A reader writes:
He doesn't sound like this is his speech. He doesn't have his usual cadence and his usual enthusiasm. He sounds like he was handed this speech this afternoon and is now faxing it in.
I'm following your live blog, and I fear you're missing the big picture. Remember, President Obama is always playing the long game, as you so astutely argued in your Newsweek essay. So, ask yourself, what does he lose by proposing very popular (or "populist") tax reforms that energize his base, but have virtually NO chance of passing such a hostile congress? Nothing. He sets them up for further obstruction. Even if that obstruction is ultimately based on "real" fiscally conservative values, it won't matter. All the public will see is that the Republicans won't entertain any of his ideas, even those that make visceral sense to regular folks and that appeal to most Americans' sense of fairness and common sense. Yes, he's pushing some of your buttons. But think big picture here.
I am a firm supporter of Obama, and believe for the very necessary mission of restoring sanity to this country it is important that he be reelected. However, I have to say that I am deeply disappointed with tonight's almost unserious SOTU.
This could have been a very simple speech based around very clear ideas (fairness, serious tax reform) about how to move this country forward – of course with the usual flights of fancy; this is what this theater demands. However, this is almost a gift to the GOP. If Romney is any type of presidential candidate, he will tear this speech to pieces. At this stage of the game, we should not be still asking questions like "how are you going to pay for this?" It was not even that impressive rhetorically. I guess, however, he hit all the points he wanted to reach.
I am deeply depressed … and somewhat worried.
You're absolutely right that the speech was terrible. But in what world was it liberal? We want infrastructure spending, we want strong unions, high taxes on the rich, universal healthcare and, yes, a bit of class warfare. You think we get wet over fucking tax credits? Or the idea that our democratic process should emulate the military? Please give us more credit than that. This was a bad speech, period. It won't resonate with liberals, none that I know anyway.
I've been a long time reader, and generally respect your opinion on things, but your SOTU commentary is the worst. It's not even that I disagree with some of your opinions, just something bugs me about what you're expecting from, and dismissing about this speech.
Reading your comments reads like your creating a caricature of the "Liberal disappointment in Obama" that you wrote about in your Newsweek article, but in a slightly different ideological bent. Were you expecting a partisan stump speech for the Andrew Sullivans of the world? Were you expecting a deep dive into the policy details of each of the ideas he threw out there? Who do you think his target audience was? (Hint: not you)
I'll grant you that much of this speech was throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks, but at least they're real semi-workable ideas, if only half-baked. This is his last SOTU before the election, so he needed to sound like he had ideas, and was doing real things to help the economy, and set out to preempt attacks from whomever the Republican contender will be. He accomplished that. That's all this was, and that's all it needs to be for now.
Agreed that the line about keeping kids in school until they graduate or turn eighteen is complete bullshit. One of the most persistent problems teachers deal with are disruptive students who are simply returned to the classroom, again and again, by administrators reluctant to rile parents. Not sure how keeping these kids around for a couple more years helps improve learning for everyone.
Isn't it odd to have Steve Jobs widow sitting there as guest while the president rails companies who send jobs overseas? Apple has 500,000 jobs sitting in China and $52 billion in cash in offshore accounts. Just seems a little odd.
I love how the camera shots of individual Republicans' reactions reflect a three-second delay in which they have to decide "Am I for it or against it?" Clap? Don't clap? Stand? Don't? Sneer or scowl? A thoroughly confused bunch. That's the state of America. Leaders can't support good ideas because it might give credit to a sworn political enemy. Pitiful.
(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty.)