Tonight’s State of the Union will deliver little surprise about the end the Obama administration.
AMAZINGLY UNGRACIOUS ERA
First, please stipulate that the very idea of a State of the Union address is a concept that should have gone out with top hats on Inauguration Day.
We will not assault your eyes with another lamentation of this overstuffed overwrought and mostly meaningless ritual. But suffice to say it is so far out of whack with its intended purpose as a duty of the executive to the legislative branch as to be laughable.
It’s supposed purpose in the television age is to give the president an opportunity to lay out his vision for the coming year, and exhort Congress to action. Almost invariably, though, these speeches turn into laundry lists and brag sheets.
But all the same these addresses provide helpful waypoints to check a president’s progress. So let’s do that, shall we?
It’s hard to remember now what Washington was like at this time seven years ago. The city was brimming with energy and excitement ahead of the inauguration. Even people who had opposed Obama welcomed the end of the Bush era and the start of something new. Republicans were terrified and desperate for ways to show they would work with the president. They were afraid to oppose him; sounds hilarious now.
But starting the first month with his stimulus, and plowing right into ObamaCare despite widespread opposition, all that quickly changed.
He plunged ahead using party line votes and procedural tricks and managed to set the template for the seven years to come: uncompromising and unproductive. Simply put, by being ungracious, Obama let his opponents off the hook. He tried to crush them but instead forged a hard and unyielding resistance. Welcome to House minority, Democrats.
Occasional triumphs, like killing Usama Bin Laden only occasionally bubbled Obama back to majority support, quickly deflated by the next partisan gambit. His grind-it-out, scorched earth election of 2012 was a fitting midway point. He became the first president re-elected with a smaller electoral vote margin than he was originally elected.
By the time we made it to the signal moments – the revelation of the “if you like it you can keep it” bologna, the ISIS debacle and the 2014 midterm pummeling – it all seemed to be reading from the same old script. Obama was right. He was just sorry you weren’t smart enough to understand.
So he arrives here drained of his power as an inspirational figure to all but his true loyalists and more of a cautionary tale about what happens to a politician who preaches hope, but doesn’t really hold it in his heart.