There were very few moments over the course of President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address where Speaker Paul Ryan had perceptible reactions. You could almost hear the self-coaching in his mind. Stay stoic, Paul. Don’t give the guy a thing.
But right around the 48:10 mark of the speech, Obama said this:
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
And right in the middle of that declaration, Ryan had a flicker of something register on his face. It was so quick and the camera didn’t stay on him so it was hard to hone in on, but it was surely representative of what so many of our citizens were thinking in that moment.
Holy shit. Did he just say that? Is he admitting the parties are more divided than they’ve ever been? During his presidency? Is he expressing a regret? Does he know this is being recorded?
Oh my God, wait, did I fall asleep? Am I dreaming? We’re still in Washington, D.C., right? What is he doing? He must be setting up some potshot aimed at the Republicans … wait for it.
Oh, Mr. Speaker. Welcome to the land of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness. Confidence. Truth. The man knows his strengths and weaknesses. He reads people well. He doesn’t need to blow smoke up anyone’s butt anymore. He’s done. Over the next year, heaven help those who rankle at authenticity.
Because, as it turns out, this was a call for reason that required a dose of real.
“What I’m asking for is hard,” Obama said. “It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”
I knew what you were thinking then, too, Mr. Speaker.
Oh man. Are you kidding me? He’s back to this hope and change thing? Doesn’t he know this is completely at odds with the Republican platform for 2016? Our candidates keep telling our citizens that the country sucks. We’ve finally got enough right-wing media so that message is generated over and over again on a daily basis. If we don’t divide, we don’t conquer. If we don’t convince people we’re in crisis, how will our candidates get any traction? People have to think they need rescuing or there won’t be any reason to vote for us.
Aw, damn this guy.
Wait. I hope I still looked stoic while I was thinking all that. I practiced so hard in the mirror these last weeks.
“But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future,” Obama said.
This guy really is an annoying bleeding heart. And I can’t even roll my eyes or it’ll be caught on camera.
“As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background,” Obama said.
Yes, yes. That’s what we want. Frustration. Tribes. Divide and conquer. And ha, he said ‘pray.’ That’ll get the base going on a Muslim diatribe. OK, I can handle this. He must be almost done.
“We can’t afford to go down that path,” Obama said. “It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.”
Oh no. Did he just sort of say America is exceptional? Ugh. Messing with our narrative. Hope he’s bringing this in for a landing.
“To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us,” Obama said.
Good grief. That’s Jesus’ message. Let me try to stay stoic here. Can’t diss Jesus, but can’t agree with Obama.
“That’s the country we love,” Obama said. “Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.”
Whew. Finally. Out of the hot seat.
No wonder Boehner was crying all the time.