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January 30, 2014 8:36 am

AMEND CORNER: His take on the state of our union

Written by Don Amend

The Constitution requires that the president report to Congress on the way things are going in the good old USA once every year, and Tuesday night, Barack Obama did just that.

I don’t ever listen to this speech, myself. I prefer to find a transcript on the Internet the next day and read it. That way, I don’t have to sit through all that pointless applause or watch the varying expressions of the listeners.  Reading the speech lets me focus on the content rather than on a lot of whooping, hollering, grimacing and grinning.

As a columnist, I feel a strange compulsion to comment on the speech this week. Unfortunately, neither the president or Congress has seen fit to adjust the schedule to my deadlines, so, as I write this, the speech hasn’t been spoken just yet.

Still, I am inspired to present my own perspective on the state of the union this week particularly on whether I regret the fact that I voted for Obama twice. Given the big scarlet R pinned on Wyoming’s breast and the wonders of the Electoral College, my votes had absolutely no impact on putting Obama in office, of course, but I still feel responsible, so here it goes

I’ll say right up front that I have been disappointed in the Obama administration.

Among the reasons is his failure to run an open administration as he promised.

I am also bothered by what I believe is overuse of drones to target our enemies and I feel the administration has been guilty of overkill in gathering electronic information. I don’t like his policies concerning education because I believe they will hurt public education rather than help it.

His health care reform was not carefully put together and the problem was made worse by a website that didn’t deliver when people tried to purchase health insurance under the law.

Still, I have to put these failures, and others as well, in perspective. Broken promises are certainly not unique to the Obama administration. I have watched 11 presidents since I became politically aware back in the ’50s, and I have seen many promises broken. Usually, that has been because they were impossible to keep and probably shouldn’t have been made in the first place, but mostly they were just forgotten after the election.

I have also seen presidents push legislation that produces bad laws, laws that have often been impossible to enforce or have had unintended consequences. This is usually due to the messy process that produces laws rather than the fault of the president, but he still bears responsibility if he proposed them.

In foreign affairs, presidential policies have produced unintended consequences, and there have been ill-advised military actions that damaged relations with other nations. Persistent trouble spots, especially in the Middle East, have caused problems for nearly every one of those presidents.

With very few exceptions, none of the 11 has managed to produce a balanced budget consistently or significantly reduce either the national debt or the size of government. Government and the debt have grown consistently under all of them.

In fact, most of the problems surrounding the Obama administration have been perennial issues. The federal role in education, for example was the debate topic when I was in high school back when we were still using manual typewriters, and Americans have been in peril in the Middle East at least since the oil embargo of the 1970s.

Health care reform has been a concern since Harry Truman, who, dismayed at the high percentage of men disqualified for medical conditions when he tried to recruit a unit to serve in World War I, proposed a national health insurance program.

In short, one could argue that the problems of the current administration are par for the course

Still, the U.S. has survived and prospered under all those presidents, and something of value came under each of them.  Likewise, given the problems of the last five years, one can find some light in the darkness.

Despite the problems surrounding the Affordable Care Act, for example, its passage has forced the issue onto the table. That has, if nothing else, forced our politicians to confront the questions of access to health care and its cost. That presents an opportunity to come up with a reasonable solution.

Producing that solution has been and will be a tough battle, and will take years of debate, but the law has made it difficult for Congress to ignore.

So while I am disappointed in President Obama on several grounds, I don’t think he’s been the disaster Republicans believe him to be, and I believe his administration has created opportunities for future presidents and Congresses to make progress.

I also have to ask this question: Would either John McCain or Mitt Romney done any better? Given our history and the current political climate, I don’t think either one would have been any more successful.

I don’t regret my votes at all.

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