Saturday, February 01, 2014

Obama's 2014 SOTU

President Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) this past Tuesday was a good speech. I was pleasantly surprised by the statement, "America must move off a permanent war footing."

I was glad he brought up the voter suppression problem, even though he followed it immediately by talking about some possible Bipartisan solution to it rather than pointing out it involves segregation laws pushed by the Republican Party. But I was glad to see it there.

It's good that he highlighted the one-sided destructiveness of the Republicans' fundamental opposition approach.

I was also impressed with his emphatic statement that he would veto new Iran sanctions because, "For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed." Since the idea has been co-sponsored by 59 Senators and pushed hard by AIPAC, that was a pretty clear statement not only that he's willing to tell AIPAC to kiss off on this one but that the lobby group pursues some policies that are contrary to the national security interests of the US.

The bill to torpedo the Obama Administration's negotiations with Iran was become a significant embarrassment for AIPAC, as noted by Jim Lobe in AIPAC’s Annus Horribilis? LobeLog Foreign Policy 01/31/2014 and MJ Rosenberg in Iran: The Week Obama Took Down the Lobby Huffington Post 01/31/2014. Rosenberg was also struck by Obama's phrasing in the SOTU on that matter:

No, this does not mean that AIPAC and Netanyahu are giving up. At every critical junction during the process of reaching a deal with Iran they will be there working hard to subvert Obama's effort. Their March conference in Washington (with 400 Members of Congress in attendance) is already slated to be one massive "Bomb Iran" rally, with Congresspeople and candidates pledging support for war in exchange for campaign cash. (I've been in the room and watched how they do it).

And they still might succeed, particularly if the Iranians give them any ammunition.

But it is less likely now, not after Obama issued his veto threat and asserted that he would continue to pursue diplomacy in the name of "our national interest" (not Israel's, although an agreement is in Israel's interest too, but our national interest). At that moment, with those words, Obama won and the lobby lost. [my emphasis]
Of course, Obama normally gives good speeches. How strong his follow-up is on issues on which his speech gives cheer to the Democratic base, that's always the big question. The fact that he says something encouraging doesn't mean he intends to follow up on it seriously, as we've seen over and over.

The announcement on Friday that the Obama Administration had waved the Keystone Pipeline project past a key review. Or, as Charlie Pierce reads it in The Skids Are Greased On The Keystone Pipeline Esquire Politics Blog 01/31/2014:

The State Department completed its months-long bag job of an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline, the proposed continent-spanning death funnel that will carry the world's dirtiest fossil fuel from the ecological moonscape of northern Alberta to the refineries of Texas and thence to the world. The State Department has concluded, basically, no harm, no foul.
The final decision hasn't been made yet. But this is a really bad sign.

Unfortunately, Democrats have to hold their breaths after every major speech like this by President Obama, especially ones that seem to particularly emphasize themes and positions the base likes. Because after a speech like that, another shoe is very likely to drop in the following few days, and drop on the President favoring the Republican side of the issue. And that's what has already happened on this one.

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