Art credit: Gary Locke
President Obama delivered a valedictory speech Tuesday night in his adopted hometown of Chicago before an adoring throng of 18,000 attendees. Enraptured by his own oft-celebrated eloquence, Obama took his good time soaking in the love by delivering a speech that, according to the Washington Examiner, clocked in at longer than Ronald Reagan's, Bill Clinton's and George W. Bush's farewell addresses ... combined.
Clinton spoke for 7 minutes, 25 seconds; Reagan spoke for 20 minutes, 42 seconds; and George W. Bush spoke for 13 minutes, 7 seconds. Obama spoke for 51 minutes, 10 seconds, nearly 10 minutes longer that the other three put together.
If you have the time, watch the entire speech here: (Spoiler alert from the Daily Caller: He refered to himself 75 times over the 51 minutes. Impressive)
However, if you have an actual job and a family and you want to cut to the chase, the New York Times provides a fine synopsis focusing on a specific theme the president seemed to gravitate to:
But he warned, in the wake of a toxic presidential election, that economic inequity, racism and closed-mindedness threatened to shred the nation's democratic fabric.
"We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others," Mr. Obama said, "when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them."
Obama's lecture on political unity cynically, (and apparently unironically) employed divisive and polarizing rhetorical devices designed to isolate those who would disagree with the president's analysis:
Mr. Obama pledged again to support his successor. But his speech was a thinly veiled rebuke of several of the positions Mr. Trump staked out during the campaign, from climate change and barring Muslims from entering the country to repealing his landmark health care law.
"If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities," Mr. Obama said, "then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclave."
The man who embraced the destructive, criminal anarchists of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and famously admonished successful entrepreneurs that they "didn't build that" is lecturing Americans about divisive rhetoric on economic issues?
And then there was this:
"If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don't look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America's work force," he added.
Is there anything more divisive than the president reducing his political opponents' principled stand against his extra-constitutional policies granting federal benefits and protections to families who have violated federal immigration laws to an unfounded charge of hateful racism? How, exactly, does the president hope to overcome the divisive political cycle he has left our country in if he continues to demonize those who oppose his policies as ignorant, mean, and racist?
But the irony of Barack Obama warning Americans of corrosive, divisive political rhetoric goes well beyond the fact that he employed corrosive and divisive political rhetoric to make his point. A short overview of the president's policies and political posturing since he took office in 2009 shows that the divided nation he admonished us about last night exists, in part, because it benefited Obama himself.
- In 2009, the president stated that although he did not know all of the facts sorrounding an incident at the Cambridge home of Henry Louis Gates, he was sure that "the police acted stupidly" in temporarily detaining his former Harvard professor while investigating a report of a break-in.
- During the construction of his two, signature legislative achievements, the Affordable Care Act and the trillion dollar stimulus package of 2009, the president continually refused to engage with Republican leaders and famously answered their objections with "I won."
- During the mid-term elections of 2010, the president said Republicans had driven the economy into a ditch and now that he and fellow Democrats had recovered the analagous car, "they can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back."
- During those same mid-terms Obama implored a Latino radio audience to "punish our enemies" by voting against Republicans.
- Every time the president declared that wealthy Americans must "pay their fair share" (there are too many occurances to catalog here) he was communicating to the American voter that they were being unfairly cheated by the rich guy next door.
- Under his watch the Internal Revenue Service purposely discriminated against non-profit political groups because they were perceived to be conservative in nature.
This is a mere snapshot (you'll notice the list only goes through the early years of his presidency) but it's true that President Obama has used divisive political rhetoric more effectively than any modern day president—and he has employed it without any real check from the mainstream media.
As was the case last evening. While CNN gushed about the "rock and roll concert atmosphere" and MSNBC declared him in the "top ten" of American presidents in history, no one seemed to want to take a moment to point out that the man who just lectured the country about how divided we are did virtually nothing to prevent that divide during the eight years he was being so darn great.