Barack Obama appeared for his final address to Congress on Tuesday evening. His term is ending, and his famous fight for "change" has ended in a draw.
Since he won't be re-elected again, all he could do was: a) talk about how great he was and how amazing his initiatives were; b) talk about how America changed during his presidency; c) and urge his fellow Americans to vote for the Democratic candidate in 2016.
Obama didn't have any choice other than to put a positive face on things, since the Republican presidential candidates (except Jeb Bush, whose ratings are less than stellar) are channeling the deep disappointment of Americans with Washington and the state of things in the country as a whole.
It's not often that the president releases trailers for his appearance before Congress, which is officially called the State of the Union, or SOTU. It seems somewhat flippant — but Obama did it anyway.
Two days before the SOTU, a video appeared online. In it, Obama acts like he is prepping for his appearance on the nation's most important stage.
"Since I took office seven years ago in the midst of crisis, I don't think I’ve ever been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now," Obama says from the Oval Office, sitting casually on his desk.
The screen fades out, and Obama appears once again and begins talking about his achievements. Next — and this was the main point of his address to Congress — he talks about what can be achieved if the "right" president is elected in November 2016.
In fact, Obama himself has achieved little. Even Politico, a publication of the left wing of the Democratic Party sympathetic to Obama, called his presidency a "draw," which for him is either a defeat or pyrrhic victory.
Obama really wanted to limit gun sales. Not only did he fail to accomplish that, but things have gotten even worse for the gun control crowd. Around another 12 million new Americans have obtained firearms during Obama’s presidency — completely legally.
Obama put a new system of medical insurance in place: “Obamacare.” Enacted in 2010, the program was supposed to become something like universal health care. Republicans in Congress tried unsuccessfully to strike it down in 2012, and everything became a nightmare from there. The website lagged, and insurance has become even more expensive (at least, for those who already had it). Some have even lost their insurance completely. At the very least, according to American analysts, “Obamacare” can't be completely reversed.
Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq — all total failures. As for the reset with Russia? It’s also, understandably, a mess. It might not even be his fault, but it’s a mess all the same, a total mess.
However, in spite of the active opposition of the “hawks,” Obama did manage to complete the nuclear agreement with Iran. Even if the next U.S. president and Congress cancel the agreement, the European Union, Russia, China, and the rest of the world will be free from previous sanctions. This means Iran will become a new economic hotspot no matter what, and America will have to become one of its investors.
Next, there’s the issue of minimum wage. Here economics will come into play. Even the liberal Hillary might undo the current program if things go badly.
Then, there’s the détente with Cuba. I'll give my own opinion. First, this was inevitable. Second, any opposition to this project would eventually have collapsed. Even Ted Cruz wouldn't recall the U.S. embassy from Havana if he became president.
All the same, Obama's optimism about America's liberal future is, putting it lightly, hardly justified. Nevertheless, it was the future he talked about most of all.
When Obama appeared at the podium, an old never-ran sat behind him on the right, and a young upstart on the left — not the best company. Joe Biden is the outgoing vice president, and the constitutional leader of the Senate. The clean-shaven Paul Ryan represents the extreme right, consisting of people who dress up like the Founding Fathers.
Obama made it look like everything was going well and that his change would persist, as if he himself could guarantee that America would continue along the liberal path.
Hillary was in the room, as was her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, whom Biden himself once called more "sufficiently liberal" than Mrs. Clinton. Of course, with Elizabeth Warner, the leader of the left wing — left of Obama, that is — mutiny in the Democratic Party was there too.
However, the conservative majority of Congress was also in the room, watching the show from their own point of view.
“You're leaving soon, Mr. Obama. Soon, we'll have our own president, and statistics show that we won't be giving the Democrats back the Senate.
On the other hand, what if Hillary becomes the next U.S. president? The outgoing president didn’t say. He didn't even criticize the Republican Congress that much. Instead, he went on and on about the happy world of the future: where hydrogen-powered cars drive on wind-powered highways, where lesbians give birth, and where the minimum hourly wage is … well, so high it's embarrassing to say.
Meanwhile, the Republicans just sneered.
I agree with the liberal Politico: Obama has scored a draw with conservative America over these past eight years. His final speech is the most obvious example of this draw.
As for what happens in 2016, we'll just have to wait and see.
* Editor’s note: This is not a direct quote, but rather a statement made by the author from the perspective of the Republican audience.