I didn’t stay up to watch Obama’s final State of the Union address live, but have just read the transcript and a few reports.
It was a goodbye speech. He came in hope and leaves still counselling hope. Though the country’s economic position is inevitably better now than it was in 2009 in the valley of the financial crash, he leaves, as I perceive, a country with a much higher level of fears than of hope.
I was a little surprised that he attacked Trump (though not by name) as much as he did. I suspect that being elevated to the level of being the subject of a State of the Union address, by a sitting President, can only benefit Trump. Especially as Trump was being written off as not worthy of any consideration, of any kind, just a few months ago. His playing down of the monsters of Al Qaida and ISIS, born of twisted interpretations of Islam, but nurtured largely by US policy (including Obama’s), also fuels Trump’s narrative.
Obama has not lived up to the expectations that his own rhetoric had engendered. “Yes, we can” has morphed to “Well, we could have”.
History may remember Obama, vaguely, for his Syrian misadventures. He may even be remembered as having attempted to introduce universal health care. History may also record that his tenure was characterised by an aversion to risk and some paralysis-by-analysis. But he will primarily be remembered as having been the first half-black President of the US and of having served for 8 years, but without special distinction.
A passing grade then for the speech, a C+ and maybe even a B-, but not much more.