In reality, SOTU speeches during election years are little more than campaign speeches dressed up in the tuxedos high rhetoric and overly-long applause. From that perspective, Obama's speech was a solid B+ for the Democratic Party. Heading into the speech many pundits were expecting a return to Clinton-style triangulation, what they got was a wide-ranging repeat of Democratic policy priorities that Obama has championed since the beginning of his campaign.
Health Care: In my opinion, the weakest part of his speech. Instead of channeling Clinton and taking a conciliatory tone Obama stood up and appeared ready to fight for the dog of a bill that's currently awaiting passage. As is his wont, he evoked the image of "some people" who are for people losing their insurance and dying in the streets, and he mockingly invited "anyone" who has a plan to bring it to his attention, implying that no-one had done so previously.
The buck stops....: With Bush apparently. A large section of the speech was focused on blaming the Bush administration for the ills of society. Is there plenty of blame to heap on the Bush Administration? You bet. But there's also plenty of muck-up within the Administration and the Democratic party to spread around as well.
The Spirit of Determination: From the speech:
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.In my opinion this was the best portion of Obama's speech, and his delivery was bang on.
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.
Irony: Does it strike anyone else as odd that Obama is railing against the Washington "establishment" in an effort to make sure many of them get re-elected? Think about that for a minute.
Biggest Surprise(s): A targeted capital gains tax cut? From a Democrat? Also, I was surprised that he even discussed Cap n' Trade, a bad bill that many have considered DOA for quite some time.
Cognitive Dissonance: Obama's outright campaign statement calling the Republicans the Party of No during a section bemoaning constant campaigning and increasing partisanship in Washington was poorly conceived by his speech writers.
Jobs bill: Republicans will cast it as "Stimulus II" but they'll be under severe pressure from a public with shaky confidence in the economy to pass it. He also pushed for tax credits for business, and repeated his call for tax increases on Oil companies, banks and all those making over $250K/year.
Now that the speeches are over, the campaign begins, it will be interesting to see how people react to the speech in the polls.