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Le Nouvel Observateur , France

Obama’s Speech, Conventional
and Passionless

By Philippe Boulet-Gercourt

Translated By Stuart Taylor

13 February 2013

Edited by Vic­to­ria Denholm

France - Le Nouvel Observateur - Original Article (French)

An emotionless speech? Possibly, especially in a State of the Union address of a reelected president, a sort of letter to Santa Claus that the president gives to Congress. For 90 percent of his speech, Barack Obama listed his priorities with a monotonous tone, light years from the Messiah elected in 2008. Then suddenly, at the very end, a bolt of lightning. He began to discuss an issue that is truly close to his heart and one that turns his stomach: gun control.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was targeted by a madman, was there, as well as the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old majorette killed in a park in Chicago. Obama addressed Congress with a trembling voice: "Hadiya's parents […] deserve a vote [on gun control]. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote."

A true moment in politics, in the noblest sense of the word. The president will perhaps fail against a gun lobby more determined than ever, but it is time for every individual, both inside and outside of Congress, to stand up and be counted and fulfill their responsibilities. It is time to vote, for or against, one of the cancers that is eating away at American society.

Normal problems

The rest of the speech can be summed up in one phrase: “Back to normal.” Obama spoke about jobs, but curiously the word "unemployment" did not appear once in his entire speech. Is that normal? The war will soon be nothing but a memory: "By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over." Normal: "We are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction [after ten years]." Normal: On immigration, he said: "Bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let's get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away."

Has America finally turned its back on the financial crisis? Perhaps not. The speeches on the State of the Union, invariably dubbed "solid", always have an air of positive thinking to them. It remains to be seen what influence Obama will be able to make on the now more polarized than ever Congress. First-aid politics, however, are no longer at the top of the president's agenda. As the waters calm, America can breathe again and start to dream of having normal problems.



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