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Posted at 11:46 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Obama's SOTU, Ryan's response, Bachmann's banality

By Jonathan Capehart

My nerd card was firmly in hand when I raced back to my hotel room to catch my favorite part of the State of the Union address: "Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!" And then, well, the speech started. Not President Obama's best. Then again, his best is anyone else's extraordinary. Besides, he delivered a boffo speech earlier this month in Tucson.

Still, Obama delivered a decent, albeit non-rousing address while Speaker John Boehner hovered behind him looking like he was either late for a tee time, craving a cigarette (as many on Twitter suspected) or thirsty for a Merlot. Vice President Biden did his best to bring some visual levity to the glumness to his left.

But enough with the theatrics. Here are three bits of the SOTU that stood out for me.

1.) Recasting the DREAM Act. By linking the fate of "the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents..., [who] grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation" and the fate of foreign students who are forced to take the knowledge and expertise they've learned in the United States back to their home countries, and then by looping both into his narrative about the nation investing in its future, Obama tried to change the terms of the debate over illegal immigration. We'll soon see if the Republicans are willing to go along.

2.) Not just for blacks anymore. Some African Americans have complained bitterly that the president always saves his lectures on parental responsibility for them. That lame whine should end tonight. Talking about what will be needed to help children succeed in school, Obama said the responsibility is not just "in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities." And he added, "Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline." Obama pretty much said the same thing to the NAACP in July 2009. Of course, because he was talking to family, that speech had extra bite -- as it should.

3.) Did he say tax increases? In speaking about the deficit commission he created -- and has kind of ignored since it produced a set of recommendations he didn't quite like -- Obama noted that it concluded that "the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it - in domestic spending, defense spending, health-care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes." Catch that? Spending through tax breaks and loopholes. Ending tax breaks and closing loopholes is raising taxes. A difficult and obvious point hiding right there in plain sight.

Before I sign off, let me give props to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who delivered the Republican response to Obama's speech. The bar wasn't terribly high thanks to the oh so strange performance by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) in 2009. But as I said on Twitter, Ryan "has confidently walked onto the national stage. You might not like what he said, none of it new really, but you won't forget him." And my suspicions that Ryan would be drowned out by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and her Tea Party response to the SOTU were unfounded.

Bachmann slammed President Obama's policies over the last two years and their failure to drop unemployment below 8 percent as promised. But she neglected to explain to her listeners exaclty why the deficit exploded. For instance, Bachmann ignored the fiscal calamity that began on Sept. 15, 2008. She ended her speech, delivered distractingly while looking off-camera, by saying "We the people...." Yeah, we the people want to know what that response was all about.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 25, 2011; 11:46 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Obama's State of the Union: bipartisan and ideological

Comments

Obama and Ryan gave reasonable, predictable speeches. Bachmann? More coherent than a certain Alaskan would have been, but little more insightful.

Posted by: mmmapache | January 26, 2011 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Your piece could do without the comments "while Speaker John Boehner hovered behind him looking like he was either late for a tee time, craving a cigarette (as many on Twitter suspected) or thirsty for a Merlot."

It puts you on the level of a second grader.

Grow up. We need mature adults to help report and address the real issues the country is facing. Those comments are noting less that immature and elementary.

Posted by: swstutts | January 26, 2011 12:28 AM | Report abuse

I listened to Ryan's response on the radio. He sounded about as dull as stale bread.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 26, 2011 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: B2O2 | January 26, 2011 12:45 AM
"I listened to Ryan's response on the radio. He sounded about as dull as stale bread."

Ha ha, good observation.
Ryan's response was as flat as Bobby Jendal's without the southern accent.

According to Ryan the U.S. is doomed.

Posted by: knjincvc | January 26, 2011 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Your piece could do without the comments "while Speaker John Boehner hovered behind him looking like he was either late for a tee time, craving a cigarette (as many on Twitter suspected) or thirsty for a Merlot."

----------

Oh, please. Boehner looked like he missed his last five AA meetings. He was embarrassing.

Posted by: MagicDog1 | January 26, 2011 1:57 AM | Report abuse

Can we just be honest? All three did what we all expected, nothing has changed.
As my children hit the teenage years, it reminds me of what we all have to do in life: learn the hard way. Our country has not had to work for much in the past 20 years and now that we are asking for a collective "pick up a shovel" moment, nobody wants to. And like the teenagers, it will take a friend dying in a texting while driving moment to really sink in. Our president cannot keep charging the credit card. He needs to demand more of himself, and us.

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | January 26, 2011 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it would be better if the VP and the Speaker did not sit behind a president during the speech. It does provide a distraction that is not helpful.

That said, when I saw some of Boehner's facial expressions, I commented that he appeared painfully constipated, (except when it looked like he was going to cry.)

Posted by: colton | January 26, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Ending tax breaks and closing loopholes is a start. ONLY a start. The middle and working classes have taken the brunt of this economic downfall--now it's time for the wealthy AND corporations to shoulder their share of the burden.

Posted by: spike591011 | January 26, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Obama declared the recession is over and now is the time for reinventing. To all the unemployed out there, sorry, but he is only interested in a new Utopian country. Recovering what was lost is not in the cards.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | January 26, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

A liberal BIG Government Obama delivered the SOTU.

A move to the center ?

Abandoned his own Deficit Commission modest cuts. Embraced another half-trillion in spending on INNOVATION ! EDUCATION !! Bridges !! called of course: “investment” !! heck that last trillion did so well !

Uphold job-killing unsustainable ObamaCare. Nodded to Hispanics again.

Cut defence. Withdraw troops everywhere. A handshake to Iran. No mention of Korea or Lebanon.

Ignored American fear of default and overwhelming support for major cuts.

Pathetic liberal leadership.

Posted by: pvilso24 | January 26, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

The most significant thing in this speech was the part about dropping oil subsidies in favor of investments in clean energy.

This is the next boom industry - as Tom Friedman discusses in his book "Hot, Flat and Crowded". He calls it Energy Technology (ET) which like IT will be the next wave of innovation and a whole new job market.

This move solves 3 problems at once - national security, by moving away from fossil fuels that our enemies profit from (Iran, Saudi Arabia - where most of the 9/11 planners came from, Venezuala, etc.); jobs and the economy; and climate change.

Wind, solar, hydroelectric and other clean technologies are the wave of the future, and we need a government that recognizes it and help foster innovation and investment. I heard that loud and clear in this speech. Unfortunately our Republican leadership is completely deaf to this very obvious solution.

I think the tide is turning however. With a boost from this administration, and growing acceptance by businesses such as GE and Chevron, GM and more, this is gaining momentum.

Posted by: mandelm2001 | January 26, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Capehart wrote:

"..Bachmann ignored the fiscal calamity that began on Sept. 15, 2008."

In Bachmann's opening comment she mentions the staggering deficit Obama inherited. Guess you missed that Capehart or conveniently omitted.

Here's Bachmann's opening comments:

"Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our President, unemployment was 7.8 percent and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion dollars.

We wondered whether the President would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies.

Unfortunately, the President’s strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money.

The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8 percent.

Not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4 percent. And sadly, it hasn’t been lower for 20 straight months. While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs."

Bachmann brought out facts, along with factual charts, but you give your liberal spin along with the rest of the Journolistas.

The truth hurts Capehart?

Posted by: janet8 | January 26, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

janet8; all,

actually Mr Capehart is nothing more than an "operative" of the most extreme leftist wing of the DIMocRATS party (if he's not on the DNC's payroll, he should be.) & "the washington COMpost" is about as legitimate/fair/balanced of a "news outlet" as PRAVDA used to be.
(fyi, i read "the COMpost" for the exact same reason that i used to read Pravda.= to see what our enemies were saying.)

i challenge every reader to find/post any column by Mr Capehart that EVER said that any DIMocRAT was less than "wonderful", "oh so very marvelous" & beyond reproach.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | January 26, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Why comment on Boehner's facial expressions and body language during the President's speech? Probably for the simple reason that any observer had to wonder whether he had to go to the bathroom, have a cigarette or was just wondering how he was going to deal with the flamethrowers in his own party that were willing to drive the economy off the cliff by doing away with the research and education that can bring our country to having the great economy that we used to have. I'm not part of the "greatest generation" that sacrificed with small homes and paid taxes to build the highway system to make our economy hum, but I admire their sacrifice. I hope our generation can sacrifice a little for our kids future too. I thought it was a great speech. I never want to see undivided government again given the past two years (neither the left nor right seem capable of restraining themselves), so I just hope for the good of the country the parties can find a middle ground.

Posted by: Fergie303 | January 26, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I thought Boehner looked like he was comtemplating a fate worse than death - having to be Speaker while watching Obama cut your platform legs off.

Obama's speech was crafted to provide instant counter to silly spins and the ritual recitations of 'it might', 'it's possible', 'this may hurt..' and 'it is possible that' are the basis of fearmongering.

The only response to Ms. Bachmann is "So much for your beliefs. How close are they to reality and probability?"

Posted by: Robynmarigny | January 26, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I thought Boehner looked like he was comtemplating a fate worse than death - having to be Speaker while watching Obama cut your platform legs off.

Obama's speech was crafted to provide instant counter to silly spins and the ritual of 'it might', 'it's possible', 'this may hurt..' and 'it is possible that' that is the basis of fearmongering.

The only response to Ms. Bachmann is "So much for your beliefs. How close are they to reality and probability?"

Posted by: Robynmarigny | January 26, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

"Capehart wrote:

"..Bachmann ignored the fiscal calamity that began on Sept. 15, 2008."

In Bachmann's opening comment she mentions the staggering deficit Obama inherited. Guess you missed that Capehart or conveniently omitted.

Here's Bachmann's opening comments:

"Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our President, unemployment was 7.8 percent and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion dollars.

We wondered whether the President would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies.

Unfortunately, the President’s strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money.

The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8 percent.

Not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4 percent. And sadly, it hasn’t been lower for 20 straight months. While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs."

Bachmann brought out facts, along with factual charts, but you give your liberal spin along with the rest of the Journolistas.

The truth hurts Capehart?

Posted by: janet8 | January 26, 2011 10:56 AM "
________________________________________

Perhaps he means her glib way of talking about the situation while not mentioning that several industries were about to completely fail without help: auto, banks, etc.

Maybe that's what he meant by "fiscal calamity?" You have to admit, she doesn't really go into that, now, does she?

Posted by: Patzer111 | January 26, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Bachmann behavior name embarrasses the music industry

Bachman Turner Overdrive..
Great Band

Michelle Bachmann - Professional Loon

Posted by: IssaGallegos1 | January 26, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

UPDATE: Holy Moley! MSNBC ‘s Morning Joe reaction to the SOTU speech: “flat”.
When you hear them talk “substance” vs the “optics” on MSNBC that tells you that this is an epic fail.

Andrea Mitchell: ” He didn’t mention gun control”, Dean answers: “He didn’t mention Abortion either”

REWRITE!

Update 2 Even worse they showed a clip of Bachmann’s speech and not a single word of snark from the panel. If they can’t snark Bachmann on MSNBC this is panic time for Democrats.

Update 3: They complement the GOP’s Paul Ryan, the White House is calling COMCAST to ask them to get Olbermann back on the air.. STAT!

Update 4: Not a another word about Bachmann’s response. I suspect they will continue to avoid it, after reading her speech I see why. If her delivery was as good as the speech then they HAVE to keep it off the air. When you spend months trying to spin her as some kind of violent nut you don’t dare show video that proves you wrong.

Update 5: Now they are talking Bachmann and their big critique is the tea party feed…

If this is the best MSNBC can do for the White House then they are in real trouble.

Posted by: pvilso24 | January 26, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

UPDATE: Holy Moley! MSNBC ‘s Morning Joe reaction to the SOTU speech: “flat”.
When you hear them talk “substance” vs the “optics” on MSNBC that tells you that this is an epic fail.

Andrea Mitchell: ” He didn’t mention gun control”, Dean answers: “He didn’t mention Abortion either”

REWRITE!

Update 2 Even worse they showed a clip of Bachmann’s speech and not a single word of snark from the panel. If they can’t snark Bachmann on MSNBC this is panic time for Democrats.

Update 3: They complement the GOP’s Paul Ryan, the White House is calling COMCAST to ask them to get Olbermann back on the air.. STAT!

Update 4: Not a another word about Bachmann’s response. I suspect they will continue to avoid it, after reading her speech I see why. If her delivery was as good as the speech then they HAVE to keep it off the air. When you spend months trying to spin her as some kind of violent nut you don’t dare show video that proves you wrong.

Update 5: Now they are talking Bachmann and their big critique is the tea party feed…

If this is the best MSNBC can do for the White House then they are in real trouble.

Posted by: pvilso24 | January 26, 2011 11:12 PM | Report abuse

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