Might as well join the herd and weigh in. I told myself that I wouldn’t watch the State of the Union Address, but with the same kind of twisted motivation that makes people poke at a sore spot, I did.
I only caught the last 20 minutes or so. I read the text and then watched it partly with the sound on and partly with the sound off.
With the sound off, it was interesting to watch President Obama in top form – smooth, with familiar conversational gestures and expressions. It was also interesting to see him framed between the faces of VP Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner. Biden was the faithful Ed McMahon to Obama’s Johnny Carson. He was attentive and both mirrored and reacted to his boss as reinforcement. Boehner sat there with a restrained look of disbelief, a sort of perpetual “Jesus H. Christ, what is this shit?” He was restrained, nevertheless, with no eye rolling and appropriate applause when Obama trotted out the usual patriotic references.
Easy to miss: At one point Biden palmed a mint or candy into his mouth with nearly the deftness of a sleight of hand artist. Nearly. Points for on-camera audacity.
Visual and political differences aside, always remember: The man on the left was selected by millionaires. The man in the middle was selected by millionaires. The man on the right was selected by millionaires.
The President tucked it to the Republicans a few times, which was amusing. He mentioned the 40 votes against the Affordable Care Act in the House. That was a three-fer, nailing the GOP for obstructionism, wasting time, and impotence. He also pegged them on the minimum wage with a classic “When did you stop beating your wife?” line.
“In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”
Oh, the troops, riiiight. Let’s face it, in our present climate of military-worship you could tag the word “troops” onto the concept of eating dogshit on toast and people would at least consider it. Attached to “Let’s give America a raise!” it’s a winner. POTUS wins a prize for irrefutable emotional rhetoric. And, surprisingly enough, a good idea.
He gave a special hoist-with-your-own-petard shout out to ultra-conservative Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL) on the Earned Income Tax Credit, agreeing with Rubio that it should be expanded to give more assistance to single workers with no children. The camera switched to Rubio, who maintained what must have been the most difficult poker face in recent political history. Getting caught by surprise bipartisanship will hurt him with the knee-jerk base.
Much of the rest of the speech struck me as the usual blah-blah. He promoted his policies with the standard assortment of inspiring individual stories.
My heart did go out to Sergeant Cory Remsburg, who was nearly killed by an IED in Afghanistan. He is undergoing the slow and painful process of rehabilitation. At the SOTU he was also undergoing use as a stage prop. There’s a fine line between being celebrated and being exploited, but yes, the White House went over it. Solid bipartisanship here, though. The Republicans have been shamelessly waving “the troops” in our faces since the dark ages. What truly frosts my heretical ass, though, is that Sgt. Remsburg could have stayed home.
My ultimate response to all the hoopla is this, and journalists take note: A press conference (or speech) means being lied to in public. “Access” means being lied to in private. At least with access you get to expense out a meal.