WASHINGTON – Media allies of President Obama were quick to label his final State of the Union message to Congress an unqualified success, a stunner. Some friends called it a “valedictory” talk, or farewell speech.
There is a grammatical cousin to “valedictory.” It is the word that describes the smartest kid in the class who gives a speech at graduation. He or she is called the “valedictorian.”
The vote here is that Obama really had the second word in mind. But each of us has a ballot.
What I think he will be chiefly remembered for is his slow, but steady disengagement of our armed forces – our young men and women – from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
This policy reverses one of the most perverse, evil conspiracies ever visited on the American people. This cabal, a child of lobbyists working for some U.S. arms makers, began 19 years ago. Leaders of both parties are to blame for the deaths of more than 6,000 service personnel, the maiming of thousands more, and seemingly endless suicides of veterans.
Names often mentioned in connection with this disgrace are Republicans Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, later defense secretary and vice president, respectively. But decent men like Gen. Colin Powell were also caught up in the lie about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Hillary Clinton pushed hard for war when decisions were being made in 2002. She later said this was a mistake. Some mistake!
Another notable action was Obama’s support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement, although he didn’t mention the phrase in his speech.
His support of investigations into police brutality in black neighborhoods has ended for now the notion that law enforcement has an entitlement to treat black offenders any way it wished.
The involvement of rabble-rouser Al Sharpton, and excesses of then Attorney General Eric Holder, were unfortunate. It is a two-edged blade. The movement has seen a rise in neighborhood crime as police pulled back, and violence on some police officers. But no white president ever would have done anything at all about police brutality.
What the Obama presidency has done for blacks materially is an open question. Commentator Tavis Smiley has said Obama hasn’t done much. Black unemployment has shrunk somewhat, but it is still double the joblessness among whites.
A study by the conservative Manhattan Institute shows only very marginal gains in New York City schools in reading and math proficiency in poor neighborhoods. Media apologists for the president cite federal employment figures showing that his critics exaggerate concerns about black unemployment.
However, federal jobs data has been, may we say, jiggled. The employment numbers have been rendered unreliable because they do not count among the unemployed discouraged workers or those who have resigned from the labor force.
This idle host is now larger than at any time in the past 30 years. And it will grow because of the president’s trade and immigration policies.
Opening the borders to undocumented immigrants from Central America, and to people fleeing war in the Middle East, is not going to improve job prospects for blacks trapped in Buffalo, Niagara Falls or anywhere else.
Add to these challenges Obama’s proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. A trail of data 25 years old shows American workers – black, brown or white – never benefitted from such trade schemes.
American factory production, such as remains, is in a nosedive.
The biggest fib put out by our corporate president and corporate Congress is that we are controlling the federal deficit, with the national debt spiraling toward $20 trillion.