Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 12:31 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 12:31 | SYDNEY

State of the Union


Sam Roggeveen


29 January 2010 10:16

A number of pundits have commented on the perfunctory foreign policy section of President Obama's first State of the Union speech. I'll get to that part in a moment, and why I found his brief remarks encouraging. But first, there were also references to foreign countries in the domestic section of the speech:

Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations -- they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place.They're putting more emphasis on math and science.They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.

I realise you have to make allowances for showmanship — it might help rouse the public and the legislature if they feel there's some kind of race to economic modernisation. But implying that there's a finite amount of wealth out there that the US has to compete with China and India to get is just silly. America won't be made less wealthy by the fact that other countries are modernising — quite the opposite.

On Afghanistan, it seems to me encouraging that Obama spent so little time on it. Along with his recent remarks that al-Qa'eda is greatly weakened, this hints at an information strategy which starves al-Qa'eda of the oxygen of publicity and reduces the fear of terrorism.

The paragraph on nuclear weapons was also crafty, in that invoking Ronald Reagan reminds Republicans that nuclear abolition is not a left-wing plot.

A word on atmospherics. The mood in the chamber seemed far more parliamentary than previous SOTUs I've watched. Obama's delivery was quite informal, with occasional ad libs, and he responded to the gallery in ways that were almost reminiscent of Question Time.