Man, I’m really going to miss this guy.
That’s what I kept thinking when I watched Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the eighth and final one Barack Obama will give as President of the United States.
From the first time I saw him speak, back in 2004 at the Democratic Convention, he’s held my attention and moved me with his words more than any politician of my lifetime (40 years). Whether he’s angry, whether he’s hopeful, whether he’s empathetic, or whether he’s just saying really smart, incisive stuff, Barack Obama has never been boring.
Has he been a perfect President? Of course not. I have lots of issues with him the last seven years, from failing to close Guantanamo, moving WAY too slow on drug decriminalization, clamping down on press freedoms and subpoenaing more reporters than any President ever, and there are a few more.
But the good has far outweighed the bad to me, and watching that tremendous speech Tuesday night, I realized how much I’m going to miss him.
I’m going to miss the way he can cut through the clutter with a funny phrase or joke; he had a couple doozies Tuesday, right off the top saying he was going to keep this SOTU speech short “because I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.”
His best line, despite all the ones basically smacking down Donald Trump’s B.S.,” was about denial of reality, when he said “60 years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.”
There was so much I liked about this speech, even knowing that very little gets done legislatively in a two-term President’s final year. Loved the talk about making it easier, not harder, to vote, which sadly goes against what so many GOP governors are doing. Loved his passionate defense of the growing U.S. economy, and really liked his talk of criminal justice reform, years too late though it is.
The President seemed, to me, relaxed and confident; I said on Twitter I thought it was his “I’m Keith Hernandez!” moment. He’s done so much good for so many, that when he walks off the stage for the final time next January, it’s going to be a sad day.
Other things I will miss after watching Obama’s final SOTU:
— Joe Biden, smiling for an hour like a proud papa at his son’s Little League game.
— The TV shots of Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep. I think she stayed awake this year!
— The Michelle Obama screen shots. She is one beautiful, powerful, fierce First Lady.
— Trying to decipher the system these TV networks use when they decide which politicians to identify and which aren’t worth it. I have no clue what their formula is.
— Finally, I’ll miss seeing the history of the first African-American President of the United States. Cannot be overstated how important this man has been, symbolically, to the world.
**Next up, one thing Obama has been talking about lately is gun control, and I have to say, I’m impressed with how committed groups like Michael Bloomberg’s gun control lobby has been. This ad, which I just saw last week, was incredibly powerful and points to what could be a life-saving law change, if it ever happened.
The ad shocked me and will probably shock you. Which is the point.
Finally today, the lead poisoning of the children of the city of Flint, Mich. should be a much, much bigger story, and lead to criminal charges for state officials and maybe even the governor.
If you’re late to this like I was, a quick recap: The city of Flint is very poor, and the state of Michigan, thanks in large part to Detroit, is looking for any way to save money possible. So in 2014 Flint’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron, which has been supplying their clean water for decades, to the Flint River, which apparently is notoriously dirty.
Very quickly, folks in Flint noticed their water was odd colored and odd tasting, and what do you know, the state did nothing about it, said it was safe, blah blah blah. And of course, it turns out the water, when tested, revealed huge amounts of lead in it, which can have horrible effects for children.