FactChecking Obama’s State of the Union address

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘That’s what our enemies want us to do.’.

From left, Ford plant manager Phillip Calhoun, President Barack Obama, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields and Bill Ford check out a new Mustang at Ford Michigan Assembly Plant, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Wayne, where the president spoke about the resurgent American automotive and manufacturing sector.(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press) Even though he kicked off a pre-State of the Union tour in metro Detroit just two weeks ago, stopping at a Ford plant to talk up the resurgence of the auto industry, Obama didn’t so much as mention the city during the hour-long speech Tuesday. If there is one thing the right and left, Democrats and Republicans, politicians and experts could all agree on, it was that President Obama’s take on the world is shockingly delusional. On MSNBC Andrea Mitchell said flat-out that the president has a “credibility problem”: “It’s really hard to see what the progress has been against ISIS in Syria for sure, and in Iraq. Several of the responses from Michigan’s Congressional delegation were along party lines: Democrats lauded the President’s proposals to help the middle class while Republicans said Obama is going about it all wrong. In fact, the president didn’t even make mention of Tiairris Woodward, 43, of Warren, a Chrysler employee who was one of the numerous guests of the first lady in the U.S.

Yet anyone who expected Obama to begin his second-to-last year in office by courting the very adversaries he will need to pass any significant legislation – from tax reform to investment in infrastructure – left disappointed. American leadership, Obama asserted before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, has been crucial to thwarting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, inflicting economic pain on Putin’s Russia, thawing relations with Cuba and averting potential war with Iran. That is comeuppance, he said, for Republican critics who say the man who declined to bomb Syria or arm the Ukrainians is too timid in the face of foreign adversaries: “When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world,” Obama said. “That’s what our enemies want us to do.” Obama was particularly boastful — cocky, even — about the dismal state of Putin’s economy. “Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr.

If Obama’s focus was decidedly non-Michigan-centric, however, the state shouldn’t complain too much considering how much attention his administration has given the region since taking office in 2009. Tonight, President Obama laid out a clear plan to keep our country moving forward by investing in the very people who helped to build it—America’s middle class. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said it was “delusional” to claim success on the same day Yemen — the country Obama previously claimed as an example of the rightness of his foreign policy — fell to Iranian-backed rebels.

That plan starts by cutting taxes for hard-working families, creating opportunities for every student to earn a college education, and training workers with the skills they need to match the needs of local businesses. Similarly, Obama cast his international coalition against ISIL as a diplomatic effort as much as a military one, contrasting it with the major ground wars launched by his Republican predecessor in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” Obama said.

He did hit on one thing much on the mind of some Michiganders, however — a desire to help write the rules for trade between America and partners in Asia and Europe. We’ve come a long way, and I will keep fighting until every family in Michigan and across the country feels the recovery and has a fair shot to get ahead. “Many middle class families feel squeezed, and are finding it harder to feel like they are getting ahead. The first came after one of his opening lines, when the incoming Republican majority declined to applaud Obama’s praise for the economic recovery. “That’s good news, people,” he remarked, as Republicans inside the chamber looked on impassively.

Like his claims about Putin’s Russia, experts say that’s debatable: Obama said the coalition was “stopping ISIL’s advance,” but by many accounts the group continues to acquire territory in Syria and remains potent in Iraq. The domestic automakers are pushing the administration, however, to crack down on currency manipulation and ensure that Japan open its markets to competition before approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense,” Obama said. “But 95% of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.”

The Post’s Glenn Kessler explained, “Just last week, the Wall Street Journal documented that three months of U.S. airstrikes in Syria had failed to prevent the group from expanding its territory in the country. Reluctantly, one or two from the aisle to the president’s left – and ideological stage right – began to stand up or offer a tepid applause, following the lead of the new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. The article quoted a senior defense office as saying that ‘certainly ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective.’” His remarks on Russia, which occupies Ukraine, bizarrely tried to claim credit for ceding part of an ally’s country to Russia. “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. The second off-the-cuff remark arrived toward the end of a nearly hour-long address that, to the dismay of Republicans, did not contain even a single nod to their electoral gains. “I have no more campaigns to run,” Obama said, in what was intended to signal that his remaining focus will be on governing rather than electioneering.

Seeking explicit buy-in from a Congress that has often criticized his ISIL policy from the sidelines, Obama issued his most direct call yet for Congress to formally authorize the aerial campaign he began in August. In between those two unscripted remarks was a litany of liberal policy prescriptions – none of them new, and almost all of them opposed by Republicans. Obama has previously insisted he already has the necessary legal authority to strike ISIL, though on Tuesday night he asked Congress “to show the world that we are united in this mission.” That won’t be easy: There’s no clear consensus in Congress on the scope and duration of such an authorization, or whether it should rule out U.S. ground troops. The challenges of our time require new solutions that empower hardworking Americans, not grow the size of Washington’s bloated bureaucracies by raising taxes and creating more unfunded programs. “Tonight, the President unveiled his plan to raise taxes on families and small business owners across West Michigan…Instead of raising taxes on hardworking Michiganders, President Obama should focus on working with Republican majorities in the House and Senate to reform our broken tax code, foster an environment where good-paying private sector jobs can be created, and address concerns over the nation’s growing debt and the entitlement programs which drive it.” President Obama’s promises sound good, but his agenda is based on more spending, more government, and more job-killing tax increases.

The fact that the speech, by Obama’s own admission, focused on broad principles rather than specific policy ideas also limited the ensuing criticism. Republicans in Congress, backed by many Democrats, are set to push legislation imposing new sanctions on Tehran if a nuclear deal isn’t reached by the current deadline of June 30, or if Iran abandons the talks. But his promises to veto whole swathes of potential GOP legislation – and the absence of any significant olive branch for Republicans – left some opponents visibly fuming. Obama has said that sanctions would fracture the delicate international coalition pressuring Tehran — “will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails,” as he put it Tuesday, promising to veto new sanctions legislation. That Obama finished his address by extolling the need for Republicans and Democrats to quit “arguing past each other” and “break out of these tired old patterns” led to complaints of presidential chutzpah. “It was like he had two different speechwriters,” Colorado’s newly elected Republican senator, Cory Gardner, told the Guardian. “In the first part of his speech, the president put forward policies that he knows we won’t support.

Vietnam continues to be a communist tyranny.” Cuba was just one of dozens of issues on which Republicans reiterated their disagreements with the president, whom they said appeared unwilling to compromise from behind the podium. His Cuba comments lauding his move to normalize relations in essence meant: “Everybody knows there’s no way Congress is going to lift that embargo. Republicans in the so-called “spin room” opposed Obama’s approach to nuclear negotiations with Iran, rejected his interpretation of the science of climate change and opposed his redistributive tax policies. “He wasn’t trying to find areas of agreement in genuine fashion,” said the Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson. “The speech was partisan in content.

A president who has sought to move America from what he has called a “permanent war footing” spent more time touting his diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba (“new hope for the future”) and his October climate deal with China (“offering hope”) than he did the fight against radical Islam. If Cuba gets worse, well, that’s Hillary’s problem.” But Rogin (“I’m prepared to call anybody who is for sanctions a warmonger, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat. You’ll probably do it anyway, but I’ll try to make it as painful as possible.”) and others reserved their harshest criticism for the president’s misleading and nonsensical comments about Iran. He noted how, unlike last year’s address, there were no overt threats from the president to overrule Congress with executive authority – even if he did use the word “veto” three times.

Levin said: “There are many vital outstanding issues in TPP whose resolution can affect the households of American families and the ability of American businesses to create jobs. But Cole nonetheless decried the lack of outreach from the White House since the Democratic defeats in the midterm elections, and the string of executive actions – on immigration, Cuba and climate change – that have enraged the GOP ever since. “Frankly, he needs to remember he’s lost the election,” Cole added. “He’s the one who said his policies were on the ballot. Congress must maintain its role and leverage in the resolution of these issues.” “We have to come together and tackle the issues that are most important to the American people. One thing that could change Tehran’s resistance to accepting a meaningful and effective agreement to keep it from developing a nuclear weapons capability is the threat of more economic pressure. Instead of ruling out what has worked, the President should work with Congress to increase the negotiating pressure on Iran.” Mark Dubowitz of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a sanctions expert, said without equivocation: “The interim agreement has not ‘frozen’ or ‘halted’ Iran’s military-nuclear program.

Following a strategy followed by then-chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani between 2003 and 2005, Tehran has suspended only aspects of the program that no longer need significant advancement, while working on aspects not yet mastered.” He adds, “This includes, among other areas, the development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and, most critically, Iranian stonewalling of the IAEA about possible military dimensions of Iran’s program.” Josh Block, a long-time Democrat and CEO of the Israel Project, reiterated the two falsehoods Obama propounded. “For over a year the admin has claimed, falsely, that Iran’s nuclear program has been ‘frozen and their progress halted’ during the talks — talks we were told would only last 6 months, yet are now heading toward 19 months (June 30th),” he said via e-mail. “Far from being ‘halted,’ during the negotiations, Iran has enriched at least one more bomb’s worth of material, has advanced its plutonium track to 87% completion, and just, announced it will build 2 more nuclear facilities.

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