Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You Made Me Cry Last Night, Barack

You know, he always does this.

I’m referring to President Obama always delivering great speeches, speeches that touch and inspire and motivate and captivate me, speeches that always fire me up and make me stand and applaud and shout, “Yes sir!” to my television screen. Last night’s State of the Union speech was just such an address.

But too often, the things he talks about don’t happen. Either obstructionist lawmakers fail to act – or consciously refuse to act – or the president himself abandons the proposals, pointing fingers and bemoaning the partisan composition of Congress rather than plowing full speed ahead to make things happen. And progressives throw up our hands in disgust and dismay, our feeling of betrayal clouding our ability to see the reality of the cesspool that is Washington, D.C.

I’m hoping things will be different this time. I’m hoping the president will be emboldened by his decisive re-election victory and freed by the fact that he won’t be running for this office again, that he will put his money where his mouth is and doggedly pursue the points and promises that he made last night.

As always, I’m highlighting a few lines from the speech that I found particularly pleasing:

  • But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful.

  • The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.

  • Let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.

  • A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest.

  • Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

  • Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.

  • And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

  • In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

  • One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

That reference to the loss of Hadiya was especially poignant.

Hi, Susan.
Speaking of violence, he mentioned the Violence against Women Act, which the U.S. Senate passed yesterday. He said that his second-in-command, Vice President Joe Biden, actually wrote this bill 20 years ago and it was time for the U.S. House to pass it as well. (I’m told that Biden actually winked at Susan Belcovski Ferraro, one of my Facebook friends and the biggest Biden fan I know, during the speech although I missed it.)

He also discussed immigration reform, Afghanistan, reducing the world’s nuclear arsenals, cyber-terrorism and Syria, among other subjects, and he called for raising the country’s minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $9/hour, which is about as likely as I am to become head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks women’s basketball team.

Ms. Desiline Victor
It was cool when he recognized 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who was in the gallery. A North Miami resident, Ms. Victor waited for six hours to vote at her congested polling place. I sure hope the Obama administration does something about how difficult it is – almost a half century after Jim Crow laws – for some Americans to exercise their right to vote.

The president closed by saying, “Well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”

I was going to continue with the book I’m drafting on a different topic but I suppose I can put it aside in order to help write this great chapter if my president needs me.

It was fun to spot U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the amazing Gabby Giffords and her cool-as-hell husband, Captain Mark Kelly, new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Michelle Obama, one of my all-time favorite White House occupants. (C-Span is my network of choice for these things.) I watched Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuse to applaud anything POTUS said, which wasn't surprising, and didn’t see outrageously offensive, washed-up rock-and-roller Ted Nugent at all, which was. (A Michigan resident, he attended the speech as a guest of Republican Texas Congressman Steve Stockman.)

I didn't listen to the batshit-crazy rebuttal of U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), representing the Koch Brothers-funded Tea Party. The older I get, the less willing I am to try to stomach crap and insanity. I did watch the official Republican response delivered by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who convinced me within minutes that not all Cuban Americans are cool. (Note to Gloria Estefan, Desi Arnaz and Andy Garcia: thanks for misleading me.)

After pandering to the “brave men and women of our Armed Forces” who “may be thousands of miles away but will always be in our prayers,” Rubio launched into the same old “tax-and-spend liberal who wants to grow government” attack that Republicans have leveled against Democrats since before I entered the world. In Rubio’s world, Obama believes the solution to every problem we face is for Washington to tax more and spend more. He of course took a swipe at Obamacare and insisted that “more government breeds complicated rules and laws that are too confusing for small businesses to follow.” (Way to denigrate America’s entrepreneurs, Senator.)

Rubio, who spoke in front of a silly set that resembled a heavily-draped window in Scarlett O’Hara’s house and looked like it was glued together by my preteens, kept oddly wiping at his temples like the sweaty, overweight 60-year-old who regularly staggers around a racquetball court at my gym. I was mildly amused when he almost fell over while awkwardly taking a huge gulp of what I assume was water well into his rebuttal. (Click here.) That was something you don’t see every day.

I have to admit I was so plugged into the speech last night, so moved by the words of our basketball-playing Commander in Chief, that I found myself cheering in my living room, tears rolling down my cheeks, more than once. I’m not letting today’s sun catch me crying, though. And I’m not holding my breath.

For the text of the speech, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post - I'll have to catch up on the speech since I didn't watch and haven't read.