Will President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address be seen as a turning point for his Presidency or not? The (pundit/voter) jury is most assuredly still out and reaction coming in is in many ways expected since a lot of it is understandably emerging along partisan lines.
But these three impressions can be noted:
OBAMA’S SPEECH will be criticized for being a laundry list or too broad and not packed with enough specifics. He seemed to be positioning himself as the most reasonable political player in Washington, when perceived against the backdrop of Democratic and Republican members of Congress. Whether by design or not, he seemed to come across as a moderate center-left political player. His delivery alternated between the pedestrian and the eloquent.
UPDATE: Two polls show positive viewer response to the spsech.
A majority of Americans who watched President Obama’s State of the Union address said they had a very positive reaction to his speech, a slight rise from last year’s speech, according to a poll of people who viewed Tuesday night’s address.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 52 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with 32 percent saying they had a somewhat positive response and 15 percent with a negative response.
The 52 percent who indicated they had a very positive response is up four points from the 48 percent of speech watchers who felt the same way a year ago about the president’s January 27, 2010 State of the Union address.
An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of President Obama’s overall message in his State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News Poll of speech watchers.
According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks, while only nine percent disapproved.
Specifically, 82 percent of those who watched the speech said they approve of the president’s plans for the economy, up from 53 percent who approved before the speech.
The sight of Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side gave speech watchers more confidence about cooperation: 62 percent said they expect more bipartisanship now than in years past.
CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN’S RESPONSE SPEECH was well crafted but came across as boring since it was delivered in a room without and audience and his speech cadence was not as professional as Obama’s. In this speech at least, Ryan was charisma challenged but came across as a serious political player.
TEA PARTY FAVORITE MICHELE BACHMANN’S RESPONSE SPEECH was undermined by a key flaw: she looked “stage left” as she read from a teleprompter, barely making eye contact with the camera in front of her. Will Sean, Rush, Glenn and Sarah criticize her for reading from a teleprompter the way they lambasted Obama? The one saving grace: good thing she didn’t write her notes on her hand or she might have been looking down during the speech. In all fairness to Bachmann, however, perhaps she forgot where the camera was the same way she forgot about the Civil War being fought to eliminate slavery.
But those are one person’s impression. Here’s a cross section of media and weblog reaction:
—The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin:
If you were expecting a moderate Obama or a bold Obama, you were disappointed, most likely, by Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. In a nutshell: Obama proposed a ton of new domestic spending, promised to freeze discretionary spending (attained by savaging defense), abstained from offering specifics on entitlement reform and largely ignored major foreign policy changes. Moreover, the delivery was so listless that this State of the Union address likely garnered less applause than any address in recent memory.
But the mystery is solved: There is no new Obama, just a less snarly one. But it was also a flat and boring speech, too long by a third. Can you recall a single line? After the Giffords memorial service, this effort seemed like Obama had phoned it in. Perhaps that is because the name of the game is to pass the buck to Congress to do the hard work of digging out of the fiscal mess we are in.
As we expected the laundry list of spending is called “investment.” But it is spending, pure and simple. And there is a ton of it.
The substance of Obama’s speech was moderate liberalism — we like business, but government has a role too, neither too much nor too little, etc. It’s hard to attach that kind of case-by-case pragmatism to an overarching theme. But I do think Obama pulled it off pretty well. He took a fairly hackneyed idea — the future — and managed to weave it into issue after issue, from infrastructure to energy to deficits to education and even foreign policy.
I thought Obama explicated his idea about American unity better than he has in the past.
Much of tonight is about a plan to “win the future” – ironically the buzzword that Newt Gingrich frequently has used in the title of a book. This is a relentlessly optimistic, even jingoistic, speech about how America can stay on top in the future. He will say that “the world has changed” and He highlights “five pillars” for the future that are critical, in Obama’s view, to the economy. These are innovation, education, infrastructure, budget deficit, government reform. All of this is part of the “Sputnik moment” to react to competition from overseas and make America a leader again. I join this call for a Sputnik moment by endorsing better data collection of radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. What, have we all forgotten the real meaning of Sputnik?
On a more serious note, there’s a serious question as to whether this is the real economic problem America faces, and not one about unemployment, falling wages, and corporate leverage. This feels like a speech someone would give at Davos, not the head of a country which hasn’t seen a wage increase in over a decade.
—Michele Malkin has (as usual) some lively live blogging. Here’s just part of it:
8:35 est (DP) — Chris Matthews beginning premature Obamagasm prevention ritual: Thinking about baseball. Well, thinking about Obama playing baseball, but it works for a little while anyway…
I’m expecting E’s coverage to start soon featuring Ryan Seacrest standing outside asking SOTU prom-goers “Who are you wearing?”
8:59 est (DP) — Obama’s cabinet enters the chamber, a half dozen of whom Obama refers to affectionately as, “Have we met before?”
9:08 est (DP) — As the president enters the chamber and works his way to the podium, I’ll pass this along quickly: Apparently there is no truth to the rumor that Lang Lang will close out the evening by playing the March of the Volunteers.
9:20 est (DP) — The look on Boehner’s face during this speech reminds me a little bit of the time my grandfather forced himself to watch about five minutes of the documentary about Woodstock.
9:22 est (DP) — “Sputnik” (twice)… do two shots!
9:34 est (DP) — “If you want to make a difference, become a teacher.” And if you want to be strangled with red tape and insane health care law regulations, become a doctor.
—Pajamas Media’s Stephen “Vodkapundit” Green does some “drunkblogging.” Here’s part of it:
6:44PM AHHH! WAXMAN CLOSEUP! AAHHHHHHH!
6:45PM “Anything can be improved,” in regards to Obamacare. Then why the rush to pass it? OK, he’ll trade the 1099-MISC requirement — but for what? Anything?
6:47PM I’m a parent. I care about my kids. But since when did keeping our kids dependent until their mid-20s count as good parenting?
6:47PM OK, here come the spending cuts… [CRICKETS]
6:49PM Freeze domestic spending for five years. That would freeze it at current levels. That’s not a cut. That’s not savings. That’s locking in four years of orgiastic spending.
Oh, except for some military cuts he finds “painful.” Boo-hoo.
6:50PM Don’t cut our investments! They’re investments! I swear! Listen: If you want investments, then stop taxing investors so much and let them do their thing.
6:51PM “Further reducing health care costs.” I have no comment, I am so full of disgust.
6:52PM Excuse me, Mr President? How did you vote on Social Security reform last time it was offered up?
6:52PM Re: My comment about not taxing investors so much? I do believe the President just promised to “tax you bastards back to the Stone Age.”
6:54PM “Let me take this one step further.” Nooooooooooo! He wants a “government of the future.” In other words: Al Gore on David Letterman wearing comical goggles, smashing an ashtray with a hammer. And that was so long ago, Letterman was still funny.
That’s you’re government of the future.
In case you had any problem sleeping tonight, re-watching the Obama State of the Union speech will help you a lot. The speech was flat, explained how we need a bunch of new “investment” (aka SPENDING) projects, and even called for a communist Russia “Sputnik Moment.”
The stupid “prom date” atmosphere was there, with Democrats and Republicans sitting together, and not worrying about “getting cooties.
The president used the word “job” or “jobs” 30 times, and “competitive” just once. Hurray! He used commonsense metaphors (Sputnik was the exception) like saying that “cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. You may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.”
Critics will no doubt complain that the speech was a laundry list. But when you’re feeling naked, clean laundry is a pretty useful thing. No one has ever walked up to me and said, “I need a visionary American competitiveness initiative.” But lots of folks have told me, “I need a job.”
In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke directly to those people — the ones Bill Clinton calls “walkin’ around folks.” I suspect a lot of those folks will be lining up to march behind the plainspoken, commonsense, practical leadership President Obama is offering.
President Barack Obama’s second State of the Union address Tuesday night put an urgent, unmistakable emphasis on growing the American economy and creating jobs, while also seeking to preserve the more cooperative tone that has prevailed in Washington since the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat.
Yet in his first speech to a Congress partly under Republican control, the president also signaled a more aggressive approach to reducing government spending. Along with calling for changes in the tax code and cutting some favored programs, he pledged to reject all bills containing earmarks — specific projects funded at the request of individual lawmakers – and proposed a freeze in discretionary government spending for five years….
….But Republicans, while sharing the president’s call for civility and substance, declared that Obama’s proposals don’t go far enough to tackle what they see as government spending run amok.
The nation faces a crushing debt which could overwhelm the economy “and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead,” said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who delivered the Republican response. Unless the government further tightens its belt, Ryan said, his own young children will grow up saddled with a federal debt that will eat more of their paychecks and force taxes ever higher.
The speech does have several good lines. Here is one of them: “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC.” It’s a pity that Obama has to gild it with the usual gay rights boilerplate. This line also deserves a nod: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Unlike most of the rest of the speech, it has the advantage, as Henry Kissinger might say, of being true.
Obama’s advent gets the usual iteration tonight: “That [American] dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.” And he includes Biden: “That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me.” But Biden’s rise too is a tribute to the advent of Obama.” And he includes an uncharacteristically gracious salute to Speaker Boehner: “That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”
It’s a pity that Obama hasn’t found previous occasions to articulate American exceptionalism. Indeed, he has essentially denied it. Maybe he didn’t think it was true before the advent of the Age of Obama, or maybe he chooses not to share his innermost thoughts on the subject with his fellow citizens tonight.
UPDATE: How could I have missed the high speed rail, the electric cars, the green jobs, the expansion of the Internet, the misstatement of the American creed, the class warfare, or commendable parts of the speech such as the tribute to our military and to the Center Rock company that I overlooked above? My pain threshold has hampered my ability to stick with it.
Obama has been well served by his relative absence from the podium over the past few months. When he addresses the issues, we are reminded why he must be resisted with with every ounce of our being.
U.S. President Barack Obama offered a smorgasbord of Republican-friendly proposals in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that could test the willingness of his political rivals to compromise ahead of the 2012 White House election.
Acknowledging the realities of divided government, Obama endorsed several ideas long favored by Republicans — a reduction in corporate tax rates, a simplification of the tax code, an end to pet spending projects by lawmakers called earmarks and consolidation of the federal government.
Obama agreed with Republicans on the need to rein in spending, and proposed a five-year freeze on a portion of domestic spending — although he stopped far short of the heavy cuts Republicans have demanded.
Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives in elections last November and their willingness — or not — to embrace those ideas could be an early sign of the level of cooperation between the parties in the months ahead.
“Republicans have a responsibility to work with us to create jobs instead of wasting time with pointless political stunts,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said after the speech.
But he drew several stark political lines in Tuesday’s speech that are certain to spark new clashes with Republicans. He renewed his opposition to a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, called for another effort on immigration reform and warned against broad changes in his healthcare overhaul.
By proposing a two-year extension to the three-year domestic spending freeze he called for a year ago, President Obama sought to quickly counter Republican demands for deeper cuts to shrink government and reduce annual budget deficits.
But Mr. Obama, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, declined to suggest additional ways to rein in the unsustainable growth of Medicare and Medicaid or to resolve the long-term financial problems facing Social Security. He is waiting for the new political dynamic of divided government to sort itself out before inviting Republicans to plunge into the risky business of addressing costly entitlement programs.
Mr. Obama “recognizes we have to do more,” Gene Sperling, the chief White House economic adviser, said before the speech. “But he also recognizes that it’s only going to happen if we create a frame and an atmosphere that allows both houses and both parties to work together.”
For now, the president would extend a partial freeze of domestic spending that he proposed in last year’s address while increasing the government’s economic “investments” in areas like research and education.
—The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman (in a post that needs to be read in its entirety):
Early polls showed that the speech was one of the most well-received he has ever given.
Allow me to switch metaphors. Obama is a boxing fan. So he knows that he did a clinch tonight. He’s been losing on points, so he draped himself all over his foe mid-ring. That way, the president gathered strength while preventing his fresher opponent from getting any punching distance.
How did the president do this? Well, he capitalized on the obvious opportunity in the aftermath of Tucson to call for peace.
He honored the rise of a Republican-led House by delivering the most pro-business speech a Democrat has given, since, well, that a Democrat has given.
If the measure of success is the number of times he forced Speaker of the House Boehner to clap, the speech was a raging winner.
The president talked up the tax cut deal, talked up the one-year expensing of depreciable assets, vowed to veto any bill with earmarks, talked about cutting corporate tax rates, talked about streamlining government, even talked up medical malpractice reform.
After about three quarters of an hour of that kind of thing, Speaker Boehner looked like a man in need of a Marlboro and nice Chianti. He seemed like he was looking at Eric Cantor for permission to clap – but then he reluctantly concluded that he had to even without permission.
And this is only a few months after Obama stood toe-to-toe across Lafayette Park against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The two sides did everything but call each other commies and fascists.
The president used other techniques to engineer his “Love Train” moment.
Stay tuned in coming months to see if the “Love Train” turns into a train wreck..
UPDATE: More reaction:
Personally, I think this will be a hugely popular speech among moderate Dems, independents and moderate Repubs. Also, the idea that this was a “bland” speech is silly. The media wants conflict. They didn’t get it tonight. And so it’s suddenly a boring speech. Whatever.
—Nice Deb on poll showing positive response to the speech:
Never underestimate the American public’s capacity for being fooled – especially at beddie-bye time.
The main event everybody came to see — Michele Bachmann’s tea party response — was delayed several minutes because the congresswoman was stuck in traffic. (She must think traffic is a socialist, freedom-hating plot to silence “We the People”!) But it was certainly worth the wait.
Oh how to describe this wonderful moment in American political history? It was as if CNN accidentally aired an SNL cold open. That’s perhaps the best way to describe it. Bachmann went full Bobby Jindal with a hint of Ross Perot.
To CNN viewers, Bachmann was staring off camera. (Perhaps trying to read misspelled tea party cue cards?) There were charts and historic photographs accompanied with a botched pronunciation of Iwo Jima as “Iwo Jama.” The speech was a recital of the usual tea party boilerplate with none of the subtle transitions. In the same breath, Bachmann demanded we “repeal Obamacare” and proclaimed “we must make things again.”
Among the many factual errors in Bachmann’s speech, she attributed the fiscal year 2009 deficit to President Obama, and recited the “16,500 IRS agents” zombie lie.
If Paul Ryan’s delivery was on the level of high school debate team, then whatever that was from Michele Bachmann, it would be closer to a middle school science class presentation.