I recall back when President Obama was running for president in 2008 and he made that odd tour of Europe. Who can forget the spectacle of his “People of the world” speech in front of Berlin’s Winged Victory Column? He had wanted to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, but Angela Merkel (in the days before she lost her mind) didn’t think it was appropriate. After all, there was only one “Tear down this wall” speech.
I also recall his acceptance speech in Denver in 2008. The convention hall wasn’t good enough; it wasn’t big enough for The Anointed One. No, he had to do it at Investco Field, the Broncos football stadium, Greek columns and all.
Clearly, Barack Obama is a man of enormous ego.
Thus, when it was announced that he would give the traditional farewell to the nation speech at the McCormick Center in Chicago in front of 20,000 people instead of the White House, I did a little fact checking. It turns out that the only previous president to give his farewell speech outside of Washington was George HW Bush, who gave his at West Point. All the others gave theirs in Washington in recent times within the White House. But that wasn’t enough for Barack Obama.
Naturally, I chose to watch this masked ball. Predictably, the speech lasted almost an hour about twice as long as necessary for a farewell speech. Of course, Obama had to go out in a blaze of glory with one of his classic stem winders.
It is not my intent to pick apart his speech in detail, but I did find it curious that he sneaked in a line about how nobody could deny that race relations were better today than 10-20-30 years ago. Thirty years, perhaps. Fifty years for sure. But ten years (just before he took office)? Hardly. They are worse.
Even most Americans who voted against Obama in 2008 felt pride that an African-American had won the White House and hoped that he would help bring us all together. In that respect, he failed miserably. Together with his first attorney general, Eric Holder, he promoted a racial agenda that made things worse. He and Holder time and time again jumped the gun on controversial police shootings that involved white cops (or a neighborhood watch guy named George Zimmerman) who shot black suspects. Our Justice Department (from which I retired with pride in 1995) became a political machine that corrupted the concept of justice. Today, black-white relations in the US are the worst I have seen since the 1960s.
Of course, to the fawning live audience and mainstream media folks at CNN and MSNBC, it was a historic speech, one for the ages, a lesson that we must all take to heart and heed.
Naturally, we expect an outgoing president to laud his accomplishments even if they are few and questionable. I was wondering what president he was talking about. Just to cite one example, the Obama-H.Clinton-Kerry foreign policy was an unmitigated disaster, especially in the Middle East, which is in flames as we speak.
My chief objection to this speech, however, was simply the venue. It was tasteless and in contrast to the simple dignity that characterized previous farewell addresses.