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Diane Dimond: Obama Fails to Reassure a Fearful Nation

State of the Union speech lacked a plan for helping us feel safe enough to help tackle the work ahead

One of the primary functions of government is to keep us safe — not only from foreign enemies but from fellow citizens who’ve turned to crime. We function best when we feel safe and secure in the world. It allows us to unlock our creative minds, produce more and better work, and give back to society in the most positive ways.

So, as I watched President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, I listened carefully for what he would say that would address Americans’ concerns about crime and justice and help us feel safer. After all, consider recent events. Shortly before the speech, in states across the nation, 11 police officers had been killed in the line of duty in a 24-hour period. And the country is still reeling from the shooting rampage in Tucson that left six people dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

I was disappointed with the speech.

Oh, at the top of the speech, Obama referenced the empty chair in the chamber left vacant for Giffords, but he failed to specifically acknowledge the family of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green sitting above him in the House chamber. Roxanne and John Green and their son, Dallas, were summoned to Washington to sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during the address, but they were never mentioned by name. Neither were others flown in for the photo-op: Tucson nurse Tracy Culbert and other members of the hospital staff who ministered to the fallen that awful day, and Daniel Hernandez, the quick-thinking congressional intern who almost certainly saved Giffords’ life by immediately applying pressure to her head wound.

It might have gone a long way if Obama had specifically singled out these folks as a signal to all of us that heroism and goodness really do prevail.

As the speech progressed, Obama said nothing about how easily the mentally ill or the career criminal can get guns or mega-clips of ammunition in this country. Nothing was mentioned about what we might do as a society going forward to pre-emptively help the criminally insane before they go off on a deadly spree.

While Obama did briefly mention illegal immigration and said, “I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows,” he offered no specifics. I wondered why, if Obama was serious about dealing with the strain of illegals on our schools, hospitals, housing and social welfare offices, why hasn’t his administration pushed specific legislation during the past two years?

I didn’t hear a word about the growing problem of early release of convicts because of widespread prison overcrowding, the scourge of human trafficking, diminished state budgets for court systems to administer justice, the lack of funds for new police hires or forensic crime labs, the epidemic of illegal prescription drug abuse, fraud in the home mortgage industry, or the ever growing problem of identity theft and cybercrime. All are major difficulties Americans deal with every day, but none of it was deemed important enough for mention as a part of an address about the state of our union.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, America hasn’t felt like the secure cocoon I was raised to believe it would always be. Since the World Trade Center towers collapsed, the Pentagon burned and brave souls perished on a plane in a Pennsylvania field, there have been anthrax scares, multiple mass shootings at schools, frequent terror threats, especially at airports, tens of thousands of citizens murdered ... I could go on and on.

American’s sensibilities are raw with worry — worry about things we can’t even imagine yet. Even Obama said during his address, “As we speak, al-Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us,” and he promised that the United States will keep the Taliban from re-establishing terror bases inside Afghanistan. In the scant two paragraphs Obama dedicated to address the continuing terror threat we face, he failed to mention that he plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer. Then what?

I’ll go out here on a limb and say that every American is for reducing the massive federal deficit, creating more jobs, finding a new spirit of excellence in education and alternative energy development. We all agree our government needs a major restructuring overhaul — five agencies that handle housing problems? It’s crazy! But none of that is achievable — innovation and reconciliation are impossible — if we’re hunkered down feeling unsafe.

Everything Obama said was vitally important; every topic he raised in his State of the Union speech warrants serious consideration. But just as important is the need for every American to feel secure enough to venture out into the world to help spark the needed changes and to feel connected to the work that needs to be done.

I was looking for some reassurance, and it wasn’t there.

Diane Dimond is the author of Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust. Click here for more information. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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