State of the Union: full text and initial reactions

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jan 27, 2010 at 23:02

The full text of the State of the Union speech can be found in the extended entry.

Initial reactions:

  1. Needed more villains.  President Obama declared that he was not interested in punishing banks.  Why?  He should be interested in punishing banks.  They are the great villains of our time--crashing the economy, taking huge amounts of public money, refusing to make new loans anyway, and handing out huge bonuses while the rest of the country still suffers.  If there is anyone who he should be punishing, it is banks.

    Attaching the Bush administration and levying a tax on banks to recoup the bailout money is not enough.  Turn the rhetorical dogs on the villain that everyone hates and everyone blames--the banks, the insurance companies, the student loan companies.  Hit the large financial institutions hard.

  2. Lacking grand vision.  There were lots of policy tweaks suggested to our problems, but no grand vision of what went wrong and how it can get better.  This is partially connected to the lack of villains--who are we fighting, and what are we fighting for?  I still don't know after the speech

    While there is nothing wrong with detail or with quoting plucky letters the President received from Americans, there was no unifying core behind it all.

  3. Funnier than the average speech.  While certainly not side-splitting, the speech had a not insignificant amount of decent jokes.  Much funnier than the average speech by a politician.

  4. Longer than the average speech.  I would like to look this up, but at over an hour, I am pretty sure it was longer than the average State of the Union speech.  That is actually a good thing--suck up all the free media time you can get, especially when you can script it.  Should have gone even longer, now that corporations will be able to buy all the airtime they like to run ads against you.

  5. Nice honesty and frankness at the end. At the end of the speech President Obama talked about the failures of his administration to deliver sweeping change, about how many people might be growing cynical at the prospect of change, and how difficult change can be.  Those who watched the speech all the way through could have felt a strong sense of connection with President Obama there.  We are all struggling, and hearing President Obama talk about his struggles, and his willingness to keep fighting, probably sounded both familiar and encouraging to many people.

  6. Expect a bump.  On a more objective level, the speech will probably give him a small, temporary bump.  While this is not the typical pattern after State of the Union speeches, it has been the pattern after speeches made by President Obama.  He got a bump after his speech on health care, and after his speech on Afghanistan (see here and here).  President Obama has a demonstrated ability to move numbers with major speeches like these, and it is a good bet he will do it again.

    Case in point, CNN poll shows 78% positive reaction to speech, and Democracy Corps shows huge, positive post-speech shift toward Obama among a largely GOP focus group.

What do you think?  Check out the full text of the speech in the extended entry, and add your own comments.
Chris Bowers :: State of the Union: full text and initial reactions
Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery

The State of the Union

Wednesday, January 27, 2009

Washington, DC

Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union.  For two hundred and twenty years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty.  They have done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility.  And they have done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable - that America was always destined to succeed.  But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt.  When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain.  These were times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union.  And despite all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, and one people.

Again, we are tested.  And again, we must answer history's call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt.  Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression.  So we acted - immediately and aggressively.  And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains.  One in ten Americans still cannot find work.  Many businesses have shuttered.  Home values have declined.  Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard.  For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades - the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now.  They're not new.  These struggles are the reason I ran for President.  These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana and Galesburg, Illinois.  I hear about them in the letters that I read each night.  The toughest to read are those written by children - asking why they have to move from their home, or when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough.  Some are frustrated; some are angry.  They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.  They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness.  They know we can't afford it.  Not now.  

So we face big and difficult challenges.  And what the American people hope - what they deserve - is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.  For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared.  A job that pays the bills.  A chance to get ahead.  Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share?  They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity.  After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to school.  They're coaching little league and helping their neighbors.  As one woman wrote me, "We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged."

It is because of this spirit - this great decency and great strength - that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight.  Despite our hardships, our union is strong.  We do not give up.  We do not quit.  We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit.  In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.  

And tonight, I'd like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise.  

It begins with our economy.

Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis.  It was not easy to do.  And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it's that we all hated the bank bailout.  I hated it.  You hated it.  It was about as popular as a root canal.

But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular - I would do what was necessary.  And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today.  More businesses would certainly have closed.  More homes would have surely been lost.

So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program.  And when we took the program over, we made it more transparent and accountable.  As a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks.

To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest banks.  I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

As we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.

That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65% cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.

Let me repeat:  we cut taxes.  We cut taxes for 95% of working families.  We cut taxes for small businesses.  We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers.  We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children.  We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.  As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers.  And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person.  Not a single dime.

Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.  200,000 work in construction and clean energy.  300,000 are teachers and other education workers.  Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders.  And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act.  That's right - the Recovery Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill.  Economists on the left and the right say that this bill has helped saved jobs and avert disaster.  But you don't have to take their word for it.

Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.  

Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.

Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all.

There are stories like this all across America.  And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again.  Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value.  Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.  

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response.  That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses.  But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

We should start where most new jobs do - in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.

Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and are ready to grow.  But when you talk to small business owners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they are mostly lending to bigger companies.  But financing remains difficult for small business owners across the country.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.  I am also proposing a new small business tax credit - one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.  While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.

Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow.  From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, our nation has always been built to compete.  There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act.  There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information.  We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.  And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it's time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America.

The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps.  As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same.  People are out of work.  They are hurting.  They need our help.  And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.  

But the truth is, these steps still won't make up for the seven million jobs we've lost over the last two years.  The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years.  

We cannot afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from last decade - what some call the "lost decade" - where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion; where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation.

From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious - that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile.

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question:

How long should we wait?  How long should America put its future on hold?

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse.  Meanwhile, China's not waiting to revamp its economy.  Germany's not waiting.  India's not waiting.  These nations aren't standing still.  These nations aren't playing for second place.  They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure.  They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.

Well I do not accept second-place for the United States of America.  As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

One place to start is serious financial reform.  Look, I am not interested in punishing banks, I'm interested in protecting our economy.  A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs.  It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes.  But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions.  We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.  

The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes.  And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it.  Well, we cannot let them win this fight.  And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.

Next, we need to encourage American innovation.  Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history - an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched.  And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.  You can see the results of last year's investment in clean energy - in the North Carolina company that will create 1200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.  It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.  And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.  This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.  I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future - because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation.

Third, we need to export more of our goods.  Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America.  So tonight, we set a new goal:  We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America.  To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security.

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.

Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.

This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools.  The idea here is simple:  instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success.  Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform - reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities.  In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education.  In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all fifty states.   Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.  I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.  To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans.  Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants.  And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after twenty years - and forgiven after ten years if they choose a career in public service.  Because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.  And it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs - because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem.

Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle-class.  That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on Middle-Class Families.  That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving every worker access to a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg.  That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment - their home.  The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments.  This year, we will step up re-financing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages.  And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform.

Now let's be clear - I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt.  And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.

I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; and families - even those with insurance - who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

After nearly a century of trying, we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans.  The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry.  It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market.  It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care.  And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make our kids healthier.

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan.  It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses.  And according to the Congressional Budget Office - the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress - our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became.  I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.  And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering what's in it for them.

But I also know this problem is not going away.  By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year.  Our deficit will grow.  Premiums will go up.  Patients will be denied the care they need.  Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether.  I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.

As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed.  There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo.  But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.  Here's what I ask of Congress, though:  Do not walk away from reform.  Not now.  Not when we are so close.  Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.

Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves.  It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing.

So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight. At the beginning of the last decade, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.

Now if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit.  But we took office amid a crisis, and our efforts to prevent a second Depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt.

I am absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do.  But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions.  The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years.  Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will.  Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't.  And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work.  We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax cuts.  But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year.  We just can't afford it.

Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office.  More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket.  That's why I've called for a bipartisan, Fiscal Commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad.  This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem.  The Commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.  Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission.  So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.  And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.

I know that some in my own party will argue that we cannot address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting.  I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger.  But understand - if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery - all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.

From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument - that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away.  The problem is, that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped lead us into this crisis.  It's what helped lead to these deficits.  And we cannot do it again.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new.  Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here.  Let's try common sense.

To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust - deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.

That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why - for the first time in history - my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that's why we've excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.

But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my Administration or Congress.  And it's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.  They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change.  But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single website before there's a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another.

Now, I am not naïve.  I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era.  I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched.   And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways.  These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over two hundred years.  They are the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day.  We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent - a belief that if you lose, I win.  Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.  The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators.  Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game.  But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people.  Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.

So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics.  I know it's an election year.  And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual.  But we still need to govern.  To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills.  And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well.  Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership.  We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together.  This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans.  And I would like to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and Republican leadership.  I know you can't wait.

Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated.  We can argue all we want about who's to blame for this, but I am not interested in re-litigating the past.  I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough.  Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values.  Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future - for America and the world.

That is the work we began last year.  Since the day I took office, we have renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation.  We have made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence. We have prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula.  And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed - far more than in 2008.

In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans - men and women alike. We are joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitment, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am confident we will succeed.

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President.  We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake:  this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.  

Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world - must know that they have our respect, our gratitude, and our full support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home. That is why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades. That is why we are building a 21st century VA. And that is why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.

Even as we prosecute two wars, we are also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people - the threat of nuclear weapons.  I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons, and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring forty-four nations together behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of these weapons.  That is why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions - sanctions that are being vigorously enforced.  That is why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.

That is the leadership that we are providing - engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We are helping developing countries to feed themselves, and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious disease - a plan that will counter threats at home, and strengthen public health abroad.

As we have for over sixty years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.

Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals.  The same is true at home.  We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution:  the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.    

We must continually renew this promise.  My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.  We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.  This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.  We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws - so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work.  And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system - to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.

In the end, it is our ideals, our values, that built America - values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still.  Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers.  Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country.  They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit.  These aren't Republican values or Democratic values they're living by; business values or labor values.  They are American values.  

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions - our corporations, our media, and yes, our government - still reflect these same values.  Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper.  But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow.  Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith.  The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.  

No wonder there's so much cynicism out there.

No wonder there's so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change - change we can believe in, the slogan went.  And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change - or at least, that I can deliver it.

But remember this - I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone.  Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.  And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.  That's just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths.  We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

But I also know this:  if people had made that decision fifty years ago or one hundred years ago or two hundred years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight.  The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved.  But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year.  And what keeps me going - what keeps me fighting - is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism - that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people - lives on.  

It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "...are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."

It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong.  We are resilient.  We are American."

It lives on in the 8-year old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti.  And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go some place they've never been and pull people they've never known from rubble, prompting chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!" when another life was saved.

The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people.

We have finished a difficult year.  We have come through a difficult decade.  But a new year has come.  A new decade stretches before us.  We don't quit.  I don't quit.  Let's seize this moment - to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

Thank you.  God Bless You.  And God Bless the United States of America.

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I didn't listen to the speech because it doesn't matter (4.00 / 10)
We will see what he means by what he does with Congress to pass legislation that matters.  

yeah (0.00 / 0)
I started passing out towards the middle of it

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

[ Parent ]
Huh? (0.00 / 0)
What makes you think the only reason a speech would matter is whether it tells us what the speaker really thinks?  

Giving speeches in one way a president influences Congress.

(I didn't watch it either.)

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
That's not how President Obama governs (4.00 / 3)
I will let Bob Herbert speak for me:

"Obama's Credibility Gap"

"Americans are still looking for the answer, and if they don't get it soon - or if they don't like the answer - the president's current political problems will look like a walk in the park.

Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist.

Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won't be able to close it."

I know from watching him over the last year that whatever he says will not matter. The only way we will really know what he believes is what he chooses to do with Congress. He's not there influencing them with his speech. The speech is for public consumption. The real policy stuff will come up with any actions or inaction he chooses to take when the cameras are not on him.

[ Parent ]
I don't disagree with Herbert (0.00 / 1)
and from this, he doesn't disagree with me.

If you were right, than it would mean the bad stuff in the speech was also irrelevant. It's not. Everything he mentioned in now higher on the agenda than it was. That has nothing to do with what his actions will be later, but it still matters.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Uhm herbert's point is that you can not know (4.00 / 1)
what he's going to do based on listening to him. You seem to think you can tell because you say the 'bad stuff."

[ Parent ]
No I don't think you can tell what someone really thinks (0.00 / 0)
based on what they say. My point was that what someone really thinks is not the only thing that matters.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
I have no idea what you are talking about (4.00 / 1)
My point was a simple one: We have no idea what he will or will not do based on his speeches. Yeah, you are going on about what is inside his head. I don't care what's in his heart of hearts. As I said, I am looking to see what actions or inactions he takes. There is no guess work or hype in that approach. The confusion only set in when you listen to him thinking that's a part of the evidence of what he is doing.  I will focus on, for example, what he does for the health care bill regarding the efforts of the House. If he tries to kill the house attempts to re-insert the PO- that's telling me more than any speech ever will. I will watch what he does for job creation, etc. My way is a lot more labor intensive, but it is also a lot less trying to read tea leaves.  

[ Parent ]
Another thing we agree on (0.00 / 0)
I have no idea what you are talking about

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
It is because you are brining up shit that has no relationship to what (0.00 / 0)
I am saying. At best you are changing the subject.  So , if that makes you think that's a good thing regarding the value of the speech, whatever.  I will still wait to see what actions are taken rather than grading some pointless speech.

[ Parent ]
Great Commentary (4.00 / 1)
Lots of OpenLeft members decide not to watch. And then expound on what was actually said. So lame.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
I mentioned from my first post that I am not listening (0.00 / 0)
SO, who are these people pretending to listen to whom you are referring?  

[ Parent ]
Like I said (0.00 / 0)
You're not listening. I never said that anyone was "pretending" to to listen. Yet you know that what transpired didn't matter. Don't get me wrong, I'm waiting for results too. But maintaining that the SOTU speech doesn't matter in terms of generating pressure on Congress is not a proven proposition. You're just being cynical. What good is that?

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
uhm (0.00 / 0)
First, you mischaracterize my statement.

Second, I am being "cynical" because I don't believe that the speech matters with regard to what policies President Obama will or will not fight for but you say the same thing.

[ Parent ]
I read it (0.00 / 0)
So I won't critique the delivery.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
There is a transcript provided (0.00 / 0)
so its not like watching/listening in real time is the only way to comment on the content.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
I didn't watch it either (0.00 / 0)
for the same reason.

[ Parent ]
I like how (0.00 / 0)
he was talking about tax cuts for companies who don't export jobs and none for those who do. something like that

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

He said the exact same thing during the campaign. yawn. (4.00 / 2)
The proof is in the pudding, and so far, he hasn't delivered squat; and I don't expect him to.   When he fires Rahm, Geithner or Bernanke, let me know.   When he decides somebody up there ought to be held accountable for anything, let me know.  When he threatens to break heads and shit can Lieberman, let me know.  Until then, it is more beautifully spoken hot air.

[ Parent ]
how about you (0.00 / 0)
write him a letter or make a youtube video

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

[ Parent ]
To get ignored along with everything & everyone else? (0.00 / 0)
I've played that game for the last time.  When he decides he can hear, maybe then I'll talk.  Until then, I'm not wasting my energy on him and these so called Democrats.  

[ Parent ]
He certainly likes to talk about tax cuts (0.00 / 0)
Technocratic, Wizard of Oz-type attempts to influence macro markets through micro behavior via cutting taxes is the MADDENINGLY NAIVE.  

Obama, Goolsbee, etc., in their limited vision and ideological commitments are doing their best to be the Quiet Americans for our time.  

[ Parent ]
That was about the optics of contrast (0.00 / 0)
Beyond whether tax cuts are useful or not, the list of tax cuts Obama rattled off, in that setting, was all about taking the wind out of the Republican sails on the issue.

Watching a Democratic President that has been characterized by the Right as a "liberal, tax and spend, Democrat" list the taxes he has cut was a public relations move. Not to mention (as he should have) that most of the GOPpers in that room voted against the tax cuts.

It was intended to provoke a kind of dissonance and it did.

I don't think that you were his intended audience, however.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
you can't win that race to the bottom (4.00 / 1)
the teabagger Republicans will propose to cut taxes to zero. Or to actually hand out government money to everyone.

That's different from welfare, y'see, because welfare takes away hard-earned money from real 'Merikans and gives it to those people--y'know what I mean--THOSE PEOPLE, wink wink. And we all know THOSE PEOPLE don't deserve it.

Whereas free money to everyone couldn't be more 'Merikan. After all, this is a land of plenty, the greatest country on Earth, blessed by Our Lord and Savior Jeeeeeezus Kerist! Hell yeah we can give everyone free money! That's what makes us better than them pantywaist Europeens!

'Merika! Fuck yeah! etc.

[ Parent ]
More triangulation is nothing to defend (0.00 / 0)
Obviously, people on the left aren't the intended audience for neoliberal policies.  

[ Parent ]
I apologize (0.00 / 0)
I didn't mean to defend Obama, but that's how the comment reads.

My intention was to point out that the way in which Obama presented that information was all about taking away some of the impact the expected responses from the right as to how Obama should have cut more taxes. I don't think the laundry list was read because Obama wanted to underscore how fantastic those tax cuts have been for the US economy. he raised them, in that way and in that setting for the political impact - the dissonance evoked when citizens who support the right hear a Democrat rattle off a list of taxes they have cut. It wasn't really even about neoliberalism.

Right or wrong, those taxes have been cut. I think he chose a reasonable way to present that information in the context of the SOTU. That's why I would have liked to hear him point out that most of the Republicans - the folks that like to polish their tax-cutting medals in public - actually voted against those cuts. Instead, it leaves him looking like those were part of the "bipartisan" approach.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Conspiculous in its absence (4.00 / 2)
Was the statement "the state of our union is strong"

It isn't in every SOTU, but it's in most of them in recent years.

Not that it should have been in this one, I think it would have rang hollow, but still, I think it's worth noting.

the fundamentals of our economy are strong! (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
right, for the most part (0.00 / 0)
Everything except demand.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
First time I DIDN'T hear it in a SOTU speech.... (0.00 / 0)
...and I've been doing this for over 20 years.  I thought it was almost mandatory!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Ok, exact statement not there, but... (4.00 / 1)
"Despite our hardships, our union is strong."

There you go.

[ Parent ]
Establishing a narrative (4.00 / 1)
I think the main failure of the speech was to establish something that can last far beyond it--a narrative for what binds us all together. Although it was good as a tactical response to recent events -- citing the lack of progress in DC -- it did little to to define the way forward, in terms of a thematic narrative. No "house divided against itself," "fear itself" or "ask not" moment. But nevertheless, something that will lead to short term gains for this presidency.  

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." (4.00 / 2)
- Proverbs 19:18

[ Parent ]
we're fucking perishing, all right (0.00 / 0)
and Obama can't even see past his own shoelaces.

[ Parent ]
Long, predictable, disappointing (4.00 / 3)
Nothing to cheer about. I believe that he believes he gets it about how bad it is for average Americans, but he offered nothing to average Americans that have it so bad. He's got himself so boxed in already that he seems not to be able to see a way out.

Should have made a bigger deal of high speed rail (4.00 / 1)
High speed rail only got a paragraph or two in the speech, and Obama chose to talk about why don't we have the fastest trains. Fast trains are great, but Obama would have done better to list off these awards, and the 31 states that will be getting the $8 billion and it would have been much more exciting to hear.

If Obama had announced the $800 million award we're getting here in Wisconsin for a new high speed line between Milwaukee and Madison, contrary to my post above, I would have cheered about that. The line has been on the drawing board for decades in Wisconsin, but instead, our late Republican Governor Tommy Thompson spent all our money (when we had it back in the 90s) building prisons and freeways to nowhere.

So I would have been thrilled to hear tonight that we're getting $800 million to get this project off the ground. We've already budgeted for the trains, so this project may actually be finished by 2013! And I guess they'll be upgrading the line from Milwaukee to Chicago, too. Excellent news.

[ Parent ]
I don't think Obama (0.00 / 0)
wanted to set a negative tone therefore he didn't play the blame game too much. He spoke greatly of bipartisanship. I believe he mentioned a bipartisan fiscal committee.

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

Please don't reinforce RW memes like "blame game" (4.00 / 4)
There's nothing playful or trivial about assigning blame where it's clearly due. Blaming Repubs and bankers for nearly destroying the country is not adolescent whining, which employing this insulting expression implies. It's called telling it like it is, where it needs to be told.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
your comment (0.00 / 0)
is pointless. I didn't say repubes shouldn't be blamed. I gave my opinion on what I thought Obama was trying to do/convey. Stop reading into shit. I'll say whatever I want.

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

[ Parent ]
Bullshit (0.00 / 1)
You implied that Obama and Dems have been playing the "blame game". They have not been doing that. Just because you phrased it artfully doesn't mean that this isn't precisely what you did. It's as if I told you to not pick your nose in public, and then added that I wasn't trying to imply that this is what you've been doing. Uhuh.

To blame someone for something that they clearly did, and which was clearly egregiously wrong, is not "playing games". It's being responsible. Please don't take us for fools here.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Bullshit (0.00 / 0)
You saw what you wanted to see. Don't fucking tell me what I'm trying to say. Read my past comments and you will see I have no problem speaking my mind. Artfully my ass. I said that Obama didn't seem to want to play the blame game in his speech. You should have took it for what it was. Besides if I were rooting for republicans, you would think I would be commenting on a republican site instead. Stop smoking and get a f'n clue. Don't get too high off your ratings.

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

[ Parent ]
As long as you continue to call it a game (0.00 / 1)
I will continue to call it for what it is--pure Liebermanesque bullshit. And your accusations of high-horsedness are pure projection. Love that sig line, though!

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
he is a (4.00 / 2)
likable fellow.

How's that for insightful commentary?

also (4.00 / 3)
I like the part where he called out Joe Lieberman by name and called him a bitter old has been.

Wait, did I fall asleep?

I'd give it a C. (0.00 / 0)
Not bad, could've been better. The important thing was to press ahead and not give up, and he did that.

Could've used more demonizing of banks and Republicans (and tying the two together), as Chris said. Maybe the SOTU isn't the place for it (the latter at least), but it has be done by someone, sometime, somewhere, and I don't see it happening. I could see the merit of a "give them enough rope to hang themselves" strategy wrt to the Republicans, let them obstruct for a while and discredit themselves and then use that to really hammer them later, but what's the point if you never actually do the hammering and just let them get away with it?

I like how he kept mentioning that the House has already done most of the things he's saying we need to do, and everyone's just waiting on the Senate.

I'm sort of surprised at the number of things he apparently thinks the Senate can still get done this year -- healthcare, jobs bill, climate/energy bill, immigration, financial reform, education & student loans. That just seems wildly optimistic to me, given that it took well over half a year just to do healthcare. They got one big thing done last year (stimulus) and another mostly done (healthcare), so I'd think finishing healthcare and doing two other things would be the absolutely most we could expect this year, especially with the election and all. But I'm all for being pleasantly surprised.

(for the record, I didn't watch, just read the transcript) (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
After thinking about it some more, (4.00 / 4)
I think it's significant that he didn't dwell on the MA election and its consequences or invoke dire crisis-y overtones at all -- which was a bit out-of-the-box and a very good call. It's almost like it never happened. He made his own reality. Apparently the SOTU is one opportunity where you get to do that, and he & his speechwriters realized that. Good for them.

[ Parent ]
I gave up after the first fifteen or twenty minutes... (4.00 / 3)
and watched Serena Williams in the Australian Open instead.  SOTUs are almost painful unless I am in a sports bar with a crowd.

"If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other people, then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding..."
Zora Neale Hurston

Credit where credit is due (4.00 / 6)
... I know that some in my own party will argue that we cannot address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting.  I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger.  But understand - if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery - all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes. ...

He could have used that moment as an opportunity for hippie kicking or triangulating against liberals, which I was expecting, but he didn't.

Though he also completely ignored women's health care and that really irritated me.  

Look how low our expectations have become (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
Obama's Like A Great Singer (4.00 / 8)
who can't write a song to save his soul, but insists on writing all his material anyway.

I'm not talking on the level of songwriting=speechwriting. I'm talking on the level of songwriting=policymaking & political strategy.  If he had the right advisors & just followed their advice he'd be a great President in his sleep.  But instead, he chose his advisors in his sleep--half Bush holdovers, half Clinton neolib retreads, and robotically follows their recipes for disaster.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Wow (0.00 / 0)
Paul - your paragraph sums up how I feel about Obama in far fewer words than I would have needed to explain it.

Rahm was a mistake and BHO may not realize that until after he's out of office.

Karl in Drexel Hill, PA

[ Parent ]
Agree 100% -- But . . . (4.00 / 1)
It Would have required an all out fight with the entire Village.

If he'd chosen to come in and govern as a flat out Progressive with a consistently progressive message the Villagers would have all united in calling him a Communist out to destroy our liberties from day one.

They can't stand the very idea that progressive ideas might be popular and the more popular they are the worse the "threat."

I doubt Obama had the kind of courage it takes to fly in the face of the entire establishment in that way. It would have been total trench warfare and the media and entire elites would be utterly out to destroy him -- and NOT in the way they tried to destroy Clinton, they were contemptuous of Bill because they knew the issue of sex was trivial.  

All the institutions of government would have to be totally remade from top to bottom. For instance the Treasury Department's entire mission (as far as they are concerned) is to satisfy the Bond-holders and not to provide jobs (regardless of the actual law).

It would take a mountain of dynamite to uproot the entire system and I doubt Obama felt he could win in this environment. Banks and Wall Street would be out to sabotage him and destroy the economy even worse to discredit him.

I re-read Kenneth Davis' FDR: The New Deal Years and was surprised by the extent of the warfare with entrenched interests. We could do with a lot more of that these days instead of all this inside the beltway massaging of elites by Obama.

His biggest problem is that NOBODY is scared of him. He's too "reasonable" and Congressmen who cross him are never punished. He should have Conrad Nelson and Stupak and Lieberman's guts on his tie rack by now the way LBJ would have if somebody crossed  him. "What? You say that $10 million road improvement for your district got canceled by Army? Funny how stuff like that happens when you don't vote right, Congressman."  

[ Parent ]
Bullshit! (0.00 / 0)
Things were in a utter state of chaos, which meant there was a lot of room for the new kid to stake out positions on the basis of necessity that a very disoriented oppositon--as well as establishment--was ill-equipped to fight against.

I never expected Obama to be another FDR.  Clearly he wasn't.  But he DID portray himself as a pragmatist, and that's what he failed at, utterly and completely.

Really, this is the same old tired narrative we've been hearing about Obama ever since he got to the Senate and stopped doing anything worth cheering for.

Back then the argument was, "He can't do anything he's just the most junior member of the Senate."

Now, it's "He can't do anything he's just the leader of the most powerful nation in the history of the world."  

That shit is old.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I've heard the cat speak plenty… (4.00 / 7)
...we know he's good at! What I haven't witnessed is the actions that might back up the words. The clock is ticking...

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

Thank you. Said the same above and it is like (4.00 / 1)
I am speaking a new language.  

[ Parent ]
The guy is gutsy (4.00 / 2)
Or incompetent. I actually lean toward the latter.

He is putting all his chips on the recession being over - no double dip. He just comitted himself to fiscal tightening in 2011 - not clear whether he means fiscal 2011 (which starts in October) or calendar 2011 (which is irrelevant to budget proposals). Either way, he's committed himself to using his veto to cap non military discretionary spending before the economy fully recovers.

If he wanted to be intellectually honest, he could have noted that we need paygo eventually, and he could have promised to enforce it by veto when unemployment fell to 6%, or when GDP growth hit 4%, or some other criterion that would actually make sense. But instead he put a date on it, and the date is almost certainly long before it will actually be appropriate for the government to start "living within it's means".

Not good. Not good at all.  

Ignored the elephants (4.00 / 3)
On an Obama scale of what he wanted to communicate and accomplish he probably earned a strong B+. But it lacked some of what I wanted to hear.

Teabag nation. On a meta level politically and practically, I don't know how you speak about the 'state of the union,' and your leadership of it, without confronting (at least indirectly, in some form or fashion) the belief held by at least 35% of the citizenry that your very presence and leadership is a grave danger to the republic. I'm not suggesting elevating teabaggers and GOP dead-enders to a place in the speech by name, but their views are the principal core opposition to his vision of America. If you're going to address the state of the country and your vision for it, I think you must find ways to draw out the contrasts and otherwise rebut/refute/diffuse those attacks.

The 60-vote filibuster threshold. Huge elephant in the room and a huge problem for the state of our union. It really could've been used to draw contrasts with his opponents and to frame coming debates.

I think the GOP and the obstructionists got off too easy. At least some needling barbs were in order. For instance, when Obama rattled off all of the tax breaks in the stimulus to great applause, he could've noted that virtually every Republican applauding voted against them. It could've been done as a joke, or in a joking way, which still would've been effective.

On health care, if you're going to say you're open to new ideas from the GOP at least box them in by saying they must include things they can't offer, like dealing with pre-existing conditions. He should have said he's "still waiting" for them to offer something constructive. The GOP's lack of a real plan and general bad faith on this major issue was a huge unaddressed elephant in the room. He let them off way too easy.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

Did anyone catch Alito's reaction (4.00 / 1)
to Obama's criticism of last week's SCOTUS ruling on Citizen's United? As the other justices present remained expressionless (although I think I detected the slightest hint of displeasure on Roberts' face), Alito kept shaking his head from side to side, muttering "That's not true". It was quite bizarre, coming from a SCOTUS justice. Is it possible that he won't complete his term due to some sort of mental breakdown, seeing as he can't seem to keep his cool?

H/T to TPM for catching this. Here's the video:

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

Almost as telling as the stone faces on the Joint Chiefs (0.00 / 0)
when he talked about gays in the military.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Lots of empty rhetoric, no commitment to actions. Disappointing. (4.00 / 4)
From the progressive point of view, not much that gives any hope. Especially, the attack on the republicans falls way short of what's necessary. Pointing their obstructionism out, but then begging them to play nice is ridiculous. That won't chaqnge anything, simply water under the bridge. What would have been necessary is making the attack much stonger, citing the numbers of all th bills and nominations that have been blocked! That would have provided the ground for getting rid of the flibuster.

But it's apparent Obama simply isn't a fighter. His desire for harmony, for respect from the other side of the aisle, for "let's get along" is totally counterproductive right now. The rethuglicans are winning now, it would be foolish for them to change their successful strategy. Only strong leverage will move them in a different direction, and Obama is unwilling to look for such a lever. His call for bipartisanship is ridiculous in such circumstances.

No, really, this "something for everyone" brouhaha may boost his popularity in the shot term, but it doesn't give his party any new ammunition in the hard fight ahead. Failure.

I think this is what he means by "change" (4.00 / 1)
His desire for harmony, for respect from the other side of the aisle, for "let's get along" is totally counterproductive right now.

From his perspective all the partisan fighting is the problem. I have no problem with a leader that preaches respect, even for one's opponents. That is a good thing.

But its not enough and will not break the GOPper resolve to treat him (and all Democrats) like ignorant elistist hippies. This whole "bipartisn" BS has to end - especially when the GOPpers have so clearly demonstrated that they are not interested in working together, even when they are included. Obama has to start drawing some distinctions about which Republicans he is talking to, and excluding those who act in bad faith. Same goes for the Republicans-in-Democrat-clothing (Blue Dogs/Red Moles). Take a line from GWB: "if you ain't with us, you agin us" and apply it appropriately.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Yes, wishful thinking won't make the obstructionism go away. (0.00 / 0)
This will only stop if, and when, rethuglican lawmakers will gain more than suffer from engaging in bipartisanship. Right now, that isn't the case. It doesn't have negative consequences that the GOIP blocks anything. This will only change when Dem bills become popular, and people consequently see those sabotaging their presence as a negative influence.

Im short, th Dems need successes! Half hearted measure, watered down and overly complicatd sulotions won't do. What's necessary are popular policies (check the polls) that are presented in a simple, convincing way (kiss - keep it simple, stupid). And then those successes will trigger a momentum that puts rethuglican obstruction on a losing streak.

Hell, it would be so easy if those damn Dem lawmakers wouldn't be afraid of SUCCESS!

[ Parent ]
Anecdotally (4.00 / 3)
That is not really accurate. Many of the right wing voters I know are not advocates of the "do nothing" GOP. They are just as frustrated as I am. But, they are forced to operate within a two party system, too. The same dynamics that push progressives to support the Democratic Party even though it rarely delivers the policies that progressives want, are at work pushing disgruntled conservative voters to vote for GOPpers.

The outrage is there and it is real. The question is whether anyone from the left can tap into that discomfort and use it to form a new political base (call it "populist").

You are correct- success breeds success. Not just the kind of poster-board success ("Mission Accomplished") that says, "Democrats passed HCR!", but the kind of policy successes that improve the lives of the citizens.  Obama and the rest of the Dems (yes, including the progressives) blew a huge opportunity on that front, IMHO. Had they "pushed through" a HCR bill that actually improved the health care SYSTEM in the nation, they would be successful. But they didn't, for whatever reasons or rationales might be offered. All the namby pamby bipartisan BS started screwing that pooch right from the outset.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
I think that hits the nail on the head (4.00 / 2)
Obama not only desires harmony -- harmony is his deepest ideological commitment.  He talked quite a lot in the speech about the American people coming together to overcome adversity in the past.  He always talks about this.  Of course, the truth is that the American people have usually overcome adversity (slavery, economic exploitation, Jim Crow) by fighting with each other, up to and including fighting the bloodiest war in the history of the world up til that point.  So it would be just as true to say, "The American people have always responded to great internal problems by turning on one another and fighting like hell against one another."

But that's not his world view.  He is deeply committed to institutions of power (he mentioned the positive value of big corporations, and the media, and government), and believes that all we need is for the people running them take their responsibilities seriously, and act like adults.

He's just not a populist.  He's not going to show up in Congress and say, "The American people need access to health care.  They need jobs.  They need energy independence.  They need the right to speak up for themselves at work and organize unions.  And we can provide all those things.  But for the past year, and for years before, the Senate has refused to act.  And the question I have for the Senators here tonight is, 'Do you care more about the rituals and arcane rules of your exclusive club than you do about the well-being of 300,000,000 Americans?'"  

[ Parent ]
Btw, reminds me of a story in Asimov's "Foundation" novels. (0.00 / 0)
If I remember it corectly, Terminus' mayor Hardin is having a meeting with a representative from Trantor. After that diplomat delivered his speech, Hardin's aides are enthusiastic about the strong level of support from the Empire. Hardin remains sceptical, and orders to analyse the speech for actual, serious promises.

And after the analysts removed all brouhaha, they find that what remains is...nothing!

Ok, maybe it was Hober Mallow in the second novel... (0.00 / 0)
..but the punch line remains the same.

[ Parent ]
our democracy has devolved into fabricated spectacles. (0.00 / 0)
it was a pretend speech to a pretend audience that pretended Obama was actually capable of doing something.

Sorry? (0.00 / 0)
Is an expression of cynicism all it takes to post?


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Cynicism is as valid a response as any (0.00 / 0)
other. Cynics are made, not born.

If you want to combat cynicism get better politicians and improve the political system.

Cynicism is like a persistent itch. It is a symptom that points to a deeper issue. Sure you can treat the symptom, but that approach allows the disease to go unchallenged.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
No it isnt. (4.00 / 2)
Its a disease. A problem looking for a cure. To say its apporpriate is to say that PTSD is just fine, don't worry.

The ability to instill "feeling lost and hopeless" is the first and most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the right.

Its wrong because on its face its not the facts, its debilitating, its contagious and its more a support to corporations and con artists than is Glen Beck.

Its just like being a rebel, except for the rebelling part.

It is the last step before selling out.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Fine (0.00 / 0)
I won't ask for any actual evidence that cynicism is related to PTSD because I know you are not serious when you claim that cynics have damaged brains.

If your ideas were actually true, you would consider cynics as people in need of medical treatment and I doubt you would so heartless as to demean a sick person as easily as you dismiss the cynics.

If choose to ignore the cynics and dismiss them as either brain damaged or near sell-outs, that's your choice. I won't try to change your mind.

But, remember, by invalidating the responses of others you invalidate them as well. I'm glad that you feel so happy and hopeful that you don't think you need to concern yourself with the plight of others, or bother yourself looking around for ways to address the issue other than more lecturing. Let me know how it works out.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
I begin to wonder when you discuss without honor, without any pretense top talk about the subject. (0.00 / 0)
I begin to think your purpose has nothing to do with finding truth, finding solutions or discovering shared values.

Your arguments have all the charm of a diatribe on Fox News.

I would feel dirty had I penned that set of filth. Your mileage apparently is different from mine. Still you should feel ashamed of yourself.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Why? (0.00 / 0)
Still you should feel ashamed of yourself.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
it was a good speech (4.00 / 1)
it reflected some useful commitment to valuing the long term, it reflected poor commitment to understanding what it would take to develop that long term in a way that most progressives would be happy with.

in that, it was like most of his administration so far, except he was speaking, and it was a good speech. i prefer it to having him be defined by fox news.  at least he presented things i can argue with or against.

Maybe a good speech, but a bad statee of the union address! (0.00 / 0)
Remember, doc, this isn't the campaign anymore! That guy is the president. And still, his address is full of brouhaha, but without a mention of a single real action to change the course. Imho, under the dire circumstances, a "good speech" isn't good enough! He should have come out with a real hammer, like anouncing personal changes in his administration. Now that would have encouraged his party! Those lawmakers all now than in two weeks, nobody will remember Obama's bouhaha. This empty rhetoric won't help them in the elections, they would have needed actions to convince the voters that change is on the way.

[ Parent ]
Fire your economic team, Mr. President (4.00 / 1)
Why did it take so long for them to figure out it might be good to transfer $30 billion of TARP to community banks?  This was a "no brainer" month ago.  

RebelCapitalist - Financial Information for the Rest of Us.

I'm sure David Plouffe feels vindicated by focus group reaction (4.00 / 1)
Unfortunately for people on the left and Americans in general, the problem is the policies. Targeted tax cuts, gutting entitlements and other such overtures to GOP-leaning voters and their intransigent representatives aren't going to do much for us or his presidency in the long run.  

As Bismarck said, "Vox Populi, Vox Rindvieh" (0.00 / 0)
(the voice of the people, the voice of cattle)
No misunderstanding, nothing against populist messages in general. But that a message is populist doesn't automagically make it good policy. Populism is a two edged sword that may easily be used to push horrible atrocities through. And the "freeze" shit is such an atocity.

[ Parent ]
watched most of speach (4.00 / 1)
Noticed this before Rachel Madow mentioned it, and she is right.

The (almost) entire repub contingent present sat motionless as the majority stood and applauded on several issues. Popular issues, like changing tax law to discourage offshoreing jobs, taxing bank bonuses, and others the people want by huge margins.

Time after time, the camera caught the rape-public-cans, in mass, opposing the popular will to surrort the predators.

These taped actions should make excellent campaign commercials, if the Dems are smart enough to use them.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

I thought it was a nice speech, but ... (4.00 / 2)
I've heard quite a few nice speeches from Obama, and this one could've fit right his campaign.  Thing is, we've had a full year of what kind of action follows up his talk.  Until he proves that he understands that he needs to pay more attention to the left and progressives beyond having a group to provide votes and money before being kicked back to the corner then I will refuse to trust anything he says.  It should be obvious to all progressives that he is not truly on our side.

After thinking on it for a while (4.00 / 1)
(and, yes, I did watch/listen in real time)

It was a nice campaign speech.

But the campaign is over. It is nice to want everyone to work together and all that jazz, but sometimes others just don't want to play nicely, or negotiate in good faith. At some point, you have to forget about them and move on with your allies.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


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