Barack Obama in a place called hope

Paul Wells explains how Obama’s America — at least as imagined — is far left of Stephen Harper’s Canada

by Paul Wells

President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. (Charles Dharapak, AP Photo/Pool)

In its rhetoric, Barack Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union address sealed the four-year transformation of the United States into a society well to the left of Stephen Harper’s Canada.

Never mind the president’s closing peroration in favour of substantial new firearm regulation — misleading to cross-border comparisons at any rate, as the U.S. starts from such anarchy on firearms that they would have a long way to regulate before they caught up to the Canadian firearms regime, even after Parliament abolished the long-gun registry last year.  Nor am I really thinking about his call for tax increases as a component of deficit reduction — simple arithmetic when the books are as out of whack as they are in Washington. There was also Obama’s passionate plea for serious policy to regulate carbon emissions in a bid to control global warming. His federally mandated increase to the minimum wage with an added cost-of-living index. And the bit that I found most striking because it was least expected and, if it were carried out, perhaps most ambitious: universal preschool for all four-year-olds, an extension of public schooling that would be hard to imagine in Canada, where Harper cancelled the federal-provincial daycare agreements he inherited from the Paul Martin Liberals.

The president spoke a lot about bipartisanship. (Frankly, I found his preoccupation with congressional procedure over the concerns of Americans a little jarring, especially because he’s not going to break gridlock by saying, “Come on guys, let’s break gridlock.”) But his stance was squarely to the left of this Congress’s centre. He spent his first year as president passing economic stimulus packages and health-care reform, but sought compromise for the balance of his first mandate. It didn’t get him much. He’s stopped trying.

Note that I said Obama’s speech accomplished the port-side outflanking of Canada only “in its rhetoric.” I’m still hardly persuaded Obama will get more done on climate change in his second term than his first, or that he’ll succeed in expanding preschool or limiting access to firearms. But the U.S. he wants to lead is, increasingly, an alien place next to the Canada Stephen Harper wants.

 




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Barack Obama in a place called hope

  1. Few things about Obama and the SOTU

    Universal preschool is an absolute pipe dream. Speech filler. Impossible. If you could even organize preschool with the 50 departments of Education, a massive if, how on earth are you going to pay for the facilities? How are you going to make sure parents bring their kids? Are preschools going to have busing? It’s hard enough getting the infrastructure for grade schools up are running, let alone a brand new federally organized program to babysit 4 year olds.

    “I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

    The best idea of the whole speech, and it just blew over. No applause! It is something that every country with substantial fossil fuel reserves should be doing. Not just funding the research of renewable energy with tax dollars, but with a sizable portion of the profits from the extraction of oil and gas today, while we still have a lot, and while markets around the world still need it. The intention of all countries should be to have energy sources that do not run out. Then you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

    Obama gets full marks for the drama of his gun control remarks, which will probably be the only notable part of this SOTU a week from now. The rest of it was pedestrian.

    • Amazing how the US can’t ‘afford’ universal preschool, but can afford continuous warfare and vast amounts of weaponry.

      Sorry folks, not acceptable.

  2. Obama is like Hitler in his bunker. He is completely out-of-touch with the reality he faces. Obama is an out of touch liberal who believes his out of touch agenda is being stalled by big bad Republicans, when in reality his agenda is being stalled by the dire circumstances the US faces. He just doesn’t want to face that reality. His agenda might have been a great in 1964 or 1965, but the President is not facing the reality of the situation he has been called to solve. Great Presidents have to rise to the occasion they have found themselves in, not ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. Like Hitler, he would rather blame all his trouble on disloyal generals or secret conspiracies against him. The liberals are the only ones who continue to applaud (a ridiculous 70+ times this evening) because, like Hitler, Obama’s words lift their spirits and make them believe all is not hopeless. When all is said and done, this period will be seen as liberalisms swan song in America. The moment the Republicans decide they want to bring their agenda into the mainstream, the Democrats are finished.

    • Surely you could fit a couple more Hitler references in.

      • I’m not accusing Obama of genocide against the Jews. I’m saying that he has broken with reality because he doesn’t want to face them, just like in that bunker in 1945.

        • Dam generous of you, Jerry.

      • I’ll see you a couple of out of touches, 3 or 4 agenda and a whole lot of realities.

        • The thing you don’t want to acknowledge is that the entitlement programs in the US is going to bury them. This will not get better, it’ll get worse. The reason is because of a rapidly aging population. This isn’t a conspiracy, this is a fact. It has been known to be coming for some time. The Democrats in the US have just decided to ignore it. They want to continue to party like it’s 1969, making promises they can’t keep and blaming the Republicans for not getting anything done. Obama can rattle off as many poll tested issues he likes, but that’s not going to change the demographic nightmare that is occuring right now in the US. A good leader who cared about those programs would try to reform them, instead Obama wants to paint the opposition as boogeymen.

          • The US population isn’t dropping, and there is no problem with a ‘rapidly aging population’…..[especially since they age at the same rate as everyone else]

            The only change is that the ‘white’ segment of society is disappearing. Now maybe that’s a ‘demographic nightmare’ to you….but it’s normal to everyone else.

          • Head meet sand.

          • Yer just being partisan. Not to mention racist.

        • Too subtle eh.

    • Being out of touch, while blaming others for problems, plus generating applause through speaking equals, ah, Hitler? That proposition would be vile if it wasn’t so amazingly dumb.

    • Even assuming everything you say is true, I think that last sentence is the telling one, and why you are, ultimately, wrong.

      Republicans have had multiple chances to bring their agenda into the mainstream. They’re not interested. They’re on their own stream and hoping everybody else will eventually drown in it.

    • Kudos to Google Email Alert for bringing us such a cross section of the Tea Party.

  3. Surely something that has changed everything for Obama well beyond the rhetorical is the changes to the US energy situation. Fracking for good or for ill [i'm not yet convinced the last word has been written on its validity yet ] has and will change the whole North American energy scene. In a sense the Americans don’t need the headache that AB’s oil sands brings them[ at least for the remainder of Obama's term]as badly as they did 5 years ago, both politically and environmentally. Right now this spells big big trouble for Canada. Unless SH can either get his pipeline to the west/east coast and or keystone through and a truly serious attitude adjustment toward CC. I can’t see the leopard changing his spots to any particular degree as far as the latter goes; he hasn’t demonstrated any real capacity to slap Calgary or the industry down, or any real inclination to either.So why change now? Keystone even now doesn’t look like a no brainer, and NGP is fast disappearing over the horizon with FN’s consent in tow.

    Some things will just by the law of averages break Harper’s way. But if they don’t, then at some point this PM will have some very serious charges laid at his feet. How is that on his watch, with all his Alberta advantages he has so badly played his cards?
    Keystone should have been a gimme. But incompetence and arrogance on the part of the principle pipeline company in not choosing to bypass an important aquifier in ND, and needlessly getting the backs up of US citizens in their own country by threatening to use eminent domain seizure[wow! geniuses these guys] Accompanied by lots of sloppy pipeline workmanship stories hitting the media, will not have burnished his managerial competency image

    Then the whole sorry saga of gateway fiasco, which it became readily apparent was becoming vital after keystone ran into a immovable object called an presidential election year. Become critical now that the prospect of US energy self sufficiency has blind sided the first govt to sit in Ottawa with its finger firmly on the pulse on the energy related business of the nation…oh…whoopsie…blew that one too!
    It may have seemed like a good idea at the time to go after radical enviros and label key FNs, adversaries…but unfortunately for Mr H, BC has quite a lot of those two groups; they happen to be quite influential there. No matter. No way Mr H could have known that in advance.

    Honestly! At what point are the media of this country going to put some really serious questions to this PM? A PM that so many of them have dubbed a strategic genius. Events may be the ultimate apolitical killer of all govts sooner or later, but that doesn’t mean the puck doesn’t still drop at 24 Sussex Drive.

    • Today the Alberta minister of energy – or whatever his title is – was on tv saying that Alberta needs to get the word out that they have a carbon tax – because that would be a positive in terms of promoting Alberta oil. Meanwhile Harper has demonized the tax. Why isni`t Redford taking Harper on on this?

      • AB may want to think of separating at some point…if Harper wins again in 2015.
        Actually this might be an interesting line of attack for JT to consider. Harper’s divisive ham fisted approach has jeopardized Canada’s energy future, not secured it.

  4. He started out in a place called Hope 4 years ago … never left the island.

  5. Look at how US thermal coal exports exploded under Obama. He is a massive hypocrite on carbon emissions. You don’t see all those environmental advocates lying down across railroad tracks blocking US thermal coal exports. Those coal mines are mostly in blue states, and not in Alberta.

    U.S. coal exports and imports

    http://www.eia.gov/coal/production/quarterly/

    17:35:28 GMT-0500 (EST)

    Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Month,exports,imports

    Jul 2012,31563,2415

    Apr 2012,37534,2329

    Jan 2012,28642,2022

    Oct 2011,27679,2700

    Jul 2011,25976,3588

    Apr 2011,26987,3419

    Jan 2011,26617,3381

    Oct 2010,20870,4811

    Jul 2010,21074,4680

    Apr 2010,21965,5058

    Jan 2010,17807,4803

    Oct 2009,17653,5447

    Jul 2009,15159,5441

    Apr 2009,12951,5426

    Jan 2009,13335,6325

    Oct 2008,22329,9101

    Jul 2008,20321,8485

    Apr 2008,23069,8982

    Jan 2008,15802,7640

    Oct 2007,17124,8597

    Jul 2007,16198,10559

    Apr 2007,14702,8405

    Jan 2007,11139,8786

    Oct 2006,12858,8933

    Jul 2006,13540,10399

    Apr 2006,12590,7956

    Jan 2006,10659,8958

    Oct 2005,12390,7788

    Jul 2005,12620,7832

    Apr 2005,14803,7233

    Jan 2005,10129,7607

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