Obama's SOTU, Ryan's response, Bachmann's banality
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.
| January 25, 2011; 11:46 PM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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