Bouie sees little chance of Obama’s agenda becoming law:
To the elation of his progressive supporters, Obama laid out his progressive vision in forceful terms last night. But barring a change in Congress—which means a shift in the how the GOP does business—this agenda will have to serve as a signpost for future Democrats and not a plan of action.
On the other hand, Philip Klein notes that “on multiple occasions, these proposals were accompanied by vows to take executive action”:
For instance, he proposed the creation of 18 more “manufacturing innovation institutes,” but said he was launching three of them through the Departments of Defense and Energy. More significantly, Obama addressed global warming, urging “Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” before warning, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” This could be interpreted as a sign that he plans to have the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions without Congress.
Kornacki examines Obama’s remarks on gun control:
November 2014 is setting up as a crucial moment in the renewed battle for gun control. There may well be enough momentum for Obama to push through some new laws this year. They won’t be sufficient, but doing so will make gun control a major issue in the ’14 midterms. If those who support the news laws pay a price at the polls, the issue will again recede. But if they survive – and, especially, if those who vote against any of the laws Obama is calling for are defeated – it should create new momentum for further, more far-reaching reforms.
Jay Newton-Small focuses on foreign policy:
Much of the foreign policy segment of the speech was defined by what he didn’t mention: for the first time since the U.S. invasion a decade ago, a U.S. President did not mention Iraq in a State of the Union address. Obama was mum on the controversial Keystone-pipeline decision with Canada, Middle East peace, the pivot to Asia and closing Guantánamo. Most notably, he did not utter the words war on terror.
Fred Kaplan thinks the brief mention of foreign policy was appropriate:
He spoke for barely 10 minutes on foreign policy, then moved on to the night’s most compelling themes: voting rights, gun control, and the meaning of citizenship. “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote! The families of Newtown deserve a vote! The families of Aurora deserve a vote”—this, and not some exhortation to fight foes in distant lands, will be the passage remembered, the stirring call to action, from this speech. And so it should be, after a decade of war-weariness and so little to show for it.
Larison weighs in:
[T]here is no good reason to expect presidents to include extensive discussions of foreign policy issues in State of the Union addresses unless they are prepared to propose something new or celebrate a recent accomplishment. The modern purpose of the speech is to review the state of the U.S. and outline the president’s domestic agenda. Following the Bush years, it can be easy to forget that most of these speeches are like the one we heard last night, in which discussion of foreign policy plays just a small supporting role. Especially since the end of the Cold War, that is what we should expect, and it is unusual for foreign policy issues to dominate the president’s remarks.
Cohn ponders the call for universal pre-K:
The research [on the benefits of early education] has its detractors. Among the important questions they ask: Is it possible to replicate the results of model interventions, like the Perry Preschool, on a national scale? (The results of Head Start have been decidedly mixed.) The questions deserve a better answer than I can give right now.
Drum wants pre-K experimentation:
The truth is that age four is too late. Age two would be better. Age one would probably be better still. But starting at age four makes the most political sense. But if Congress does act on this (unlikely, I know, but humor me), I hope they put in place extensive experimentation requirements. What we really want to know is what kind of pre-K programs work best, and we’ll only find out with a rigorous, fairly well-controlled program of experimentation. On this issue, I’m a Manzi-ite.
And Serwer suspects Obama is all talk on transparency:
A promise to be “even more” transparent from an administration that has been anything but has little meaning.
(Photo: A woman reacts as she holds a photo of someone killed by gun violence as President Barack Obama speaks about gun violence during his address to a joint session of Congress as he gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. By Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)