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The Progressive

In Obama’s State of the Union, Troublesome Passages for Progressives

Excuse me for not yelling myself hoarse for Obama’s warmed over State of the Union address.

While I agree with his call for economic fairness, there was not much in his speech that was new or all that promising. And there were several troublesome passages for progressives.

First, mentioning John Boehner, Obama said he was still open to a grand compromise on Social Security and Medicare, which would make Americans have to work longer and get less benefits from Medicare and Medicaid. We don’t need a Democrat to hack away at these crucial social programs.

Second, he took a gratuitous swipe at universal single-payer health care. Sounding like Ronald Reagan, he said, “I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” As an illustration, he said, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.” Huh? He used to say he was for single-payer universal health care. Then, when he was running for President the first time, he said, “If I were starting from scratch," I’d be for single-payer universal health care. Now he disparages it to score cheap political points.

Third, he was belligerent on Iran, saying (to raucous applause) that he would take “no options off the table,” which is easily decipherable code for saying he’d threaten to blow Iran off the map if it got one nuclear weapon, even though the United States has thousands and Israel has hundreds.

Fourth, he said that America is a “Pacific power,” reiterating the theme of his new strategic doctrine, which is aimed recklessly at China.

And finally, sounding like a mix of Madeleine Albright and George W. Bush, he boasted that the United States is the “one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.”

This was cheap jingoism that the American people, already suffering from a superiority complex, really could have lived without.

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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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