Those of you who aren’t plugged into the matrix might have missed the fact that President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress last night, as U.S. presidents are, sort of, required to do (also, Apple released its tablet computer). As Toby pointed out in the “100,000 Airplanes” episode of the West Wing:
He’s required to give Congress information on the State of the Union. If he buys Congress a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, he’s fulfilled his Constitutional [requirement].
In a way, that’s kind of what happened with regards to foreign policy last night, and other related issues. Granted, my eyebrows reached for the sky when he mentioned a push on safe nuclear power and drilling off-shore, but, for the most part, it was nothing new — triplets of the girl in Afghanistan, the woman in Iran, and so on. A general call for a climate bill, a general call for free trade, stuff we already know about arms control and Afghanistan, and several mentions of what we’ve already done in Haiti. In fact, he didn’t even take the opportunity to dun climate change deniers:
I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future
NO! This is not a point of disagreement. You do not need a secondary argument.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disapprove of this president’s foreign policy, quite the opposite. I, like Mark, think: “Through a policy of engagement with international institutions and cooperation abroad, the administration has racked up an impressive set of foreign policy achievements after just one year.” And, for the most part, I thought the president looked strong last night, like a man in control — demanding that his own party not “run for the hills,” calling out Republicans on obstructionism, ordering legislation, threatening the veto multiple times, “I will not quit” — except, that is, when it came to issues abroad.
Perhaps the foreign policy vanilla in this speech is representative of a general reticence by Obama to appear as if he’s neglecting domestic issues for foreign ones in this time of uncertainty. Perhaps he listened to this bunch. I think that’s a bad tactic, particularly if your somewhat obligated to have a foreign policy section anyway. What’s the benefit of being shy? People snooze on the tried and true. You’ve got the whole State Department on the ready, teeming with ideas. Highlight a few of those.