[…] Aside from the now-requisite overweening tribute to the Platinum Citizens™ Club of U.S. veterans, Biden laid it on especially thickly when it came to talking about whacking Osama Bin Laden. To borrow a phrase from anotherwriter, “Some major organ is thoroughly rotten… if the one ‘big thing’ America can accomplish is the tawdry, soul-sapping killing of a dilettante porn-addicted rich killer.”
When it came to killing Bin Laden, Biden said, “Obama is our president because he always has the courage to make the tough decisions.” Of the kill order: “He said, do it—and justice was done!”
The joke here should be obvious: that the courageous decision, the tough decision, would have been Abby Carmichael getting Bin Laden’s ass remanded to Riker’s with a public defender, the Law & Order “doink doink” ringing out, and Jack McCoy’s turkey wattle and big beak shaking in outrage that he bought a pig in a poke that might blow up on the stand. Justice, in a nation ostensibly governed by the rule of law, comes equipped with an entire system. But Biden was just so thrilled to whip out the Democrats’ newly re-engorged War Boner and celebrate “justice” via a double-tap to the brain of a sclerotic masturbating whitehair and his family, in the dead of night, by trained killers. There’s no time to get irony when it’s time to get hard. At least he didn’t mention the war on whistleblowers or all them drones. The system worked!
With the numbers and the bloodlust down, Obama had an opportunity to lay out a substantial map for the future, and he didn’t. While he reframed the Democratic Party’s vision as one of a community of “citizens,” he came up short of Clinton in delineating policy and short of Elizabeth Warren in articulating the working of a social contract versus a Wall Street “rigged game.” Although he did mention American cars, which, spiritually and existentially, manifest as an anti-Bin Laden.
Obama echoed Clinton and Warren, crowed about Bin Laden again, and laid out a vision for the next four years that seemed at best a tug of war between the amorphous and the impossible. He will reform the tax code (he can’t), and reanimate our spirit of togetherness (whatever that means), one supposes via the bully pulpit (mostly ineffectual). What he won’t be able to do is control the House of Representatives, which will almost assuredly be dominated by Republicans, and which is the place where the money comes from.
What he especially couldn’t say is that he has shown a willingness to preemptively concede cuts to social programs before even beginning negotiations with Republicans, failed to prosecute anyone responsible for the Great Recession, staffed his cabinet and advisors with the same clowns who engineered the economy’s destruction, hugged the former president who repealed Glass-Steagall, prosecuted a war on whistleblowers that immunizes the executive branch from citizen outcry and accountability, vastly increased a drone war that now targets funerals and the first responders that try to aid its victims—and that, with GOP control of the House, we can look forward to four years of acrimony, wheel-spinning, gridlock and misery.
Obama couldn’t say those things, of course, because his most effective trope, the heaven-high song that resonates fullest, is the confirmation of our optimism, our innate possibility, ourselves. Without the Clinonesque mastery of conversation, there is only the aria. The exigencies of procedure, of precedent—of the brutish cacophonies that are real history—quash it, leaving a stagebound mute, moving his mouth in such a way that he hopes you can divine the words it forms.
Instead, hope and change have given way to experience and lessons learned, with new synonyms for community and new generic ambitions without any plan to enact them. We got his most conventional speech to date, one that will be replicated ad nauseam in the coming two months—one that doesn’t substantially differ from the generic-ambition speech delivered by Mitt Romney the week before, except in one way.
Barack Obama’s speech lucked out and could only be delivered by Barack Obama. Mitt Romney’s speech was stuck with Mitt Romney, and there was no getting out of that.