Great comments by Norman Solomon — karen
By Richard Halstead – MarinIJ
Marin residents reacted to President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night with a mixture of admiration and skepticism.
I thought that the president was strong,” said Jessica Jackson of Mill Valley, who was an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention last summer. “I really liked his effective use of emotion when it came to the gun violence and thought that he presented new ideas.”
Jackson, who recently graduated from law school and is the mother of an 8-year-old, said she liked Obama’s proposal for making preschool education available to all children.
“I thought that was huge,” Jackson said.
She also liked his idea of creating a non-partisan commission to review voting rights issues.
“I went to college in Florida and have seen these long voting lines,” Jackson said. “People who stand in them on election day truly are heroes.”
Paul Cohen, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of Marin, said, “I really liked the way that the president called on Congress to act. I just think people are so tired of this paralyzed government.”
Cohen also welcomed Obama’s call for investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
“Not only will it create jobs in the short term,” Cohen said, “but that investment lays the groundwork for and encourages private investment, which will result in more job creation.”
But Cohen wasn’t happy to hear the president suggest he might support cuts to Social Security and
Medicare.”There are other possible approaches,” Cohen said. “That wouldn’t be where I would go.”
West Marin author and progressive activist Norman Solomon, who was an Obama delegate in 2008, was also disturbed by the president’s comments regarding Social Security and Medicare.
“This is very ominous,” Solomon said. “There is no reassurance he will hold the line with Social Security, much less Medicare.”
And there was plenty more in the speech that Solomon didn’t care for.
“The speech overall tonight was so vague, with a few exceptions, and also troubling,” Solomon said. “For example, he boasted about speeding up oil and gas permits. This foreshadows tremendous danger that he will approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Oil corporations invested in Canada’s tar sands are counting on the pipeline. Solomon didn’t find credible Obama’s remark that his administration will become even more transparent on civil liberty issues.
“That’s double talk,” Solomon said. ” How can you be even more transparent when you haven’t been transparent at all. His policies on kill lists and habeas corpus are disgraceful from a civil liberties standpoint.”
Marin Republicans who listened to the speech were even less enthusiastic.
Sally Zelikovsky of San Rafael, founder of the Bay Area Patriots and coordinator of the San Francisco Tea Party, said, “This was a huge laundry list of agenda item after agenda item, which were really a bunch of retread ideas that everybody knows that no president could get done.”
Zelikovsky said Obama’s suggestion that he could create jobs while increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour was “glaringly inane.” She said raising the minimum wage would stifle job creation.
Sashi McEntee of Mill Valley, a former chairwoman of the Marin County Republican Central Committee, said, “I heard a lot of promises tonight but I’m skeptical of the president following through based on his track record. I genuinely hope that Obama is able to keep some of these promises but without burying our grandchildren in debt.”
Alison Howard, an assistant professor of political science at Dominican University of California in San Rafael, has co-authored a book on how presidents have used the annual State of the Union to communicate with the public. Howard has also co-authored a paper that appears in the current issue of “Social Science Quarterly,” which examines Obama’s first-term State of the Union messages.
Howard has found that in his State of the Union addresses Obama tends to focus on large-scale objectives leaving the details of legislation to Congress. Howard said Obama’s call last night for raising the minimum wage was a bit of a departure for the president.
“That was an interesting and bold move to ask for an increase in the minimum wage,” Howard said. “It hasn’t been done in a while.”
Solomon, however, noted that Obama also promised he would support passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have provided for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during union organizing efforts.
Solomon said, “He basically didn’t lift a finger for it during his first term.”
Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org