Report Card – A Brief Response to SOTU


Substance

He had a few different jobs to do from a few separate perspectives.

In the Eyes of the Left

He had to lay out his agenda in a definitive manner and avoid digressing from the party script. He had to concede little and give the Republicans much to mull over. He had to acknowledge the presence and potency of the new House majority, but suppress its voice to the best of his ability. He had to talk about guns — in light of Tucson — and talk about civility in light of the political climate. He had to promise to veto a healthcare repeal and vow to protect the middle class. He had to win over the “green” people, make education a priority, and address immigration reform. The list was endless. From the outset, the Democrats were not likely to be pleased.

From this perspective: B+

He covered most issues and did, in fact, present his agenda. Contrary to White House spin before the event, his speech was pretty partisan. It was sprinkled with a unifying tidbit here and there, which made it seem like somewhat “kumbaya”-esque. He neglected some key social issues (evidently for political purposes), but for the most part, his speech didn’t concede too much.

In the Eyes of the Right

Was there anything that the president could have said that would have pleased the right? Well, he could have said that he supports full gun-ownership rights and would be more than willing to sign a repeal of the healthcare bill. He could have said that taxes on the rich needed to be lower and that the issue of the declining quality of public education should take a backseat to more ‘important’ problems like regulation. He could have said that our two wars needed to be continually waged until every building in Baghdad and Khartoum is burned to the ground. In other words, to please the Republicans, he would have had to become a Republican.

From this perspective: D

He was partisan in one direction.

Appearance

I haven’t seen a whole lot of coverage of this element of the speech but I thought that the way the chamber looked during the speech was fascinating. For example, because the members were so intermingled, even when Obama spoke a line that only Democrats stood or applauded for, it looked as though the entire House chamber rose.

I also found a somewhat disheartening irony in the appearance of the House chamber. For the sake of unifying around a common cause, each member of Congress (among others working on the Hill) wore a white and blue-striped ribbon on his or her lapel. This was intended to honor the victims of the shooting in Tucson and keep Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — who was shot in the head — in Congress’ thoughts.

Here’s the irony: each Democrat wore the ribbon on his or her left, each Republican on his or her right. Nice job, Congress.

Implications

Ostensibly, the SOTU was a call for unity. If ever there was a place where the idea of unity and cohesion could take precedence over partisan gridlock and resistance to compromise, it would not be Capitol Hill. And Barack Obama knows that, which is why he sugar-coated his speech with a bipartisan flare. But the agenda that he set out in his speech covered left-wing talking points. The vitriolic mood is going nowhere.

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2 thoughts on “Report Card – A Brief Response to SOTU

  1. Hi Ami,

    I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as much lately. My firm has been busy with a high profile trial, so I have been preoccupied preparing.

    Your analysis of the State of the Union is spot on. You continue to act as an inspiration for young adults with your wit, brilliant ideas and motivation.

    I am honored to have the privilege of reading your material.

    Sincerely,
    Janet Fischer, Esq.

  2. I didn’t notice that about the pins. That’s fascinating!
    I don’t agree with your analysis. I felt that he conceded more than you’re saying. He didn’t actually talk about guns, and he did talk about lowering the corporate tax rate, which was actually a bigger concern for Republicans than the Bush tax cuts. For me, it wasn’t that impressive because it was mostly talk. Still, I give him credit for having the mere courage to suggest cutting social programs given what the probable response from his base would have been, while not giving away a lot to Republicans. You were too bearish on the conservative opinion, I think. Here’s the way I actually see it:
    Liberal perspective: B
    Conservative perspective: C
    The reason is that Republicans (and Libertarians) were probably happy to see him display any flexibility at all. What scared the living daylights out of us was that we tended to perceive him as a hyperpartisan uberliberal.

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