(VIDEO) University of Michigan Commencement Speech: Why I'm Falling Out of "Like" With Obama
So I spent a Saturday at the University of Michigan graduation in Ann Arbor listening to President Barack Obama deliver a commencement address. Now, I don't hate Obama. I never have. I don't particularly like his politics, and I don't like his friends, and I disagree almost unilaterally with his agenda, but you know what? I don't dislike him. I think he can be really inspirational, and to tell the truth, I was looking forward to hearing him give a soaring address about grasping the future, being the change you want to see in the world, unicorns pooping rainbows, etc.
Boy, was I disappointed. Not only did I leave the stadium with a less favorable impression of him than I've had all along, I left feeling that my intelligence and my ideological positions had been publicly -- and arrogantly -- insulted. In short, I'm pretty sure, right now, that Barack Obama is kind of a jerk.
In a blunt caution to political friend and foe, President Barack Obama said Saturday that partisan rants and name-calling under the guise of legitimate discourse pose a serious danger to America's democracy, and may incite "extreme elements" to violence.
The comments, in a graduation speech at the University of Michigan's huge football stadium, were Obama's most direct take about the angry politics that have engulfed his young presidency after long clashes over health care, taxes and the role of government.
I have this long-term problem with boyfriends: I mistake pretentiousness for intellectualism. I believe that just because someone speaks well, has good taste in film and music, has read a few key books, and acts as though they're better than the general population, that they actually are. In nearly every case, I've been totally and completely wrong and, as a result, I've gotten hurt.* This is exactly how I felt listening to Obama's speech today; it's all just history repeating.
For starters, he went straight from saying that we shouldn't engage in mud-slinging and "tone down" the insulting and often bombastic language associated with political rivalry, to taking cheap shots on Fox News, conservative talking heads and those who might legitimately disagree with his stance on government expansion and intervention. He talked passionately about compromise -- but failed to note that a great deal of the "compromise" he expects is really an abandonment of ideological principles. He spoke eloquently about "listening" to opposing viewpoints -- but failed to recall that his administration has often shut the door in the face of political opponents. In several instances, Obama grasped for easy laughs at the expense of "right-wingers" and anti-government "zealots" who he claimed might lead others to violence. He punctuated his speech with a grating giggle.
Notice it annoyed the SH*T out of me. It might have had something to do with the fact that I waited like, four hours in the pouring rain for this, but whatever.
Personally, it would have been great if he'd taken some of his own advice to heart. Or, in the alternative, given advice: Most of Obama's commencement speech was about ... well ... Obama, and what people didn't "understand" about his views on government. He seemed to be blissfully unaware that most, if not all, of those who object to his agenda aren't interested in abolishing government altogether -- or even rolling government back to reasonable levels -- but rather concerned about unnecessary government over-reach into private health care decisions, individual choices and liberties, and personal freedoms.
It disappointed me, to be sure. I'm a libertarian, and I believe strongly in personal freedom. Whatever damage I believed Obama might do to our economic stability or whatever overbearing governmental regulations I believed Democrats would impose, I expected that Obama of all people would understand the dangers of infringing on personal and individual liberty. But I've been disappointed at every turn. First, he hired up the RIAA's legal team. Then, he continued -- and expanded -- the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. Then his co-horts re-upped the Patriot Act. And now, I feel like he doesn't really care how I feel, so long as I can't claim to have voted for him. In fact, I feel like, should I personally oppose his legislative efforts, he doesn't so much believe I have legitimate concerns as much as he believes I'm just functionally and mentally incapacitated. It actually sort of felt like he had some serious disdain for conservatives, libertarians and other frequent-disagree-ers.
The obnoxious, fawning people in front of me who snuggled during his speech probably didn't help me form a favorable opinion either. No politician is that inspiring ... and that's really just creepy.
What do you think of Obama these days? What did you think of his speech?
* My fiance would like me to reiterate that I do not believe he is one of these kinds of people and emphasize that he is not pretentious except when it comes to classical music, and then he can back it up with a comprehensive understanding of the subject. He would prefer that I illustrate this point with a emoticon depiction of him with a halo, but that seemed like a somewhat extreme way to drive home the point that I am referring to college boyfriends and not him.