I watched the President’s 2014 State of the Union speech last night as I normally do. I enjoy the pomp and ceremony of the various Important People filing into the room, entering in reverse order of their importance in the great scheme of government. The Least Important People come early and thereby have to sit and wait the longest for the show to begin while the More Important People come later, ending of course with the Most Important Person himself. I smile at the great formal announcement made as the President enters the room.
This year’s speech was, on the surface, not all that much different than previous years. The President laid out his laundry list of things he really wanted to do, knowing that at least 80 percent of those things did not have a chance in hell of getting enacted by this Congress. There were the usual feel-good items, lots of applause (usually by Democrats) at stuff said, and shout-outs to Ordinary Citizens who managed to come to the President’s attention for one reason or another.
There were a few things I enjoyed hearing, and a few things that could have been better. It was nice hearing the President state “the debate on climate change is over,” for example. But given that climate change has the real potential for wiping out civilization as we know it within a few decades, I would have liked to have heard a bit more than one sentence. I chuckled at comments about the Affordable Care Act, and how the President hoped the Republicans would stop holding votes against it; that perhaps 40 votes was already enough.
I also enjoyed watching the reactions of the two people sitting behind the President during his speech; Vice-President Biden and Speaker of the House Boehner. Last night VP Biden was smiling, looking around, and at one point laughingly pointed to someone in the audience. Contrast with Speaker Boehner who mostly looked like he had swallowed a turd.
But the part that really got to me was at the end, when the President gave his very moving presentation on Army Sergeant 1st Class Cory Remsburg. The sergeant more than deserved the accolades the President gave him, and more than deserved the two minutes of standing ovation from everyone in the room, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But beyond the awe I felt at seeing the level of recognition, I also felt angry.
Sergeant 1st Class Cory Remsburg was wounded on his tenth deployment during about eight years of military service*. Why the hell was he and his unit deployed so often? Never mind, I know the reason; not enough people to fight two simultaneous wars started by the Republican President G. W. Bush. I thought of the cuts to the Veteran’s Administration pushed during the previous administration when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House. I also thought about nearly all Republicans voting against the 2008 “Webb GI Bill,” which almost restored the benefits once offered by the veteran’s GI bill slashed by Republican President Reagan in the 1980s.
Then I thought about the cuts to veteran’s retirement benefits that were just pushed through by Republicans in our current budget bill. On top of the retirement benefits cut, Republican Paul Rand is pushing to gut the military Commissary system which is an enormous benefit to active and retired service people. To make matters worse, the current Secretary of Defense (another Republican) is also driving cuts to the TriCare military health-care program.
So last night, as I saw the entire State of the Union audience stand and applaud Sergeant 1st Class Remsburg, including every God Damn Republican, I felt angry. If those elected leaders want to show their support for our troops, and for the tens of thousands of American veterans, they should show it by taking care of those troops and veterans.
Those elected officials should be honoring a commitment that pay and benefits promised for serving our nation are provided. For this navy veteran; Republican officials can keep their applause.
*Note: I estimated Sergeant 1st Class Remsburg’s length of service by knowing that he enlisted at the age of 18, was wounded in 2009, and is now 30 years old.
Who Really Supports Our Troops? : A letter to the Editor of our local newspaper questioning which political party really supports our troops.
In Honor of Veterans Day 2011 : A little post celebrating us Veterans on the one day a year Americans think about us.
A Nice Little Scam : Writing about a cute little scam someone tried to suck me into.