My friend, the Miami businessman, Dave Williams, sees things differently than other people. He says this is because he is a space alien. "Muhammad Ali would have been proud of our President last night," Dave said. I fastened my seat belt for a trip into outer space. "Obama did the rope-a-dope all year. He let his opponents throw punch after punch. They beat on him while he laid on the ropes. Those who voted him into office kept wondering why he didn't punch back."
According to Dave, in the State of the Union Speech Wednesday night "Obama came out to the center of the ring to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He may lose other rounds. He may rope-a-dope again; but watching his flurry of punches Wednesday night I felt like Ali's cornerman, Drew Bundini Brown, who would have been screaming "Dance champ! Dance!! Ah-h-h-h-h! Rumble young man rumble. Ah-h-h-h-h! And didn't Obama dance.
Obama's face was as expressive as Ali's during a prize fight. .. .serious when he was throwing leather to do damage, playful when was only tapping his opponent on the forehead "that worries a man," Ali said.
A State of the Union event is partially serious and partially political theater. Dave saw it as just plain theater. That's how his alien mind works.
"I'm pretty as a girl and I can't be beat." Ali said. Obama smiled. "I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be," Ali said. Obama's face became serious.
"I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world." Ali said. Obama's face seemed to say that. Despite themselves even the Republicans were caught giving Obama some love. This is not to say they would keep on loving him after Rush Limbaugh spanks their bottoms, or more importantly lobbyists remind them who has the butter for their bread.
But for moments during the State of the Union they had to laugh. "I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was," Was what Ali said showing on Obama's face again? Was he thinking: "It's hard to be humble, when you're as great as I am. . . .It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself." if you were watching Obama through the eyes of a space alien Obama posture seemed to channel Ali's words:
Bam! "A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing."
Bam! "It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen."
Bam! "My way of joking is to tell the truth. That's the funniest joke in the world." Bam! Bam!
Bam! "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth"
I asked Dave for permission to use his name. He said I could take credit for his ideas. "I'm an honest journalist," I said. "I want to attribute the ideas to you." He gave permission to use his name..
"Here's the hard part," I said. "I'll have to say that you're a space alien."
"Oh, that's the easy part." He laughed.
So Dave, who is not of this Earth, suggested there were times the President was as playful as Ali while dismantling opponents. Obama stood behind the podium but it seemed he was dancing. He was jocular and funny.
Then his face became suddenly serious "But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -- I would do what was necessary." Bam! This was the first punch of a combination delivered to the ribs of those who opposed the decision to bail out the banks. "And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost." Bam!
He threw a stiff left jab to the face of the Republican: "We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time home buyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college."
He had the Republicans on the ropes so he toyed with them "This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of House Republicans. I'd like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait."
Obama sent a light jab into the chest of African Americans who say he has not done enough for them: "the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education." Pop!
"(We must) end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve." That was an uppercut to the chin of many Democrats. The camera showed some of those who had gotten huge contributions from health care lobbyists.
"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests . . I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests. . . They should be decided by the American people." This comment hit so hard in the gut of the Supreme Court that Justice Alito blurted out. (Justices Scalia and Thomas didn't even show up for the bout.)
"There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people," Ali said; but he also said: "Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round." It seems, despite all, Obama would rather not knock anyone out. And Obama is in another game and so he cannot make an Ali-esque wisecrack like: "I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I'm in a world of my own,"
However, Obama seems to know his task cannot be accomplished without supreme confidence, supreme faith, not just in himself but also in the American people. With him we are all in a world of our own. "I do not accept second place for the United States of America," Obama concluded. We cheered. "It's not bragging if you can back it up," Ali said. Can Obama and the rest of us back it up without knocking somebody out?
Crossposted from Race-Talk.