As a long time observer of the political process and as someone who served twice in the White House, I remember the great anticipation for past State of the Union speeches. It was an activity where many hundreds of hours and top level staff worked on the speech for many months before it was delivered. It was to be a recap of what had been accomplished and an agenda for the future.
I remember the excitement of the president going to Capitol Hill to address the nation, standing before the other branches of the government, the Congress and the Supreme Court, and either inspiring or informing all of just what the title states: this is the State of the Union.
Part of the drama has been the grand entrance into the people's House, the House of a Representatives and the president being mobbed by members trying to shake his hand or pat his back and for this one night he is treated like a rock star or to be more current like a reality TV star.
The repeated standing and applauding for the key phrases that appeal to the partisans in his party and the negative responses from the opposition.
Everyone is there!
Anyone of importance in our government along with the ambassador contingent from the diplomatic community, is there on display for the nation to see.
This has historically been an opportunity for a dramatic speech to the nation and the world and without question as important as any that a president might deliver. Tuesday night was the last of these that President Barack Obama will ever give.
As I watched the visuals, the new young Speaker, Paul Ryan, sitting alongside the vice president whom he tried to replace in the last election. Biden, realizing daily that this is his last hurrah -- and privately telling people he wishes he would have run one more time against the faltering Hillary Clinton.
Speaker Ryan, who now holds more power than anyone except maybe the lame duck president, sits in a seat he never anticipated a year ago. He will be the one who sets the legislative agenda for the future and the president’s only retort is his veto pen.
I watch the one Socialist member of Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders mix and greet the members of the Joint Chief of Staffs of our military, with their stars on their uniforms and rows of medals on their chests.
There is not a member in this chamber who would ever have thought a year ago that Sanders would be viewed as a serious challenger to Hillary Clinton, as he now is.
For someone as skilled at giving a speech as our forty-fourth president, Mr. Obama failed miserably at either inspiring or informing us of the real State of the Union.
What he did do is give a political campaign speech. It was disjointed, irrelevant and disappointing. He is not running for a third term and the agenda he laid out is not what the country wants or feels. He looked tired and ready to move on.
He talked about how great we are as a nation. True, but what he didn't do was set an agenda for his final year or for his legacy.
He set goals but failed to explain how we can accomplish them. He talked about leadership but has failed miserably as a leader.
On the very day the president is delivered his speech, the Iranian Navy captured two US Navy ships that allegedly were incapacitated and drifted into Iranian waters. Now Iran is holding these sailors hostage. Yet, there was no mention of this incident in the president’s speech.
This is an escalation of hostile behavior by the Iranians who just last month fired unguided missiles at our aircraft carrier , the Harry S. Truman, in the same waters.
I can't imagine, if he was still with us, that President Truman would disregard these acts of hostility. He was a man of strength. With the country feeling that terrorism is one of our top problems, the president dismissed our concerns. Don't worry! We've got the strongest military in the world. We got Bin Laden.
This is what he said about Iran: "That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war."
I don't think so. Bad behavior by Iran is dismissed because President Obama wants to protect his sacred and risky deal.
The number one concern of the country is fighting terrorism. The recent home grown action by the terrorist killings in San Bernardino, California has made this more of a concern. But in spite of this, just this week the president is to release more prisoners from Guantanamo. It is still his top priority to close this prison in spite of strong objections from the Congress, the military and law enforcement officers.
Many of the prisoners already released have returned to the terrorist battlefield. "That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies."
This is a speech that will not be remembered and will historically be irrelevant.
The man who was the most partisan president in recent history, talked about how disappointed he is that the partisan divide has not healed.
The office of the presidency has been diminished under Barack Obama’s two terms. His party has been demolished at the State house level and in the loss of both Houses of Congress. But he still panders on.
This is not an historic presidency and he exemplified his "leading from behind" with a very forgettable farewell State of the Union.
No wonder the country is desperately looking for new leadership.