By Daniel Ford
I'm sickened by the political discourse in this country.
Ted Cruz sanctimoniously lobbying to bomb the Middle East into a parking lot? Bernie Sanders shouting at Wall Street to get off his lawn? Donald Trump transforming his campaign events into de facto Klan rallies? Marco Rubio pontificating in an empty suit? Chris Christie???!!! These are the Presidential turkeys we get? We need more orators and fewer class clowns.
I suppose you could argue we deserve it. Our short attention spans, reality television sensibilities, and willful disengagement from the political process make us easy prey for these windbags. And I'm not naive enough to think political debate in this country has ever been high minded. For every Lincoln, there's an Andrew Johnson; for every FDR, there's a Herbert Hoover. Thomas Jefferson essentially ran the first smear campaign (with the help of his lap dogs James Madison and James Monroe) and besmirched the reputation of John Adams, his longtime friend, to get elected and whine about nearly every issue for eight years.
However, President Obama, during his final State of the Union address, demonstrated that there might be a different path our politicians might take. I know he's unburdened by re-election and his legislative agenda is already a dead letter in Congress, but he touched on themes that should resonant with the electorate this campaign season. I’m not saying I agreed with everything he said or was pleased with some of the issues that were excluded (particularly gun violence), but the highest office demands the highest level of oratory and that’s what we were treated to last night.
These are the four questions the President explored:
Shouldn't all these political attack ads instead focus on the answers to these questions? Aren’t these questions the crux of what we're facing as a nation? Shouldn't our discussions around kitchen tables or on social media revolve around how to live up to President Obama's rousing call to citizenship?
Sadly, more attention will likely be given to Kim Davis' hair, Paul Ryan possibly having a stroke next to Joe Biden, and the Joint Chiefs setting a world record for holding in the largest collective fart.
I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. We can do better. I don't know if I still have faith that we will, but last night’s oratory makes me believe it's still possible.
Speaking of pontificating, that's enough out of me. Here are some tweets from last night that are both substantive and silly.
Paul Ryan in utter terror of being caught agreeing with even the most benign Obama statement is a pure portrait of the GOP in 2016.— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) January 13, 2016
Obama: 60 years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science. (1/2)— WBUR (@WBUR) January 13, 2016
I swear the members of Congress check their smartphones and doze off more often than my college students. Absolutely unreal.— Samuel J. Redman (@samueljredman) January 13, 2016
Don't stand up and applaud our military troops for cheap political points and then willfully ignore issues like the VA and PTSD. #SOTU— Daniel Ford (@danielfford) January 13, 2016
Obama talking common sense on ISIS not being an existential threat. An entire political party won't listen but also won't authorize force.— Jonathan Alter (@jonathanalter) January 13, 2016
"International system built since WWII struggling to keep up w/ new realities" - #SOTU.Obama calls for creation of new global architecture.— Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (@gaylelemmon) January 13, 2016
Read this, be smarter. ‘ISIS’ vs. ‘ISIL’ vs. ‘Islamic State’: The political importance of a much-debated acronym https://t.co/WX1MLBUhtU— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) January 13, 2016
Still gobsmacked that the rich guy from the '80s who hosted The Apprentice essentially just spurred a major section of the #SOTU.— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) January 13, 2016
Please, President Obama. I beg you. It's your last State Of The Union. Throw in a "Baba Booey!"#sotu— kevinbiegel (@kbiegel) January 13, 2016
This is a really good speech about what it means to be a citizen in the fullest sense of that word.— Jonathan Alter (@jonathanalter) January 13, 2016
Mr. President: It's Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose. https://t.co/ToW7tUuSsp— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) January 13, 2016
That ending, man. Obama couldn’t fix the American political system in two terms as president, and that clearly still eats at him. #SOTU— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) January 13, 2016