Thoughts on the State of the Union?

I didn’t live-blog the State of the Union last night because, frankly, Twitter is a much better medium for sharing stream-of-consciousness thoughts.

Here are a few of my Tweets from last night:

Then, during the GOP response, delivered by newbie Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa:

What did y’all think of it?

One of the more interesting comments I heard after it was over was from my wife, who noted that while POTUS has turned almost completely gray-headed in the last six years, he hasn’t lost his bounce and swagger. He’s still Mr. Untouched. She noted the way he moved through the chamber with a gait like that of a star athlete, the Big Man on Campus.

Chris Cillizza of The Fix said much the same, in a piece headlined, “The remarkable confidence of Barack Obama.” An excerpt:

Seventy seven days ago, Barack Obama’s party lost control of Congress — largely due to his unpopularity nationwide. You’d have never known it watching the president deliver his sixth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

From start to finish, Obama was supremely confident, challenging — and mocking — Republicans at every turn.  Touting the turnaround of the economy, Obama turned to Republicans, who, in classic State of the Union symbolism, had refused to deliver a standing ovation, and joked “That’s good news, people.” On Cuba, Obama challenged those who disagreed with his Administration policies; “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new,” he said.

But more than the words on the page, it was Obama’s tone and overall demeanor that absolutely oozed confidence. He winked. He laughed at his own jokes. And he ad-libbed….

Anyway… your thoughts?

21 thoughts on “Thoughts on the State of the Union?

  1. Doug Ross

    Didn’t watch. It’s a dog-and-pony show with no accountability. A made for TV event that is all fluff, wishes, and pandering.

    What did he do that he said he’d do in last year’s speech? or the year before? Or the year before?

      1. Silence

        I saw Fluff, Wishes, and Pandering open for Procul Harum and Yes back in ’76 at The Aud in Buffalo. It was during their progressive phase, which actually never ended.

  2. Norm Ivey

    I noticed the confidence and swagger as well. He acted like a guy that really doesn’t have much to lose at this point. I thought he was pretty brutal at times–, the veto threats, the fifty years comment, “that’s good news, people” “we used to agree on that,” “I know because I won,” and mocking the “I’m not a scientist” comments.

    It was fluff, pandering and wishes, but I enjoyed it anyway. The Republicans apparently did not. They edited the SOTU by cutting out the mocking of the “I’m not a scientist” comments from their YouTube video. Understandable, but dishonest.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    The President was unsurprising on the domestic issues. He want to tax higher earners and impose higher costs on businesses in order to give “free” stuff to the middle class. I’m still not sure how taxing 529 accounts to pay for “free” community college makes any logical (or political) sense, but there you have it. It’s standard fare. Not going to happen, but whatever. I think this speech (on domestic issues) would have made more sense if it had been his first SOTU, when he had a super-majority in both Houses of Congress. Last night, it just sounded weird. I kept thinking “Does he realize that most of Congress disagrees with him on all this stuff?”

    On the foreign policy front, I think he’s just decided that if he just ignores all the bad things going on, then they aren’t actually happening. But hey, what else is he going to do? We all know that Obama got elected back in 2008 in large part by promising to end the war in Iraq. He then got re-elected in ’12 by telling us that he’d pulled out of Iraq and that the terrorists were “on the run” and “decimated”.

    That turned out to be…not completely true. What he did was set the stage for the bad guys to expand in the power vacuum, and increase the threat to the region and the West. His Big Thing turned out to have unintended consequences, but he’s not going to reverse his Big Thing. Obama isn’t a wartime consiglierie, so he’s not gonna do much with ISIS (Iraq), Russia, Syria, Boko Haram, and/or Iran. It’s not his fault, that’s just who he is. That’s who he’s always been.

    But hey, on the bright side, he had some good zingers for the GOP last night and had “swagger”.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      A president can only END a war two ways:

      — Winning it.

      — Losing it.

      POTUS didn’t do either, although an argument can be made that he’s taken a good lick at the second option.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I can’t remember who said it (it was someone smarter than me) about how wars end. He described Obama’s idea of ending the war by simply leaving was akin to thinking about war like a football game. In football games there is a set amount of time, and the game ends when the clock goes down to zero. There’s a set amount of time.

        He made the point that war isn’t like a football game; it’s like a baseball game. The other team always gets their chance at bat, and you have to get them out, regardless of how long it takes. A baseball game doesn’t end at a certain time. It ends when the other team has exhausted all their “outs”.

        To your comment: I honestly don’t think that President Obama is trying to “lose” the war. I’m not that cynical. I think the President has essentially decided that we aren’t really going to fight anymore, and he’s kinda just..hoping that it all works out. I mean, yeah, there’s a bombing run here, a drone strike there, some “advisers” over there, but he’s not really trying to defeat these guys with any sense of seriousness.

        1. bud

          Too many people get caught up in the notion of “winning ” or. “losing ” a given war. I believe that worldview of war is both irrelevant and dangerous. It likely that Putin’s folly in Ukraine will result in a Russian “victory “. But does that mean the Russian people will be better off? Of course not. Even Putin will likely suffer in a number of ways. He certainly won’t be financially better off. His legacy is most assuredly sullied. So how has this victory been any positive for Moscow? Likewise it’s hard to deny W won his war with Iraq. How did that make the U.S. any better? Wars generally only benefit the undertaker industry. The fact that Obama has at least somewhat scaled back the military madness should be regarded a positive for his tenure. I believe history will show view his relative restraint in a positive way. W of course will always be viewed as a warmongering failure.

          1. Barry

            Putin’s popularity is soaring in Russia (although anti Putin folks say the polls are – of course- bogus)

    2. Silence

      The distinction to make is that the President says he wants to help the middle class, but his proposals really would end up hurting the middle class. I think when he says “middle class” he actually means “working poor” which is a different thing entirely. I view his proposals as a shot across the bow of middle class America.

      Having a 529 account is a very middle class endeavor. The rich don’t really need to fund one, and the poor can’t afford to do it. Taking away the tax benefits would impact the incentive and ability of people to save for college using this tool. I believe the maximum allowable contribution is $14,000/year (although there are ways around this) but most people probably can’t afford to do that much if they are funding an IRA or 401(k). The alternative to having a 529 account is likely more student loans, or additional federal funding… which my gut tells me is his ultimate goal. Make 4-year schools even more unaffordable for a wide swath of America in order to force more people into his federally-funded community college plan. Basically, he’s adding the 13th and 14th grade to high school.
      Obama also wants to eliminate the step-up basis on inherited assets. RIght now, the bulk of inherited assets most people will ever see is shielded by the $5.43m estate tax exemption. That means anyone’s estate below that amount will pass untaxed, generally speaking. Losing the step-up basis would create some very large long-term capital gains for middle class folks who currently fall under the estate tax exemption. It would also create new taxes on gifts of appreciated assets, like if a parent or grandparent gave you shares of stock. Obama’s fully trying to screw the middle class here.

      1. Barry

        The idea of taxing a 529 plan as Obama has proposed is ludicrous.

        You are correct- rich people don’t need one. 529 plans are opened by middle class parents hoping to pay for college without going into serious debt.

    3. bud

      ISIS is really not much of a threat. Russia is paying a HUGE economic price for their foreign policy indiscretions so what is there we could have done that would have been more effective. We have a much smaller footprint abroad with few casualties and less money spent. The so-called threats are GREATLY exaggerated. Iran is much less likely to build a nuke than before. Heck the American homeland has never been safer. But that doesn’t stop the critic from making stuff up about the dangers.

      Domestically things are dramatically improved from 6 years ago. Why would anyone want to go back to the dark days of 2008?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Bud, you mystify me. Upon what, beyond wishful thinking, are these observations based?

        As one example, what is the factual basis of THIS assertion: “Iran is much less likely to build a nuke than before”?

        1. bud

          We’re engaging the Iranians and they’ve made important concessions. The current Iranian president is much more moderate than his predecessor.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Jodi Ernst’s kindergarten address is very similar to Bobby Jindal’s of a few years back. It’s as if the GOP thinks its people need things spelled out ever so slowly, using small words. I guess they have a point.

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