Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Obama: Stop Bigotry and Fear-Mongering

In his last State of the Union address, Barack Obama in many ways called out the hate merchants of the Republican Party and challenged their appeals to hate, bigotry and fear mongering.  His address was followed by a mealy mouthed response from Nikki Haley who, while sane and rational compared to Sarah Palin, continued the very lies that Obama had condemned.  Haley was followed by remarks from Ted Cruz that I honestly could not stomach watching.  Overall, Obama's address was fact based and calm - something unheard of in today's Republican Party.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post's assessment of the speech:

PRESIDENT OBAMA took the biggest stage in politics Tuesday night aiming to calm a fearful nation and offer realistic ways to fix the country’s worsening politics. In his final State of the Union address, Mr. Obama acknowledged that partisanship has worsened during his presidency and accepted a share of blame — but said correctly that goodwill and leadership alone cannot repair the situation. It will take systemic reform, he said, to change the tone and substance of American governance.

“We’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,” he declared; gerrymandering makes Congress less responsive to the will of the majority of Americans. Mr. Obama insisted that Congress should find ways to restrict the untoward influence of money in politics. And he said it should be easier for Americans to vote. 

His recommendations are apt in a campaign season veering toward disaster. Mistrust of institutions, pessimism about the future, fear of terrorism, and resentment of economic inequality have voters considering handing the government to bloviators who offer simplistic and often offensive “solutions.” 

The facts do not suggest that the country is nearing collapse or self-destruction, as the rhetoric on the campaign trail so often implies. And even for very real problems, populist outbursts — bashing immigrants, the Federal Reserve, China and other easy targets — will not help. Mr. Obama pushed back against bigotry in the GOP campaign — and fear-mongering in his own party.

Mr. Obama also sought to offer reassurance on threats from abroad, saying, correctly, that the Islamic State does not pose an existential threat to the United States. He sketched a way to manage failed states and a turbulent Middle East by “mobiliz[ing] the world to work with us and mak[ing] sure other countries pull their own weight.” 

The United States faces serious problems. But overstating them only contributes to the likelihood of continuing Washington dysfunction or, worse, electing a demagogue who really would bring disaster. Mr. Obama was right to make that case.

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