Obama’s unfulfilled promises

Published: January 26, 2012

What bothers me is the lack of mention of initiatives which were touted as integral parts of the Obama administration.

For Americans and a huge chunk of non-Americans who (sometimes unwillingly) are affected by American policy and rhetoric, the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address makes for important TV.

Oh, except that one time in 2010 when that episode of Lost was nearly delayed thanks to competing airtime forcing many to directly question the President’s Office if their president was even aware of this pending catastrophe. Very kindly, the White House assured America’s citizenry that President Obama would “not pre-empt the premier of the show’s final season”.

Returning to tonight’s SOTU. On January 24, 9 pm President Obama’s third address to the nation accrued some weighty dialogue.

What straws did I clumsily manage to grasp from tonight’s speech?

For starters, President Obama can accurately pronounce ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Taliban’. But the same cannot be said of his pronunciation of the term ‘Muslim’. Obviously, such trivialities won’t see me turning off that television set and returning to my course text books.

No, dapper Obama is granted several chances. And this isn’t even a writer’s exaggeration. If Twitter is to be trusted others feel the same. Maybe this is why “My President is Black” is (unnecessarily) trending tonight.

However, there were somethings that almost had me tooling down the interstate with nary a glance back. At this point, for those of you who tuned in, an image may have conjured up of a certain Republican presidential candidate hopeful seated behind the president.

But dear reader, I assure you that tonight my point of contention was not John Boehner’s impossibly orange tan, which can only serve to evoke frequent and startling MTV themed memories of Jersey Shore.

Instead, what has me unsettled was the lack of mention – mentions, actually – of several initiatives, which since 2009 have been touted as important and integral center pieces of the Obama administration.

First, that President Obama failed to mention the existence of an institution on American jurisdiction currently housing many – who may or may not have been wrongfully detained – with no impending hopes of a fair trial does not entirely surprise me.

Instead, it only really disappoints me. I guess that to expect the president of America to address the question(s) as to why Guantanamo Bay is still open, why so many of its detainees have yet to be processed or prosecuted, and why the place continues to operate, serving as a brilliant stain on the white of America’s national and international reputation, may be a bit foolish. A mere folly, an optimist’s vision.

But you see,  Mr President, the problem is I am no cheap thief. I want the world or nothing at all.

So, you leave me with no choice but to ask – what of the DREAM Act, good sir? What of your good promise (c/o SOTU 2009) when you painted pictures of comprehensive immigration reform. At this point someone will surely jolt me out of my dream-state and tell me that two years in a row this Act has failed to pass Congress.

Yet surely, something must be done or said of the sorry condition of the current immigration policy. The one which exercises “particular care” when deciding deportation cases. Naturally, Mr President, you are aware that “particular care” is just a philosophical musing often applied unevenly and acting as a source code for much confusion for both policy enforcers and immigrant families.

And, dare I ask – just one final point – what, good Sir, do you have to say (besides nothing) of Pakistan’s illegal drone attacks?

In the words of Fatima Bhutto, a “third front” opened up in Pakistan following the Obama administration siding with the Pakistani government. This alliance has demonstrably only furthered the cause of the Pakistani Taliban. Because for far too many alienated Pakistanis, American democracy has come to mean a droning of our villages and schools and the shunting of far too much of our population in to refugee campus.

The ambitious undertakings of your Cairo Address, Mr President, is now a vestigial message, which instead of resuscitating and breathing life in to America’s relations with the Muslim world, simply appears to have gotten lost along the way.

Wouldn’t you then say that a mention of Pakistan’s illegal drone warfare was warranted?

It’s not that these State of the Union speeches don’t have any effect.

Past speeches have paved the path for health-care reform, troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the repeal of the US Military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

This address – much like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – proudly put on the requisite display of America’s principal values and delights. Tonight’s unifying theme – the economy – saw major push towards alternative energy technology and major green infrastructure projects.

Yes…*cue Mission Impossible theme*…the president even talked tough on bankers (forget that he’s handing them a sweetheart deal pretty soon, settlement package with immunity to boot).

Also this year, like previous years, a proposal on income inequality was pitched to the American population (taxes on all those comprising the wealthy 2%!).

And to prove that the administration hasn’t just cast her fate to the wolves and winds (forty days till election kick-off, people) a case was even made for America as 2012‘s nominee for Best Comeback Kid (“America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” — yes, Sir).

Essentially, all the necessary elements of America-lets-do-the-right thing were present…Along with the retelling of that fateful night when a SEAL raid team dropped from the Pakistani sky and fundamentally and forever altered a relationship-already-turning-sour.

But despite 37 standing ovations and 83 interruptions for applause later, I find myself in a state of pace non trovo – in other words, I find no peace.

For the full text of the State of the Union 2012 address click here.

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

A freelance writer and journalist currently based in Vancouver, BC. She writes on South Asian and Middle Eastern politics, portrayals of Islam in the West and the occasional preoccupation with pop culture faddism and tweets at @mariakari1414.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    I got confused reading this. Possibly Obama and SOTU thingee is not my thing.Recommend

  • John B

    It is the state of the union speech, essentially summarizing what has been done and what to expect. What had been done every one knows. What is to come is the message.

    In foreign policy which should be the concern of PAK what is not said is important. He mentioned Abottabad, also mentioned that terrorists are running from Pakistan to Yemen,(Drones , drones , drones) and as he was speaking seal teams were in Somalia.

    Not said message: the drones and tough stance against terrorist harboring nation will continue. He also spelt out clearly his position on Iran and Afghanistan and this leaves no options for PAK.

    The guys in Gitmo are the bargaining chips both Taliban and PAK are using in the end game with US. The author should know the details before making this as a central theme for blog.

    On taxes, it is not of PAK concern. Recommend

  • Umar

    yea…. I’m sure Obama is earnest in his efforts, and we all hope his policies turn out to be successful, but at this point, his words do feel like empty rhetoric.

    Foreign policy was the biggest disappointment, especially pertaining to Pakistan. I’m not sure how much of the blame for that should actually go to the PK government, but as of now, no one on the American side is promoting a policy of respect and peace other than Ron Paul (who is largely ignored – and called crazy)

    Anyway, Nice article. Recommend

  • xyz

    Hi maria. ur articles should ideally be pitched to NY times or some american paper. cheers !!Recommend

  • Rana Kashif

    Even though I’m not well versed in American Politics, this is a well written article.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    Internationally the U.S. should also be putting its efforts in curbing the use of improvised explosives, which have taken many innocent lives.Recommend

  • waleed Khan

    The Americans must make an antidote of the Improvised explosive devices. So that the millions of lives are lost could be saved.Recommend

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