David Rothkopf

The president puts the ‘UN’ back in un-newsworthy

Barack Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly today was the geopolitical equivalent of muzak — familiar themes, pleasantly rearranged into a kind of inoffensive but utterly unnoteworthy drone. The main thing he succeeded in doing with the speech (besides making it clear that he learned how to pronounce the word "Jakarta" during his boyhood ...

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Barack Obama's speech to the U.N. General Assembly today was the geopolitical equivalent of muzak -- familiar themes, pleasantly rearranged into a kind of inoffensive but utterly unnoteworthy drone.

The main thing he succeeded in doing with the speech (besides making it clear that he learned how to pronounce the word "Jakarta" during his boyhood days there) was upstaging the hapless Republican leadership as they unveiled their "Pledge to America," an agenda featuring promises to keep the Bush tax cuts, "freeze spending" except for national security, and somehow (perhaps this is where Christine O'Donnell's witchcraft comes in) reduce the deficit. Oh yes, they also announced their intention to undo the Obama health care reforms on the very day when a number of its most appealing benefits -- allowing children to stay on plans longer, limiting lifetime caps on spending, limiting pre-existing condition exclusions -- came on stream.

To me, the contrast between the two events -- one televised, the other off camera in a Virginia lumberyard -- beautifully depicts the choice confronting Americans this fall. Earnest, articulate, intelligent but not terribly effective or inspiring Democrats vs. bumbling, idea-less, Republicans offering up the very best ideas of the Goldwater for President campaign to solve the problems of 21st century America. I think I'll swear off cable news for a while and escape to the worlds in which I'd rather be living, like those of "Nikita" or "Covert Affairs."

Barack Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly today was the geopolitical equivalent of muzak — familiar themes, pleasantly rearranged into a kind of inoffensive but utterly unnoteworthy drone.

The main thing he succeeded in doing with the speech (besides making it clear that he learned how to pronounce the word "Jakarta" during his boyhood days there) was upstaging the hapless Republican leadership as they unveiled their "Pledge to America," an agenda featuring promises to keep the Bush tax cuts, "freeze spending" except for national security, and somehow (perhaps this is where Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft comes in) reduce the deficit. Oh yes, they also announced their intention to undo the Obama health care reforms on the very day when a number of its most appealing benefits — allowing children to stay on plans longer, limiting lifetime caps on spending, limiting pre-existing condition exclusions — came on stream.

To me, the contrast between the two events — one televised, the other off camera in a Virginia lumberyard — beautifully depicts the choice confronting Americans this fall. Earnest, articulate, intelligent but not terribly effective or inspiring Democrats vs. bumbling, idea-less, Republicans offering up the very best ideas of the Goldwater for President campaign to solve the problems of 21st century America. I think I’ll swear off cable news for a while and escape to the worlds in which I’d rather be living, like those of "Nikita" or "Covert Affairs."

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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