Many criticize the State of the Union address as a relic of American history abused by self-aggrandizing presidents longing for the days of the Roman imperium. Yet, the annual address, rooted in Article II Section 3 of the Constitution, remains an important moment in public civic life.
The only tragedy Tuesday was that President Obama showed complete disregard for the constitutional structure and the greatness of the American people.
One clear trend from the speech was a complete disregard for the rule of law. Where Abraham Lincoln affirmed the freedom of all men and declared America as the last best hope on earth, Obama declares his desire to act “with or without Congress” in defiance of the constitutional structure. Where Gerald Ford sought to restore faith and integrity following the Nixon resignation, Obama ignored Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, and spying by the National Security Agency.
Obama brazenly promised to undermine the basic doctrine of the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution to enact whatever policy he feels will benefit America. Far be it for little things, like Congress or the Supreme Court, to stand in the way of his vision for the future. He promised to go it alone, to take steps whenever he can. Perhaps he should remember that his goal ought to be the empowerment of average Americans, not himself.
Though he talks about the importance of community, he insists on undermining the very fabric of communities nationwide. The Obama Justice Department sues states seeking to empower parents and kids to escape failing public schools. His Environmental Protection Agency targets oil companies and small business with the same gusto the IRS targeted conservative nonprofits. His health care law is forcing Catholic nuns and religious organizations to sacrifice their firmly held beliefs at the altar of the progressive agenda. It is a policy of forced capitulation, not community empowerment.
In an event used by James Monroe to establish America's presence as a serious player in global affairs, Obama undermines America's leadership by ignoring the red lines he set on chemical weapons use in Syria. Where Ronald Reagan declared that no nuclear arsenal in the world would defeat the moral will of free men and women, Obama ignores the growing Iranian nuclear threat only years after ignoring the young Iranians who fought for their freedom. George W. Bush rallied a nation still mourning the Sept. 11 attacks with a simple and compelling admonition: “Let's roll.” Obama has instead put our nation at greater risk by ignoring Iranian ambition and threatening to veto any attempt at sanctions. Our national security should not be a political issue.
The president views the federal government as the solution to every problem in the country. He foolishly called for more government involvement in everything from high school cafeterias to tech startups. Conservatives offer a different vision of America where equal opportunity and the empowerment of individuals and individual communities is of the greatest concern, and where every struggling and striving American can succeed in creating a better life. Conservatives offer a vision of America where the president cannot do whatever he wants whenever he wants, but one where the rule of law is respected by all Americans.
The president revealed that despite growing international threats and economic insecurity, he has no substantive ideas on how to improve the state of the union. He contemptuously joked that old battles are not worth fighting. In reality, freedom, economic security, and the American dream demand vigilance and determination. The battle for freedom and the American dream is a battle worth fighting in every generation.Brandon James Smith is a Washington lawyer, adjunct professor at American University, and co-director of the Christian Legal Aid of DC clinic in Anacostia. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.