinking.

    • We should probably also mention the context of his first year in office. The economy was in full free fall mode, and most people agree extra spending was neccessary. The deficit in 2008 was 458 Billion. In 2009 it jumped to 1.4 Billion. the 2009 deficit was a combination of Bush/Obama ( 1st Quarter was Bush’s)

  2. Indeed. Facts are facts. But please do not be promiscuous with your apostrophes: “its shrinking,” not “it’s shrinking.”
    – RSP

  3. Very well said. Thank you.

  4. Dear Rabbi,

    You have, as always, eloquently described this President, leaving out only his narcissistic slant of the SOTU speech. However, his speeches are always about him, At least 50% of voters know the facts you list, but, it is the other half of the country who are blind, ignorant, or too partisan to accept Obama’s Presidency and policies as failing and dangerous to the security of Americans and the World. Even those of us who see this imposter for what he is; an anti-Semitic, avowed socialist, and racist, hell bent on changing this country forever, feel helpless. The impotence many Americans feel in thwarting Obama’s agenda isn’t assuaged with a lackluster Republican Congress. And, frankly, the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency only stokes the fear that our country’s influence and respect is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. So, I ask you, how do you see the future of this once great nation, and how we citizens might alter that trajectory, if, indeed, you see more of the same?

    • It all goes back to what I wrote after the 2012 election. As long as Americans remain addicted to, and vote for the politicians who promise them, free stuff, the decline will continue. And Obama continued to promise more free stuff in this speech – AND – essentially renounce the notion that sacrifices will be necessary to fight and defeat Islamic terror. Easy route – bomb from the air and declare victory, if you even address the matter at all.
      – RSP

    • Obama is an anti-semitic racist, socialist hell bent on changing the country forever? lol sure it is the other 50% that are too blind or partisan to accept reality lol

  5. Hello Rabbi, your article is very well written. I agree with many of the things you mentioned. The basic theme, that many of the things which occur in the US ( including the economy) have verry little to do with the White House. I do think you should cut Pres Obama a little slack. Politicans brag, it’s what they do. If Mitt Romney had been elected and the economic numbers were the same you bet he would be taking credit/bragging. I do agree that his calls for bipartenzenship is a a bit hollow at this point. However, he has tried to work with the opposition. I think if you look objectively at his first five years of Pres you will see him trying to work with the the GOP congress, only to be rejected. ( Remember Mcconell saying it was his goal to make Pres Obama a one term pres? Boehner saying he would judge the party by how much they blocked? Paul Ryan and crew meeting in DC and agreeing now to work with Obama but to make it seem like they were trying? I could list a bunch of other examples) I actually shouldn’t include Boehner with the rest of the group, he and Obama have agreed in principle on The Debt Ceiling, spending, Immigration etc. only to be shut down by the tea party. Anyway, I am hoping you can clarify a few things in your article

  6. You mention economic growth being supressed due to Obamacare. Can you be more specific?The mandate for companies to supply health care just took effect this month. Something like 90% of the Companies (with 50 or more full time employees)already provide healthcare. Also, during the Obama administration, corporate profits are at an all time high. Also, what regulation ( overregulation are you reffering to?) In terms of taxes, rates are pretty low historically speaking. Please correct me if I”m wrong, but I believe that Obama’s first term was the lowest. rate for taxes in history. After he was reelected he proposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the top 2%, and I don’t believe he even went thru with that. If memory correctly, he let the rate on those earning over $350K a year go from 36% to 39% ( hardly drastic) I think Obamacare has a small tax on medical devices, other than that nothing I”m aware of. In terms of his spending and deficits I think it’s worth noting that the debt has risen under Obama at about the same rate as his predecessor. Much of the spending at the beginning was to help offset the awful state the economy was in. In terms of foreign policy, you certainly make good points. I will say though, that I haven’t heard any other solutions regarding ISIS/Al Qaida. My take is that it is a bad situation with no good option.

  7. Rabbi Pruzansky

    Companies have stopped hiring and have cut hours for full-time employees, all to keep them under the threshold at which they would have to submit to Obamacare. The increase in jobs has been disproportionately for part-time work. Other companies, incidentally, are providing inferior insurance coverage at higher prices than previously paid – a double whammy for the consumer and the company.
    – RSP

  8. The increase in part time jobs has been going on since before Obama took office. In terms of the other points, I don’t think the effects are as so big. Are you familiar with the orgins of Obamacare? I’m sure you know it was basically a Republican idea ( I believe it was the Heritage foundation that originally came up with the basics) You must admit the irony that Mitt Romney enacted it in MA and bragged about how well it would work.

  9. Meant to forward this…better late than never. Once again the Rabbi nails it. Sadly it is our coffin. Sorry I am so negative, but we are in serious trouble here.

    Sent from my iPod

  10. None of that is relevant. You can’t blame Bush, Romney and republicans for everything. There are still fewer people working today than when Obama took office, unprecedented in history. But Obamacare has devastated business – and health care.
    – RSP

  11. “There are still fewer people working today than when Obama took office.”

    Do you have a source on that? I’m looking right now at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and they say that in January 2009 there were 133,976,000 total employees in the US. In December 2014, there are 140,347,000. My math tells me that’s an increase — not a decrease — of 4.8%.

    Incidentally, I just Googled your claim and saw that it was a very popular meme back in 2011 and 2012. It was once true. I think it’s just outdated now.

  12. Obamacare has devastated healthcare and business? I respect your opinion but strongly disagree. In terms of fewer people working today than when Obama took office I find that very hard to believe. Can you please provide a source?
    Thank you

  13. I am not blaming Bush. Romney, GOP for anything. I just pointed out some facts. It would be ridiculous to blame Bush for the Debt, but just as ridiculous not to mention spending under his admin when discussing the debt. Just like it would be ridiculous to claim Obama still honestly wants to work with congress fully. Even more ridiculous to claim he hasn’t attempted to negotiate in good faith and find common ground in the past.