Participating in interviews before the State of the Union address, I tried not to sound skeptical in expressing hope that the president would somehow re-connect with Americans seething after a year that has left the homeland less secure, the jobs market less buoyant and our politics more deeply partisan.
But if I did convey skepticism, it turned out to be well-founded. Barack Obama failed miserably to reconnect with the country. He briefly acknowledged “political setbacks,” “some of them…deserved.” But Obama’s concluding exclamations — “We don’t quit! I don’t quit!” — only underscored his failure to understand that a liberal policy agenda won’t ever be embraced by a center-right country.
While the president’s remarks on jobs and spending are getting most of the attention, one of his most significant proposals came late in the speech when he called for repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy for homosexuals serving in the military.
The president said, “I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”
As is his habit when discussing values issues, Obama completely misrepresented the debate. Gay Americans are not denied “the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”
What they are prohibited from doing is flaunting their sexuality. The Pentagon’s policy guidelines on homosexuals in the Military state:
“Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.”
It’s open homosexuality that the military prohibits. Ike Skelton, the leading House Democrat on military policy, opposes repealing the policy. So does John McCain, who responded to the president’s decision by defending DADT. He said, “This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels.”
McCain’s right. A Military Times poll revealed 58 percent of active duty service members support DADT. About14 percent said they would consider leaving the military if homosexuals were allowed to serve openly. Ten percent said they would not re-enlist.
Recall that when it was enacted 17 years ago, DADT was the liberal position on homosexuality in the military. Now even some Republican lawmakers run away from the policy so as not to appear “intolerant.”
It’s striking that, at a time when our military and its morale are stretched thin, Obama’s big initiative is to dismiss the advice of his military leadership and bend to the demands of narrow special interest groups.
As Sen. McCain said, “We have the best-trained, best-equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”
Having used his speech to publicly embrace a controversial position on one cultural issue, it was not surprising that Obama was silent about another, abortion.
Obama has always denied that taxpayers would be required to fund abortion under his health care bill. Obama said about health care, “By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance.” But he neglected to mention that during his 75-minute address, nearly 200 unborn Americans were slaughtered through abortion.
Newly sworn-in Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell gave the Republican response. Perhaps more alert than Obama to FDR’s advice to political speechmakers—“be sincere; be brief; be seated.”—McDonnell spoke for less than 15 minutes. But he still found time to assert that America should be a land where “innocent life is protected.”
Obama scolded the Supreme Court (six of whose justices were in attendance) for its recent decision striking down an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. Obama chided the court for concluding that for the purposes of the law a corporation is a person and thus has freedom of speech and can spend freely to run political ads for or against candidates.
So while the president was willing to make an unprecedented attack on the court for concluding that a corporation can sometimes be treated like a person, we know he sees nothing wrong with the court’s refusal to extend the right of personhood to the unborn.
The president also mentioned immigration, saying, “We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.”
Again, Obama completely distorted what’s at stake. Obama’s immigration reform proposal includes amnesty for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
Because they reward people who by definition did not play by the rules, immigration amnesties only entice more illegal immigration. Illegal immigration hurts the American economy by putting downward pressure on wages and by straining the welfare, health care and educational systems as illegal immigrants obtain public assistance immediately upon entering the country.
The Obama administration seems completely oblivious to how the political landscape has changed over the last year. Obama and his spokesmen have publically interpreted Republican wins in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts not as a rejection but as an affirmation of his message and political style. Hard to believe.
Meanwhile his vice president spins the loss of the Democratic Party’s 60-vote Senate super majority as a positive development because it could raise the burden for the GOP “to be accountable as well.”
The State of the Union address was a speech befitting the one term-president Obama told Diane Sawyer he may settle for being. In fact, if Obama continues his obstinate pursuit of a liberal agenda, he may not have any choice in the matter.