Just a few points to add to Brother Matt Rothschild’s comprehensive commentary on the speech:
It took the president almost 45 minutes to mention foreign policy. Understandably, he still wants to focus on the economy, but this seemed extreme, especially since there is no good reason to “silo” domestic and foreign policy when there are great opportunities to connect the dots. For instance, the president’s mention of rebuilding our infrastructure, and specifically repairing 70,000 bridges in this country – great! Why not connect that with the need to drastically cut Pentagon spending in order to reinvest in community needs, stimulate the economy and create jobs? Why not bring the troops home from Afghanistan sooner, some of them can surely help rebuild bridges? The answer of course is the president is far too timid and afraid to take on the military-industrial complex (or by this point he is just “one of them”).
On Afghanistan, the “No drama Obama, I got this, we’re ending two wars” act is wearing thin. The president seems to want kudos for announcing that 34,000 troops will come home from Afghanistan in a year (meaning about that many would remain until the end of 2014, and then the Pentagon wants 8,000 or more to stay after the “end of the war.”).
Sorry, but I think it’s incumbent on the president to make the case why U.S. troops should continue to fight, kill and die in this pointless war for almost another two years. Polls show a solid majority of the public want all the troops, not half of them, home in a year. The president needs to listen to the public, not the generals and their talk of “fighting seasons” and foot-dragging on troop withdrawal.
The president’s quick “you can trust me” justification on drones, kill lists and targeted assassinations was abominable. This issue is moving rapidly at the grassroots, in the media and even in Congress, and the administration surely knows it is on very shaky moral and legal ground.
There was nothing new on any olive branch or changed policy on Iran in advance of the next round of negotiations later this month. Maybe that’s okay, the negotiating stance will be more important than anything he could have announced in the speech.
On nuclear disarmament, the administration evidently decided to back off earlier plans to specify a modest proposal to cut deployed strategic nuclear weapons by about one-third, to 1,000 – 1,100 warheads, instead only mentioning pursuing further reductions with Russia. This was likely a political choice not to raise Republican hackles, but once again shows timidity. Going deeper with nuclear weapons reductions, initiating negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention to eliminate nukes worldwide, scrapping plans to “modernize” the entire nuclear weapons production complex and arsenal (with a projected price tag of over $200 billion over the next decade) – all of these should be on the table and need U.S. leadership, and would be wildly popular in the U.S. and around the world.
Lastly, I couldn’t help but think that when the president said, “we’ll maintain the best military the world has ever known,” the world must have said, “uh oh!”