Point of View Columns

Drama in the Fourth Quarter

Recently, President Obama pointed out something that the fans of the National Football League Seattle Seahawks (and the fans of the Green Bay Packers) experienced firsthand last weekend – the fourth quarter can be an interesting time in sports. And, as President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address shows, the fourth quarter of the Obama Administration may prove to be just as interesting as the Seahawks-Packers game.

During this week’s State of the Union speech, another of facts of American political life became apparent. First, despite the tsunami of attacks, insults, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, faux scandals (think birther or Benghazi, to name a few), President Obama still contends, he still competes, he still adheres to a vision in which the people of this country have a better life.

Second, it is also clear that the Teapublican majority in the House and Senate is not prepared to cede even the slightest credit for anything to this president. While applause meters should not be seen as a definitive indicia of much of anything, the protocols of SOTU speeches do call for applause and the Teapublicans would not, seemingly could not, applaud such mayonnaise on white bread good news items as the historic decline of unemployment, the lessening reliance on foreign oil or the fairly benign notion that the minimum wage should be raised from its current, hardly luxurious $7.25 level.

Indeed, the only time that the Teapublican cabal applauded spontaneously is when President Obama mentioned that he would never run for office again. It was, however, a move that the Teapublicans immediately regretted as the president reminded them that he was not running anymore because he had beaten them in the last two elections – thereby proving once again that at times silence really is golden.

Real world, real time issues like education, immigration reform, tax reform and the implementation of a reality-based environmental policy all need to be in the forefront of policy decision-making in Washington. The Teapublicans offer little hope that they have any interest in improving the quality of life for anyone given the fact that their first act in the new Congress was to bring a bill to the floor that articulates draconian restrictions on abortion – as if this issue is what keeps the majority of Americans awake at night. Female Teapublicans squelched this particular bit of grandstanding, but it is an unfortunate sign of things to come.

Meanwhile, another highlight of President Obama’s speech was his call for the lifting of the Cuban trade embargo, a punitive policy that was a failure at the beginning, a failure for the past half century and is a failure to this very day. And in this instance, failure means that the trade embargo has done nothing to change the political environment in Cuba, it has imposed unnecessary harm and damage on the Cuban people, and it has denied economic opportunities to American firms who cannot compete with companies that are based in more enlightened – or pragmatic – countries.

Needless to say, the Teapublican leadership seems intent on clinging to this hoary and worn out relic of the Cold War, even as the Berlin Wall has become part of the pavement between East and West, even as Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China have become robust trading partners with this country. What is it about Cuba that warrants such enmity and political hatred?

For the answer to that question, one would have to ask the aging, Castro-obsessed Cubanos in Florida and New Jersey. They are clearly the tail that is wagging the Teapublican dog in this case and it would seem that they don’t have any real answer except that they want Cuba to go back to the good old days that they remember in their fizzled dreams – and it ain’t gonna happen.

Meanwhile, President Obama is pursuing a progressive agenda that, while far from radical, does move the country in a different direction than that proposed by the likes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, et. al. As noted, the fourth quarter should be interesting.

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