10.12 pm. Now we’re really into Reagan territory. The 102 year-old is pretty damn amazing. And, yes, it is a national scandal that she had to wait six hours to vote. Then a heroic cop. “That’s just the way we’re made.” I have to say that even to these jaundiced ears, that peroration moved me. The passion, the reason, the sincerity: this was an invigorated president, trying to shift the mood away from zero-sum partisanship to non-zero-sum citizenship. It’s what we always hoped from him, and I think it places the Republicans in a horrible bind. Are they going to prevent a vote on guns? Are they going to refuse Bowles-Simpson Medicare reform? Are they willing to force a sequester rather than cooperate with this popular president? Does the Speaker not appreciate a 102 year-old getting to vote? Why did he stay seated? I have a feeling that moment will strike people.
10.08 pm. He’s ending on Newtown. Ticking off the majority’s support for background checks, citing the support of the police for ending weapons of grotesque destruction. A thousand gun-deaths since Newtown. And then the emotional power/blackmail of the parents of a little girl culled by a gun. “They deserve a vote” is a great line.
10.05 pm. “Families, gay and straight.” The confidence with which he now routinely includes gay people among his public statements is truly remarkable. It’s as if he’s been liberated to champion this civil rights movement, which he has done more than any president to advance and legitimize.
10.02 pm. A personal note of thanks for using the words Rangoon and Burma. Then the Arab Spring: it will be messy, we cannot control events, but we should back freedom. Pretty much: stay out of the way. A minor note on Israel: emphasizing security and a “just peace.”
9.54 pm. This is now the goal of the Afghanistan war: destroying the “core of al Qaeda.” But the promise is the withdrawal. The leaked 34,000 troop withdrawal was correct. Again, this was, remember, why he was elected – because he resisted the pro-war consensus in Washington. He’s ruling out ground invasions. And then a vague commitment for greater Congressional control and scrutiny – with no judicial element. Somewhat disappointing. And he sure sounds like he’s not backing down on drone warfare – or unilateral presidential war-making.
9.48 pm. A tough line on immigration reform. But the real ovation came from expanding legal immigration. Still, the rhetoric again was not partisan, and included GOP talking points.
9.41 pm. People have been talking about Obama’s new swagger and self-confidence. I can see that in this speech, but I don’t see an aggressive partisan attack. He has consistently mentioned bipartisan initiatives; he has endorsed major tax reform as a way to avoid the sequester; he’s now onto one of the most critical issues in America today: the lack of good pre-K education.
9.38 pm. So he’s for more energy investment but with added research into cleaner emissions. And then what strikes me as pretty banal but has become somewhat partisan: rebuilding bridges and roads and infrastructure and Internet.
9.35 pm. I’m genuinely surprised that he’s put climate change so early and so emphatically. Tow valentines to McCain, I note. One a handshake at the start and now a tip to McCain’s previous proposal for cap and trade. I wish I believed it could truly work.
9.34 pm. Now he’s emphasizing investments in science. He’s speaking as if the crisis is over and morning in America is coming. By the way, the green ribbons are in honor of Sandy Hook. Lame.
9.33 pm. This is an optimistic speech, gaining momentum as it goes along. Then a nod to Clinton: not a bigger government, but a smarter one.
9.30 pm. Deficit reduction is important – just not as important as investing in the middle class. Krugman must be happy.
9.28 pm. He’s on a roll now, lambasting the fiscal brinksmanship of the last several years.
9.24 pm. He’s backing the Bowles-Simpson commission’s goals on Medicare over the next decade – that strikes me as a big concession.
And then he says “we must keep the promises we’ve already made.” I’m getting a little whiplash. But now we’re getting to comprehensive, bipartisan tax reform. Is this a late modification of Bowles-Simpson – with more populism and energy?
9.22 pm. And we’re right into the sequester – “a really bad idea”. But he prefers it to cutting entitlements while leaving the Pentagon alone. A pretty lame adjective for the fiscal crisis in Medicare: modest adjustments.
9.20 pm. Biden stands up for “country before party”. Boehner stays in his chair.
9.19 pm. “A rising, thriving middle class”: that’s becoming the theme of his presidency. Notice too the little inclusion of gay love.
9.16 pm. A unifying start, quoting Kennedy, and then a reminder of why he became president in the first place: ending the Bush-Cheney wars.
9.15 pm. What is that weird ribbon on Biden’s lapel?