A politician who tries to please as many factions as he or she can often ends up talking out of both sides of their mouth. And so it goes with Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on January 28, 2014. On the one hand, Obama blew a dog whistle of key words, phrases, and policy wish lists that would appeal to progressives and liberals – and enrage right-wingers. On the other hand, the President was clearly speaking the language the corporate class likes to hear when he alluded to the Keystone Pipeline project, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and “the daughter of a factory worker [who] is CEO of America’s largest automaker” (i.e.,Mary Barra, the General Motors CEO).
As William Rivers Pitt noted in his Truthout op-ed piece, the President “[sounded] for all the world like an Occupy Wall Street protester before turning on a dime to bend his knee to the failed religion of free-market economics.” It’s that kind of two-faced, “all thing’s to all people” third-way politics that Bill Clinton had perfected in the ’90s that so infuriates Pitt. We’re at a point in our history where we need transformational policies and politicians. Leaders who will admit and prosecute the crimes of the past administration, prosecute the crimes committed by a financial sector that pushed many people into poverty and economic insecurity and aggressively move to reverse the effects of carbon pollution on our planet. Sure, Barack Obama has made gestures here and there to address these issues. But for every move Obama has made on, say, environmental issues, he’s backed oil industries that continue to drill for fuel that will only increase the disastrous effects of climate change. Pitt’s critique of the President is shared by many – and after you watch my interview with him, you’ll understand why he wants Obama channel his inner liberal and act on political beliefs he has professed in the past. Let the Liberal president be a liberal. Meanwhile, the short-term focus of the election cycle pushes solutions to problems our country and our world face farther and farther out of reach.