David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star


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Here is some live blogging of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. This will not be as extensive as the live blogging we do here on primary debates. The first part will give you a CNN summary. Live blogging is underneath. A roundup of reaction after the speech will go on top of the live blogging. The pre-speech story via CNN will be placed under the live blogging and at the bottom of the post once the speech begins.

My entries will not be exhaustive but short reactions — the view of one independent voter. Am most interested in how Republicans react, if there are any unusual incidents. Will this be just another boilerplate speech or will we see another “You lie!” moment? Remember that Obama is making this speech during a time when America is acutely polarized, with each side being certain of its own view, even in many cases only going to “their own” cable news channels and “their own” websites where they can have their opinions and political reaffirmed and negative perceptions validated by ideology grounded news and commentary. This trend is increasing and becoming the style of 21st century politics — a context that must be taken into account in analyzing the speech’s impact (or lack of impact).

One question that’ll be answered in coming days: what kind of audience will this speech attract? Will Obama get an audience or in this election year will viewership be way down (two GOP members of Congress announced they will not intend — yet another break with centuries of how Congress operates. They won’t even be in the room to listen to it — an example of how some politicos are more “open mouth” than “open mind.”) Will Obama disappoint his supporters? Will he give his foes lots of ammunition? And how will the still vital independent voters that Obama has been losing react? The American public knows Obama can give a deliver a good scripted speech. Will his content connect with them?

MY QUICK IMPRESSION which could change as I read more of the actual speech, ponder it and do my own fact checking. Obama has now positioned himself to offer a major contrast with any Republican opponent — particularly those in the race now. This contrast would be less if he was running against a Chris Christie or a Jeb Bush. The question now is how independents — who are not a monolithic group — react to it. Republicans were clearly unmoved by many of his arguments, particularly anything involving government investment or public money. Most emotional moment: Gabby Giffords.

ANOTHER VIEW: I greatly respect David Gergen — maybe because I tend to see things similarly. Gergen has some of the overall reaction that I did about the contrast with Republicans (who’ll have lots of material for speeches and polemical riffs from this address). Also on CNN, Democratic strategist Paul Begala rightly notes that Obama has come across as populist and commander in chief. True — but the operative question will be if this is just for the speech. It won’t win over Republicans due to its philosophical and ideological anchor which is Democratic center left. Once more: the key battle ground will be the independents, not Ds and Ls or talk show hosts or ideological bloggers.

ROUNDUP OF REACTIONS TO THE SPEECH (live blogging entries are UNDER this section):
Andrew Sullivan is disappointed. From his live blogging:

10.20 pm. I was hoping for a vision. I was hoping for real, strategic reform. What we got was one big blizzard of tax deductions, wrapped in a populist cloak. It was treading water. I suspect this will buoy liberal spirits, but anger the right and befuddle the independents. It definitely gives the Republican case against Obama as a big government meddler more credibility. I may be wrong – but the sheer cramped, tedious, mediocre micro-policies he listed were uninspiring to say the least.

We voted for Obama; now we find we got another Clinton. The base will like this. I’m not sure independents will. As performance, he did as well as he could with the thin material he had in his hands. As a speech, I thought it was the worst of his SOTUs, when he really needed his best.

10.17 pm. This notion that a country, a democracy, should have the same attitude as troops fighting a war is preposterous and slightly creepy. Yes, we should put aside our differences to get important things done, put aside ideology to focus on solving problems. But we are not a military and the president is not our commander. He is our president. We have every right to argue with one another and to distrust one another at times. The whole idea of getting each others’ backs in a boisterous democracy is deeply undemocratic. I do not want to be a citizen trained like a member of the Navy SEALs. Nor should anyone. This isn’t Sparta. It’s America. And to use the raid on bin Laden as the model of our future cooperation struck me as too easy and trite an analogy.

-Some Tweets from University of Virginia’s superb political scientist Larry Sabato (edited down by me):

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
One thing I’ve learned: I’d love to have the good posture of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
23 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Um, somehow I don’t think the U.S. Senate is going to welcome presidential suggestions on their rules.
28 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Ban on insider trading? Sure. But make them all use blind trusts.
30 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
At least the networks give you commercial breaks during the debates.
30 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
I have to give credit to John Boehner. He’s perfected the “I’m seriously listening & trying not to show my deep disgust” look.
31 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Look at this chamber. You can cut the partisan polarization with a knife.
32 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Let’s see. Who could POTUS be referring to? Any Republican been found to pay a 15% tax rate?
34 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Now the real “punch” line for the GOP: Pass the payroll tax cut!
36 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
POTUS on weak ground. Most Americans think he’s done nothing to prosecute the wrongdoers on Wall Street.
36 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
“We’re not bailing out you banks & Wall Streeters ever again. You’ll have to make do with the trillions we already gave you.”
37 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Who was that Republican predecessor? What was his name? #Bushsfault
41 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Why does the Treasury Secretary always look like he has a bad case of indigestion?
42 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Yep, it’s a campaign speech. Only Ds are applauding. Some of these dates are going sour. No goodbye kisses.
45 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Discussing energy makes many people think of Solyndra & a certain Midwestern non-pipeline.
48 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Yes, we wouldn’t want any of that “election year politics”! Perish the thought.
54 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Oh please. “Stop tuition hikes.” Where is the $$$ coming from to insure excellence, Mr. President?
55 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
I can’t wait for the section on contraceptives. #sotu
56 minutes ago

LarrySabato Larry Sabato
Obama: “Stop bashing teachers.” It will turn my whole life around if you listen, people.
57 minutes ago

-Daniel Horowitz on Red State:

One of the most salient messages from Obama’s State of the Union Address is that he is unwilling to take responsibility for any of his failures. Instead, he took credit for successful policies that he opposed, and ascribed blame on others for failed policies that he supported.

The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz:

The economy was at the heart of the speech, but gridlock still rules Washington. While it sounds good for Obama to demand that American companies pay a minimum tax for profits earned overseas, there’s no chance Congress will go along. The president’s pitch for a Buffett Rule in which millionaires pay an effective tax rate of at least 30 percent may have added resonance after Mitt Romney’s tax returns showed him at 15 percent, but chances of passage are 0 percent.

The speech’s subtext, of course, is that Obama stands for middle-class fairness while his Republican opponents are champions of the wealthy, who make their own rules. Even Eric Cantor, whose party bobbled the issue before Christmas, had to clap when Obama called for extending the payroll-tax cut. There was even a nod to another grand bargain, trading entitlement cuts for tax hikes on the rich—precisely the deal that eluded the president in 2011.

We’ve known for five years now that Obama can give a great speech. It’s hard to imagine this one will be remembered for long once the campaign heats up.

Brookings Institution:

In his 2012 State of the Union Address, Barack Obama issued a ringing call for government to take the lead in rebuilding an economy that works for all Americans and to revive the promise of a more cooperative politics that carried him to the White House in 2008. While many of the specific measures he urged are likely to resonate with the public, it remains to be seen whether he can persuade the majority of Americans to set aside their long-festering mistrust of government and give him a mandate to pursue an aggressive policy agenda.


The gulf between the two sides and the capital’s partisan vitriol undercut the traditional role of the State of the Union — that is, as an account of the legislative priorities the president will pursue this year. Instead, with limited prospects of major legislation passing, the speech and the reaction are election-year arguments that each side hopes will persuade voters to endorse its view of the world.

In his address to a joint session of Congress, Obama portrayed the Republicans as advocates of what he has called “you’re-on-your-own economics,” determined to protect the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” Obama declared, “or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Republicans accused Obama of promoting class warfare and stoking the politics of envy.

“No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in the formal Republican response. “We Americans are all in the same boat.”

Some Tweets by political columnist Dick Polman:

Mitch Daniels….Didn’t this guy play a kindly grocer on “The Andy Griffith Show?”
8 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
MItch Daniels, zzzz. You know what? In the debates, Gingrich would have gnawed this guy’s neck and spat out the skin chunks.
9 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
“I’m Mitch Daniels with the GOP’s ‘must-do list,’ and I trust none of you know I was Bush’s budget guy when we flooded the US with red ink”
12 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
“I’m Mitch Daniels, and if you find me less than scintillating, just think ‘Bobby Jindal.'”
15 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
It’s Mitch Daniels, rebutting! Republican viewers are thinking, “This guy woulda been way better than the rich stiff or the fat bloviator.”
17 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Obama knows Republicans will ignore his Kumbaya plea. Fine. He took the high road; in ’12 he’ll bang them for obstructing on the low road.
20 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
The biggest laugh tonite was watching the Republicans sit on their hand whenever Obama called for more tax fairness. #SOTU
22 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
There is no US war in Iraq anymore, but, in so many words, Obama declared war on Repubs in Congress. A campaign salvo, using them as a foil.
25 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Nice ending. In translation: “Oh, did I happen to mention before that I went all Tony Soprano on Osama? I did? Tough, I’ll say it again.”
32 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
BO: “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline…doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Say it to Newt or Mitt this fall. #SOTU
34 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Obama, on US foreign policy: “the enduring power of our moral example.” Wait a sec, doesn’t he go around the world apologizing? Mitt says so
37 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
The odds of senators reforming the filibuster rule are roughly equivalent to the odds of Elvis reentering the building. #SOTU
43 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Obama: When Amers want the rich to pay more taxes, “it’s not because they envy the rich…” This section previews how he’d answer Mitt.
47 minutes ago

DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Here come the Mitt Romney subliminals. #SOTU
51 minutes ago

LA Times:

By using his State of the Union speech to draw sharp contrasts with Republicans on such high-profile issues as taxes and the housing market, President Obama opened an election-year debate on the role of government that could be more intense than any in decades.

Warning Congress that “I intend to fight obstruction with action,” he painted a confrontational picture that stands in sharp contrast with the conciliatory approach taken by the last Democrat to seek a second term, Bill Clinton.

In fact, Obama’s strategy more closely resembles that ofGeorge W. Bushin 2004, who used polarizing issues to increase turnout of his supporters and made few concessions to the center. The approach increases the chance that if he wins a second term, Obama could claim a mandate for his program. It also carries more risk of failure in a nation still deeply skeptical of government activism.

Only a few months ago, many voters had seemed on the verge of writing Obama off. But in recent weeks, two developments have given him a chance to ask those voters for another look. One is the economy, which has started to show signs of improvement — declining unemployment, rising consumer confidence and reduced levels of household debt. The other is the way the Republican primary race recently has focused on the vast wealth (and relatively low tax burden) of the party’s sometimes front-runner, Mitt Romney.

Obama drove straight at the wealth issue with the signature proposal of his speech: a minimum tax for millionaires that formed part of his call for all Americans to pay their “fair share.” The proposal, requiring people with incomes of more than $1 million to pay at least 30% in taxes, would conveniently — administration officials insist coincidentally — double the taxes that Romney paid last year, according to the tax return the former Massachusetts governor released earlier in the day

–Some of Andy Borowitz’s political humor tweets:

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Live-tweeting accomplished. But please join me here: on.fb.me/kayJ2u #SOTU
11 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Shorter Mitch Daniels: “I want to take you all to a city on the hill and there I will kill and eat you.” #SOTU
15 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Couldn’t the GOP find someone to make their official response who doesn’t seem exactly like a serial killer? #SOTU
24 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Gingrich: “America deserves a better President. And Warren Buffett deserves a hotter secretary.” #SOTU
37 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
“God Bless Saul Alinsky. I mean America.” #SOTU
39 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
BREAKING: Obama Goes Record Four Seconds Without Mentioning Bin Laden #SOTU
41 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Furious Republicans refuse to applaud idea of America being back. #SOTU
46 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Obama’s record is definitely mixed: bin Laden dead, but Joe Lieberman still hanging around. #SOTU
47 minutes ago

elliottholt Elliott Holt
by BorowitzReport
May I propose this instead? “America: built to fast” #obesity #SOTU
50 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Mitch McConnell angrily refuses to applaud suggestion that the United States of America achieve things. #SOTU
51 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Suggestion that government should be leaner is a blatant attack on Gingrich. #SOTU
53 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Boehner is staying awake by inventing new cocktails in his head. #SOTU
59 minutes ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
BREAKING: Gingrich Now on Fifth Wife #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Obama’s reference to people “hitting bottom” a veiled reference to Boehner’s drinking. #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
“I want a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants currently working at Mitt Romney’s house.” #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
BREAKING: In the time it is taking Obama to speak, Newt Gingrich has had an affair, divorced and remarried. #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Unintentionally, Obama’s pitch for robotics could help Romney. #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Republicans stubbornly refuse to applaud idea of America always winning. #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Who pissed in Eric Cantor’s cornflakes? #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Republicans angrily refuse to applaud idea of avoiding economic catastrophe. #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Obama in danger of alienating Republicans by using facts. #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
“There are no Americans fighting in Iraq. However, there are hundreds fighting in this room.” #SOTU
1 hour ago

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
Fox News: Obama Speech an Enormous Failure #SOTU

Washington Post:

Obama spoke from a stronger position politically than he has been in for months. His approval rating, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, stands at about 50 percent, and a majority of independent voters now look favorably on his performance in office.

But his advisers are well aware that his pursuit of a second term is imperiled by a still-staggering economy and a perception, even among those in his own party, that he has not effectively challenged Republicans to pass his economic plans.

Nearly all of the roughly hour-long speech Tuesday was devoted to the economy. Obama spent only a brief time on foreign policy.

–Here’s a collection of State of the Union cartoons.


Some quick reactions (not comprehensive):

7:17: Here is the FULL TEXT of Barack Obama’s address so you can read it for yourself and judge for yourself.

7:13: Says politicos can learn from military. Doesn’t matter if black, white, gay straight, rich poor. When in battle you look out for the next person next to you “you rise or fall as one unit.” Says his proudest possession is the banner Seal Team took with him. Some may be Democrats, Republicans “but it didn’t matter.” Just like the day in the situation room when he sat next to GOPer Bob Gates and former political competitor Hillary Clinton. “All that mattered was the mission.” The politics didn’t matter. It was the mission. This will be a VERY appealing argument to independents — in stark contrast to Gingrich for instance calling him the “food stamp President.” Says you need “somebody behind you watching your back.” Says he looks at the flag and realizes our destiny stitched together like the stars and stripes. Argues eloquently for “common purpose..common resolve and unity.” Great ending on the speech. I think this final passage will be one that will be played on tape for some years to come.

7:12: Proposes “Veterans jobs corps” to encourage communities to hire veterans as firefighters and cops.

[There is also live blogging at the Tucson Citizen]

7:09: Answers GOP critics Says anyone who says America is in decline or not respected “don’t know what they are talking about…American remains the one indispensable nation in foreign affairs and as long as I’m President I intend to keep it this way.”

7:06: Predicts Syria will see change soon. Says US has “hgue stake” in changes in the Middle East and “Human Dignity can’t be denied.” Camera shot of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been a great Secretary of State. Vows “no options off the table” to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. But “a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible and far better.” Says under him Israel and the US have had “the closet military cooperation” in history.

7:04: Talks about foreign policy successes in Yemen..winding down the war in Afghanistan…”and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan so it is never again a source of attack against America.” Mentions Middle East change.

7:02: Calls about end to people clinging to ideology in constant gridlock and constant campaigning. Quotes Lincoln that govt should only do what people can’t do for themselves and no more. Obama is appealing to the center here and this should resonate. I see him as positioning himself center to center left with this speech. Says even if can’t bridge philsophical actions but can work together. “When we act together there’s nothing the United States of American can’t achieve” but he will act on his own in some ways if he has to.

6:59: Says Obama realizes people of both parties watching thing nothing will get done this year or next “because Washington is broken…Could you blame them for feeling a little cynical.” Points from debt limit debate. “Who benefitted from that fiasco.” Divide between Washington and rest of country is huge. Populist message. Blasts super majority. “Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it” — go back to simple majorities. Asks for simple civil and judicial nominations an up or down vote in 90 days. Says executive branch needs to changer “too often it’s inefficient, outdated and remote” so wants to consolidate federal bureaucracy.

6:54: Warren Buffet rule. Choice: do we want to keep tax cuts for wealthiest or pay down our debt and use the money for other things? “The American people know what the right choice is and so am I.” He said he’d be willing to look into reforming social security, etc. but also in return make it so “people like me and some other members of Congress pay our share of taxes.” Says if make more than $1 million a year should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. UNSPOKEN RAISING OF ROMNEY. But if you make under $250,000 like 90 percent of the American families “your taxes should not go up..You’re the ones struggling.” Says “You can call this class welfare all you want but asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes” is common sense. Says not hating success or envy. But if the rich don’t pay their taxes someone else has to make up the difference – for instance a senior on a fixed income. “That’s not right. Americans know that’s not right.” Pitches for “shared responsibility…That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last.”

6:53: Fair play: calls on passage of payroll tax cut “no drama…pass the payroll tax cut without delay.” Two words on that: Fat. Chance. It’ll be another big drama with talk radio whipping up ratings and some insisting on taking it the brink.

6:52: Praises new consumers watchdog appointed in recess appointment. Says will do a “fiancial crimes” unit. Wants laws to make penalties for financial crimes count to expand investigations into lending of the kind that led to the financial crisis.

[There is also live blogging at the Wall Street Journal]

6:46: Urges Congress to use money saved from war winding down to pay for construction jobs, etc “and do some nation building here at home…There’s never been a better time to build especialliy because the construction industry” was hit hard when the financial crisis struck. Sending Congress plan that gives all homeowners a chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at historic low rate. Give banks rescued by taxpayers “a chance to repay a deficit of trust.”

6:43: Directing his administration to direct clean energy on a plan to power 3 million homes. The Department of Defense will make one of the largest clean energy uses in history. Will allow development of clean energy on public land. Will be a big story — and that’s likely why he said “good job” to Leon Panetta. Wants to provide good incentives for businesses to upgrade so they waste less energy.

6:43 PST: “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” Will not cede this to China or other countries. A clean energy tax credit.

6:40 Says developing natural gas could be a huge solution. And notes that public dollars went to develop extraction process — proving that government assistance is important to help business get off the ground. Also talks about clean energy.

6:39 PST: Says American oil production highest than 8 years. And last year US relied less on foreign oil than last 16 years. Calls for an “all of the above” strategy to develop all sources of energy. That seemed to get big cheer from both parties. Talks about America’s natural gas supply that can last 100 years (but enough about talk radio..).

6:35 PST: Notes that fewer illegal crossings of illegal aliens under his administration. Says critics out of excuses: “We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.” But if election year politics doesn’t allow it, start to allow some of those here at school, etc “a chance to earn their citizenship.” Said if Congress sends him a law like that he’ll sign it ASAP. But this doesn’t jibe with red meat rhetoric some are going to use in the election year. Not gonna happen…but it will position Obama with Hispanic voters for election year.

[There is also live blogging also at the Fayetteville Observer.]

6:32: Defends teachers and their role. Calls for ALL STATES to REQUIRE students to stay in high school until they turn 18. That’s a big proposal. Congress needs to also stop interest rates on student loans from doubling..Extend the tuition tax credit.

6:27 PST: The inevitable anecdote. Jackie Bray: layed off from job, she was retrained and got another job. Calls on training to help Americans get skills that help them get new jobs. Says administration has lined up companies that want to help with “model partnerships.” Calls on Congress to give more community colleges to become skills centers. “It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.” He’s stressing jobs…jobs open for today. But notes that to prepare for jobs, prep needs to start earlier.


6:23: Asserts there’s a huge opportunity to bring jobs back to the US and government will do what it can to help companies. Suggests changing tax codes. If a biz outsources they shouldn’t get a tax deduction. Money should be used to pay for companies such as Masterlock that tries to bring jobs home. All multinational companies should pay a basic tax that goes to help companies that choose to stay here and hire Americans. American manufacturers should get bigger tax cut. If a company wants to relocate in a place where a company lost jobs, it should be helped. Says bottom line: stop rewarding companies that move jobs overseas and start helping companies that want to stay here. CAMERA SHOT of ultra-partisan House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor with blank face, not clapping. So he wants to keep moving jobs overseas? Looks like it..

6:19: Says is presenting a blueprint “for an economy built to last.” Starts with manufacturing, citing his insistence that the auto industry be bailed out and saved. “Today General Motors is on top as the world’s number one auto maker. Chrysler has grown faster in the US than any major car company” and notes industry added over 160,000 jobs. Says after betting on American ingenuity “tonight the American auto industry is back.” Says what happened in Detroit can happen in other industries in other cities.

6:18: Gives figures on jobs that have been created — which also counter some of the GOP campaign claims that Obama has killed and not created any jobs. Says he will work “with anyone…but I intend to fight obstruction with action” and will oppose any attempt to reinstate policies “that brought on this crisis in the first place.” Rep. John Beohner does not look too happy.

6:17: Says “what’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values..We have to reclaim them.”

6:15 Delivers key passage: “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive…No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Will also be campaign them, clearly.

6:11: Good respectful applause from all. Praises “this generation of heroes” in military that made U.S. safer and respected around the world. Says for the first time in 9 years no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades,”Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.” Military notably applaud. Talks about progress in wiping out Al Qaeda and battling the Taliban. Praises military. Good bipartisan boilerplate that all Americans can appreciate. “Image what we could accomplish if we could follow their example” by working together like the military do. Independent voters will like that line.

6:08: Obama warmly shakes hands and kisses the Supreme Court justices (kisses the women). He’s quite cheery tonight, almost bouncy. Big smile. EMOTIONAL MOMENT: a big, long, warm, rocking hug to Gabby Giffords. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer notes what also jumped out at me: Obama shouted to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: “Good job.”

6:05:Obama enters. Hugs and kisses various politicians. No boos (yet). (Proof Rush Limbaugh is in the audience..)

5:57 PST: Big applause when Arizona’s Gabby Giffords shows up. She looks GREAT and for that moment you could see the joy in the faces of Republicans and Democrats. Yes, there are some things that still unite Ds and Rs (and Is). It was a wonderful moment.

News organizations often get parts of the speech or in some cases a text before it’s delivered and although the full contents are embargoed they do have permission to summarize main themes. CNN has this excellent summary article. Part of it:

In what could be his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama on Tuesday will call keeping alive the American dream “the defining issue of our time” and pledge to fight obstruction by congressional Republicans.

In the end, all State of the Union addresses by Presidents are somewhat political. It all depends on the degree. And given the degree of partisan confrontation, how polarizing rhetoric is being accentuated, and the high stakes Presidential election in the middle of a still ailing economy, this one may be a bit more political than others in recent memory. CNN notes that as well:

The speech to a joint sitting of Congress is an annual evening of political pageantry, but the stakes are higher this year with Obama’s re-election on the line in November.

With unemployment still above 8% amid a sluggish economic recovery, Obama told supporters in an e-mail Tuesday that he would “lay out in concrete terms the path we need to take as a country if we want an economy that works for everyone and rewards hard work and responsibility.”

According to excerpts released in advance by the White House, Obama will frame the challenges facing the country as a choice between opportunity for some or giving everyone a chance to prosper.

And note that the controversy over and release of GOP presidential aspirant former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s tax returns will place this within a context for many.

“The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive,” the president will say, according to the excerpts. “No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Obama will say that “what’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values,” adding: “We have to reclaim them.”

Top aides say Obama intends to lay out an ambitious set of policy proposals for the final year of his first term.

At the same time, the address also is a political opportunity for Obama to present his re-election message as a choice between two different visions for the future of the country and the role of government.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
Leave a replyComments (11)
  1. Allen January 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I really like this President!

  2. PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor January 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Homeowner refinance plan will not help most people in trouble but it’s a great sound bite.

  3. Jim Satterfield January 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    It could help a lot of people, though, Patrick. Then those people have money freed up to spend and get at least a bit more stimulus for the economy.

  4. PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor January 24, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Well of course I hope it works but I work with these issues regularly and most of the programs do not help, especially if you are seriously underwater.

  5. Jim Satterfield January 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Andrew Sullivan wasn’t happy about all the calls for the government to do things. He thought that tax reform to “unleash the free market” should be undertaken instead. I wrote him a letter suggesting that he consider the possibility that no tax reform could unleash the free market to create jobs because the market just doesn’t care whether people have jobs or not. I suggested to him that a far more productive path might be for us to seriously question whether a world of offshoring and ever increasing automation just won’t result in enough good jobs for everyone who needs one. Only if we acknowledge that as at least a possibility can we honestly confront the possibility and move on to try and craft answers to solve that kind of problem.

  6. slamfu January 24, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Obama is in a totally different league from the GOP candidates.

  7. bluebelle January 25, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Obama still has a ton of charisma and is a great communicator. His message about inequality however, seems to be pretty divisive to me– and will offer plenty of fodder for the candidates in Florida tomorrow.

    I doubt that there is anything he could say, though, that would bring this partisan country and divided government closer together.

  8. zephyr January 25, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Obama’s speech was very non-partisan and he was right to admonish (my interpretation) congress for not doing their job. The focus at this point should be less on Obama than on holding the feet of congress to the fire. If they were in the private sector most of them would have been fired long ago.

  9. ShannonLeee January 25, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I didn’t see the speech, but I am guessing it was a reminder to the GOP of what they are in for over the next 9 months or so…

    Obama is going to be really tough to beat.

    As for the content…man, I really don’t care. As someone has already written…

    blah blah blah

  10. bluebelle January 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    it would be interesting to see this likable guy go up against the most unlikable candidate in our lifetime– Newt Gingrich. Nice to see that he reminded America why they voted for him in the first place– and remind me why I’m proud to live here after watching too many hours of the nasty and scummy GOP debates.