I’m a partisan hack with this assessment, I know. But President Obama’s speech was probably the most fun-to-watch SOTU address to date. As expected, the Prez was cool and suave with his delivery (I admit, I think I may have a man crush on him). But not only was his demeanor worthy of Billy Dee in Lady Sings the Blues, but I appreciated watching him roll up his sleeves and take hard shots at Republicans at a time where they have all but dominated the airwaves with their vitriol. For all the major failures of the Obama administration during his first year in office, the man certainly stepped his game up last night.
There were moments though when he was just a run-of-the-mill politician: lying his butt off with a straight face. But when he was right, he was spot on..and boldly made it known.
Here are some of the key highlights for me:
(1) As expected, Obama’s speech placed a high premium on job creation. This was a VERY neccessary move. I’ve argued before that Obama’s big problem was that he wasted the first year of his administration trying to do every damn thing at once; often under the pressure of certain groups and certain interests. Trying to pick battles about mess like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while the country was economically burning was stupid. It was good to see how he has (at least as it appears) put his eye back on the most important thing right now: jobs. This isn’t to say his progressive agenda isn’t laudable. There are just more important things to focus on right now. He mentioned how he feels like he CAN’T wait on anything…but I think he’ll open his eyes to reality in 2010. He’ll realize that he can only do one thing at a time; especially for the sake of saving his Democratic brethern for midterms. Right now, people are mostly concerned about jobs. So that’s where he’s going to turn his attention…no matter what he may say.
(2) I love how he laid the smack down on the Supreme Court. Just in case you haven’t been following the Supremes lately, they ruled last week that the government may not ban political spending by corporations during elections; essentially indicating that doing so violates free speech. Since the decision, progressives have – and for just cause – been extremely upset. President Obama decided to use this an an opportunity to exact his revenge:
…Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
– Barack Obama, Jan. 27, 2010
Damn! He told them! The problem is: this isn’t entirely true.
The Supremes were wrong in their choice, no doubt. But Obama tossing foreign corporations in the mix was flat out false. Something rubbed me the wrong way about that comment. And sure enough, Federal Election Campaign Laws explicitly prohibit foreign businesses to donate to elections. Don’t worry about looking it up. I found it on page 86. You’re welcome.
What’s significant about Obama’s lie is that I liken it to similar fear tactics traditionally reserved for Republicans. By invoking “those foreign peoples”, Obama was using a hypothetical threat to push his own agenda. Mr. President, you get a serious wag of the finger for that one.
(3) Speaking of dishonesty, I took issue with the President’s claims outright lies about taking lobbyists out of the policymaking game. As I pointed out over a year ago, President Obama has not only opened the arms of his administration to all kinds of lobbyists, but he’s done so in public view. I mean, a list of lobbyists working in his administration can be found with five minutes of research, for crying out loud. So to openly lie about something like that during the SOTU was crazy to me.
(4) To the President’s credit, I LOVE how he not only has stayed committed to his tax cuts for 95% of us, but that he rubbed the Republicans face in it while exposing them for who they are. Even the most casual observer of politics knows that during the SOTU address, support for the President is measured by the applause. So when Obama talked about tax cuts – something Republicans defended tooth and nail when Bush was in office – and they sat there in silence, it was all crystal clear to me. In simple terms: REPUBLICANS ARE OBSTRUCTIONISTS. They will hate anything Obama says simply because he’s Obama. Here they are being silence (presumably in protest) against Obama’s tax cuts while they cheered on the same measures with Bush. Of course, the top 5% aren’t included in Obama’s tax cutting plans, so I can see why the Repubs are pissed.
(5) I think the President made the right call as he addressed Health Care. I was a little concerned at first that he’d make some long, drawn out, and confusing statements about processess and procedures. But given that the majority of the general public doesn’t really have a CLUE about what’s going on in politics, he did good by simply talking about things in general terms. Obama brilliantly stressed the importance of action, but did so using overall economic improvement as the context. This was done – I think – to atone for his lie about making negotiations about health care available on C-SPAN for public viewing. Honestly,this should have been the approach to take all along. Instead of getting us involved in complicated discussions and negotiations, he should have simply operated in our defense, even if it meant doing so behind closed doors. Closed door deals are fine…as long as the people making the deals aren’t secretly trying to exploit us.
(6) “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” If that doesn’t shut Republicans up…
(7) The closing of Obama’s speech was brilliant. Sayeth the President [in an obvious attempt to call out Republicans]: “Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.”, and [in an obvious attempt to call out those weak a** Democrats]: “…we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.” It’s a great sign when a leader can put feet to the fire equally.
Ultimately, there were some moments where Obama made me yell at my T.V. But I’m not completely trippin’ on that. After all, he’s a politician. I’m used to it. I DO think he proved again that he’s a solid speech deliverer. I’m hoping that by taking the fight to Republicans and by putting Democrats in their place, he is showing the spine that too many politicians have been missing over the past year.
(8) My final thought: Bob McDonnell’s response was lame. It was littered with Republican talking points, knee deep in lies, and the audience backdrop (accessorized with the token black person) was a little too townhall for my liking. While the format was creative and certainly NOTHING like the dismal performance of one Bobby Jindal, it was still pretty tepid and boring. But what can you really expect from the GOP.
Overall grade for the State of the Union: C+. The theatrics and Obama’s display of gangsterness trumps everything else. This time, anyway.