Don’t Adjust Your Set; it’s Obama-Time

27 01 2011

Sorry if you were expecting V!

I find so little to look forward to on TV these days.

500 plus channels to choose from and I am reduced to BBC America, Fox Soccer, Comedy Central and whatever network is showing Seinfeld repeats or X-Files. I don’t follow that many series, they all blend into each other in the end and even something like White Collar only holds my interest when the little bald fella is in it. I love Fringe but haven’t the patience to wait all week for the next episode so I wait for it to come out on DVD so that I can watch it all back to back.

But this week I was looking forward to a program. Finally after a slow build-up, hints of the enemy within, the joys of duplicity and brief glimpses of the true face beneath the apparent human skin, we were coming to the point when intentions would be revealed and we would get the confrontation that we were hoping for.

But V wasn’t on TV this week, it had been replaced by the State of Union speech.

Live from Washington, in front of a full house of elected representatives, members of staff and invited guests. Filmed in glorious Fawn-O-Vision and starring a whole crowd of people who I didn’t recognize and Barrack Obama – with occasional cut-aways to the lovely Michelle who was sitting in the balcony seats.

Much was made of the Democrats and Republicans sitting together, I especially enjoyed seeing the two Johns – Kerry and McCain – nestled cosily near the center and spent some time wishing that when the camera focussed on an elderly representative that their name would flash up on the screen. Alas, with no commentary it was difficult to identify the majority of these individuals that hold the reigns of power/lobbying in their hands.

But the State of the Union speech was Obama’s chance to put his agenda across in front of a captive (and awake) audience. His moment to remind us all of why he was given the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and why we should support him for the next two years at least.

It seemed that many parts of his speech were warmly received, there were sporadic outbursts of clapping and impromptu standing up. His words about Gabrielle Giffords were especially poignant when the camera lingered on her empty chair and he even managed to crack a joke about salmon – which got a laugh from the representatives for Big Fish and a wry smile from the members of the five different government agencies responsible for tracking the creature from sea to stream to plate.

Healthcare was dealt with swiftly, those who seek to repeal Obama-care must have been encouraged to know that he will change elements that don’t work – and then he talked about unemployment. Obama wants to “put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges“, making sure that we “pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.” Drawing on the full range of patriotic appeal, he declared that “no workers are more productive than ours, no country has more successful companies or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs.”

Then it was time to talk about China.

There are those who fear the Red Dragon. Not Obama, he welcomes the Beast From The East. It was beautifully reminiscent of the Cold War, when there were 2 superpowers and the rest of the world. Now, China has taken the place of the Soviet Union as the focus of attention and BO gave kudos to the Chinese for being “home to the world’s largest private solar research facility and the world’s fastest computer.”

But at least in California they are developing “a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars.” And Barrack was deadly serious when he promised that there would 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, which should give General Electric enough time to put some EV Charging Stations in places that are accessible.

Soundbites came quick and fast – Sputnik moment, innovation, lagging behind, race to the top, American Muslims, shared responsibility, the American Dream – “if you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher. Your country needs you.” – sacrifice and struggle, stop expelling. Every facet of every part of every American life thrown into 60 minutes of political rhetoric.

He talked about the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, mentioned the excellent job that the military do under trying circumstances and touched on the fact that it was now possible for gays to serve openly in the field – the camera then focussed on the Joint Chiefs of Staff who did their best to look stone-faced and impervious to the frenzied clapping that erupted from a corner of the room – and “we have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver and we will defeat you.”

Which drew another bout of standing from those who could.

As a Resident Alien it is hard to know what to make of such televised political opera. In the UK, the politicians rarely get the chance for an hour of uninterrupted posturing and even when the Queen opens Parliament each year, the Speech has been carefully vetted and is more ceremonial than political. What is interesting is that all three parties in Congress – Democrats, Republicans, Tea – seemed to pay careful attention to the State of Union speech, applauding in unison and giving the appearance of wanting to work together for the good of the country as opposed to their bank balance.

But as soon as the ceremony is over and the champagne cocktails have been finished, it is back to business as usual – blocking legislation, arguing about policies that have little or no relevance, considering the interests of the lobbyists and doing as little as possible to actually advance the agenda of the President.

Has anyone seen a hamster?

I watched this speech with my wife, who will admit that she has little interest in politics and as the program began she asked me how long BO had been in office. “Two years” I replied, to which she gave me a quizzical look and said “Really, Is that all? I thought it was longer than that.” It was only two years ago that he took the long walk to the White House, two years since he promised job creation, innovation and the time to move away from dependence on fossil fuel. Two years since he talked about the need to improve the education system and reform healthcare and two years since he made the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan a priority whilst closing down the facility in Cuba.

The thing is, I know that he has done a lot in a short space of time, I have seen him putting his signature on legislation. It just seems that whatever he has done hasn’t set the world on fire and the fact that he is willing to admit that his landmark legislation – healthcare reform – might need some more work just makes me wonder where his priorities really lie.

As the camera panned back to the floor full of representatives applauding the President and shaking his hand as he worked the room, only one thought was in my head.

What would happen if the Visitors arrived tomorrow?

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