Obama, Haley, and Trump: State of the Disunion

President Barack Obama waves at the conclusion of his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool

Donald Trump was the unseen third speaker for the final Obama State of the Union, along with the President and the Republican response from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.  

Actually, Haley’s address responded more to Trump than to Obama. If any casual news consumers were watching, that might have seemed a little confusing to them. Trump won the night by not giving a speech, confining himself to a bit of snark on Twitter:

This particular State of the Union night was reminiscent of how the super-computer Joshua summed up global thermonuclear war in the movie WarGames: the only way to win was not to play.

Trying to pick out the biggest whopper from Obama’s speech is a fool’s errand, because the whole thing was a gigantic lie, perpetrated by a man who knows most of the media is eager to help him write the first draft of history. People jump on Trump for saying weird things, but he’s never delivered anything like the hour of delusional insanity Barack Obama dumped on Tuesday night.

Obama touted ObamaCare, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and his Syria policy as successes. That’s exactly the kind of brazen B.S. that has turned so many opposition voters to Trump, who suffers from no politically-correct compulsion to bite his tongue in response.  

Too much of the Republican Establishment feels obliged to sit quietly while Democrats shovel crap, like praising a health-care scheme that wiped out millions of good plans, dumped unbearable costs on Americans who did nothing wrong, depressed the U.S. job market (despite Obama’s false assertions to the contrary) and frittered away trillions of dollars that could have been put to much better use.

Evidently it was too much to ask Republicans to put in a word for the victims of ObamaCare in their response. They were too busy lobbing thinly-veiled insults at their own frontrunner. Obama wants the millions of people who got screwed by ObamaCare to be forgotten, and evidently the GOP leadership is prepared to oblige him.

Notice that Haley’s response included some blame for Republicans in the current mess, but Obama defiantly refused to admit he’s ever made a mistake.

“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around,” said Haley. “We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken, and then we need to fix it.”

This was probably designed as a concession to the anti-Establishment fever in the Republican Party, but measured against Obama’s phony triumphalism, the effect is to make Republicans look weak and apologetic. Haley should have specified that part of the “truth” Republicans need to “own” is that they haven’t been effective at pushing back against Obama’s agenda, but she offered nothing as pointed against Obama or his designated successor Hillary Clinton as her jabs against Trump.  

For better and worse, part of Trump’s appeal is that he echoes Obama’s unapologetic style, and Republican voters are tired of watching their team be the only one that ever accepts penalty flags without a challenge.

Aside from attempting to rewrite his legacy, the major theme of the President’s address was his appeal to unity and denunciation of angry, divisive politics. That’s a lot to swallow from the most deliberately divisive President of the modern era – the man whose every policy, every speech, is designed to pit groups of Americans against each other in a bitter dog fight for table scraps from the richest, brokest government ever – but Haley rushed to agree with him, instead of calling him out for it, because their mutual adversary is Trump.

A couple of speeches after seven years of Obama’s rolling civil war isn’t going to restore polite discourse. The Obama presidency taught exactly the opposite lesson to everyone who was paying attention. Only the squeaky wheels get greased. Noisy activism, up to and including violent riots, are the only way to seize the favor of the State.  Rules are for suckers, and the people who play by them get rolled. Only Obama cronies and well-connected special interests get rich.  

The President had the brass to throw in a complaint about “income inequality” when it’s gotten much worse under his Administration, and not by accident – his fiscal policy was the perfect demonstration of what real “trickle-down economics” look like.

The Obama years also made it clear that “civility” is for chumps.  

The Left attacks its enemies with unremitting savagery, and the President himself indulges in crude smears of his political opponents as monsters who enjoy watching poor people die, or don’t care about victimized women and children. Obama’s standard mode of straw-man argument is a running breach of civility, because he presumes there is no way for anyone to disagree with him in good faith. Dissenters are always evil, not simply mistaken.

Meanwhile, when people who resist the Democrat agenda speak with passion, they are denounced as “haters” and “angry voices.” We’re supposed to keep a quiet, level tone and placid expressions while liberals kick us in the groin, and their government treats us all like unindicted criminals. We’re only a few days past an Obama gun-control stunt which had no purpose other than demonstrating how much he cares, and how little his opponents do – an invitation for his followers to hate-frenzy against the evil National Rifle Association and its legion of gun-toting hillbillies, who are always the real villains behind “gun crime,” even though they are never the actual perpetrators.

Governor Haley had it exactly wrong: what’s needed is loud voices.  We need leadership that can fight the way Democrats do, that will immediately and loudly call them out in their excesses… and, more importantly, hit back hard.  

Obama was right about Americans feeling excluded from the political process… because he excluded them, in everything from political campaigns designed to make them feel marginalized, to the abuse of power at the IRS.  

Middle-class taxpayers want Republican leaders who will fight for them the way Democrats fight for their special interest groups – notice how the long, droning conclusion to Obama’s SOTU was a list of shout-outs to his preferred constituents, a vision of America where only the Democrat Party’s clients matter. Taken in its entirety, the speech was a demand to ignore all of Obama’s many failures, airbrush out the people he shafted, and pretend it was a successful presidency.

After years of being shoved around by left-wing rage mobs, they want leaders who can shove back. Trump is leading in the Republican primary because few of his competitors seem capable of shoving. They’re pretty vicious when it comes to beating down conservative challengers to Establishment power, but it would be great if they could bring those cage-fighting skills to bear against the actual opposition.  

People who sneer at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan should ponder the spectacle of Obama bragging about a foreign policy that left the world in flames, America’s credibility with its allies in tatters, and its reputation with enemies a joke.  

While Obama was speaking, Iran was holding ten American sailors prisoner – a fact the President studiously avoided mentioning.  They were released the following morning with a stern lecture from the Islamic fascists about how the U.S. Congress should never dare to consider sanctions against them again… and Obama and his team were on their knees, thanking Iran for its mercy and apologizing for causing them any trouble.  

(Try to imagine this incident going the other way, with some Iranian sailors crossing into American territorial waters.  Do you imagine for one instant Obama would play it the way the Iranians did?)

America won’t survive another President who handles foreign policy the way Barack Obama does. The Republican Party won’t survive another term of leadership that lets Democrats treat them the way Iran handles Obama.