Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 1:29 am | Overcast 59º


Harris Sherline: Obama’s State of the Union Lecture

The president needs to get his 'facts' straight

Forgive me if I appear to be skeptical, but after his first year in office, I’m just not able to take anything President Barack Obama says at face value.

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

The annual State of the Union message he presented to Congress on Wednesday is required by the Constitution, albeit not necessarily in the manner and form that are employed today.

Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution says: “He (the president) shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson initiated the practice of delivering the State of the Union message in person. Before that time, it was a written report that was sent to Congress to be read by a clerk.

I had a number of reactions to Obama’s address: It was more of a campaign speech than a message to Congress on the status of the nation. It was also overly long and boring, and Obama was combative much of the time, rather than unifying — the prime examples being a direct insult to the U.S. Supreme Court about its recent decision on campaign finance and his frequent references to the fact that he had inherited most, if not all, of the nation’s current problems from the Bush administration.

The speech was riddled with self-serving “facts,” many of which were either distortions or downright lies. But perhaps most of all, typical of Obama’s style, it was not so much a speech as a lecture, which I found insulting.

A Fox News fact check noted seven instances in which Obama’s statements did not square with the facts, including the following:

Obama: “Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected.” Fact: Obama failed to point out that this amounts to less than 1 percent of the deficit.

Regarding his health-care initiative, Obama said: “Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan.” Fact: There is no way to guarantee that, and it most certainly can’t be the case with the type of single-payer plan he envisions.

Obama also took his “share of the blame” for “not explaining” his health-care plan better, but he failed to acknowledge “that 61 percent of voters nationwide want Congress to drop the health-care plan.” (Rasmussen Reports). Translation: He intends to stuff it down the throats of those who disagree, like it or not.

Obama: He called for action by the White House and Congress “to do our work openly, and to give our people the government they deserve.” Fact: This is an astounding claim, considering that the entire process related to the health-care proposal has been done behind closed doors, without including any Republicans, who were literally locked out.

Obama: “We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work. We’ve already identified $20 billion in savings for next year.” Fact: Pay attention to Obama’s words. He may have identified savings, but that doesn’t mean any have been or will be realized.

Obama: “The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.” Fact: The United States and Russia have not reached any agreement, yet Obama unilaterally abandoned the anti-missile system that was intended to protect Poland and the Czech Republic without getting anything from the Russians in return.

Obama said lobbyists have “outsized influence” over the government, claiming that his administration has “excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs” and that they should be required “to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or Congress” and “to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.” Fact: The White House obtained seven waivers from the ban against lobbyists, including Eric Holder (attorney general), Tom Vilsack (agriculture secretary), William Lynn (deputy defense secretary), Will Corr (deputy health and human services secretary), David Hayes (deputy interior secretary), Mark Patterson (chief of staff to treasury secretary), Ron Klain, (chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden), Mona Sutphen (deputy White House chief of staff) and Melody Barnes (Domestic Policy Council director).

There’s more — much more — that could be said about Obama’s State of the Union speech; however, suffice it to say that more of the same probably won’t change anyone’s opinion about him. The bottom line is that I don’t like the man, I don’t trust him and I believe his policies are bad for the country. I found his speech more of the usual self-aggrandizing, self-righteous posturing we have come to expect of him. 

Those on the other side of the political divide obviously disagree. So be it.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

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