President Obama gave a great speech on Tuesday, Slade Sohmer writes, so let’s just leave it at that.
Originally appeared at HyperVocal.
The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. –President Barack Obama, 1/24/12
President Obama said these United States are “getting stronger” in his nearly 7,000-word State of the Union address on Tuesday night, his third and perhaps most important, given an election year.
But the “getting stronger” moment of the night didn’t come during his speech. That apropos honor is reserved for outgoing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who entered the chamber to thunderous applause and received what amounted to the most polite bear hug in politics when the president spotted her. Tuesday marked Giffords last State of the Union address for the foreseeable future, having announced her resignation to focus on her recovery from the mass shooting that took place before last year’s address.
When the president tried to differentiate himself from the Republican Party, he did so more subtly, through his policy recommendations and topic choices. His speech talked about the importance of health care, of financial regulations, of big government doing good things with your tax money, of fairness and income equality, of optimism that “America is back.” You know who doesn’t talk like that? Just watch the 19th Republican debate tonight in the key state of Florida to find out the answer to that question.
That’s what makes this president unique. He can swing a partisan axe without doing so by name. When he says “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about” and “In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect. Those are the FACTS,” he does so in a way that doesn’t reek of nasty Washington politics, a way that allows the president to discuss the key issues of the day from his perspective while trying to build consensus, not turn people away.
Compare the text and tone of Obama’s address to that of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who gave the Republican response. Granted, it’s always tougher to give the rebuttal, but listen to this: “In word and deed, the President and his allies tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection. Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb!” That’s genuine partisan hackery. Light bulbs? That’s right-wing radio talking points. That’s petty.
Obama even tried to throw a joke in there, but he failed miserably. His “crying over spilled milk” joke was so bad, in fact, it even got a wince out of First Lady Michelle Obama:
It remains to be seen what will come from the address. Presidents usually don’t see much of their vision enacted, and they rarely get a polling bump. So let’s call this just a nice speech and marvel over the class and character of Gabby Giffords more than engage in a partisan war over what comes next.
Originally appeared at HyperVocal.
Slade Sohmer is co-founder and editor-in-chief of HyperVocal. Tweet him @hypervocal.
—Photo Saul Loeb/AP