Obama Counters GOP Pessimism With Hope and Hard Truth


William Rivers Pitt | Truthout | January 13, 2016

President Barack Obama reacts to a round of applause during his final State of the Union address, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016. Behind are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan. (Evan Vucci / Pool via The New York Times)President Barack Obama reacts to a round of applause during his final State of the Union address, at the US Capitol in Washington, January 12, 2016. Behind are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan. (Photo: Evan Vucci / Pool via The New York Times)

President Obama delivered his eighth and final State of the Union address to Congress last night, and it was by far the strangest version of this event I’ve ever witnessed. Not strange in a bad way, mind you; it was actually refreshing not to hear a president make doomed proposals like “We will throw a rope around the moon and haul it down to light the rest of the world” while keeping track of who stands up and who doesn’t after the pat and patented applause lines. This thing was bereft of the usual theater, stripped of its extraneous parts like an old Harley junkwagon, made to cruise, and at times, to rumble.

The president was practically lounging on the podium like a dude leaning on his old beater Pontiac in the parking lot outside the bowling alley, holding court with a deck of smokes rolled up in his sleeve. He was loose, easy and mostly honest. The sad fictions that sustain us even as they devour us were salted throughout, of course – one does not become president of the United States without being a consummate bullshit artist – but the candor was noteworthy, as were the barbs.

Donald Trump took it in the teeth on a number of occasions, without being named once, as the president spoke on immigration, Muslims and the hollow nature of facile political bombast. Interestingly enough, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley followed suit in her rebuttal speech by touting her family’s immigrant heritage while extolling people to dismiss the angriest voices in the political conversation. She may as well have looked dead into the camera and said “Trump is a chump.” There was a definite Big Lebowski aspect to the evening: “Shut the f**k up, Donnie.” The message was not missed; Trump had a nice little Twitter meltdown before the dust had a chance to settle.

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