Live Blogging the State of the Union Address

9 pm. Ok. we are watching the NBC feed.

Things to look forward to tonight:

1. The media narrative.  Look for lots of talk about Obama needing to “right the ship”, reassert control of the agenda, turn things around, reconnect with the people, etc.

2.  Tone – look for Obama to come out with his new populist stance.   I’ve put the over/under for mentions of “fight” or “fighting” or versions thereof  at 9.

3.  Republican reaction – they want to signal their willingness to work with Obama, so can’t come across as too stridently opposed.  Look for them to applaud on jobs related tax cuts or education.

4.  Audience reaction.  Historically, presidents rarely get a popular boost from the state of the union, in large part because the audience is predominantly supporters.

5. Obama needs to simplify his message. He has a tendency to work too many themes into his national addresses.  He needs to focus on one thing tonight:  jobs, jobs, jobs.

6.  Other than a brief mention of health care – I don’t think he’ll focus too much on it.  Of course, he’ll stress the need to pass comprehensive health care, and it will get big applause from Democrats, but I think that train may have left the station.

(Jack’s taking the over on the fighting references.  Anyone else?)

He’s on – look for about an hour speech  with applause.

Boy he sounds alot like Fred Armisen!

Worst of storm has passed….perhaps.

Chris – good catch.  Jefferson presented it in writing to Congress and that set a precedent until Wilson.

As usual,  Nancy is chewing something – incredibly distracting. Is it a throat lozenge?

He’s clearly taking the middle-class, man of the people populist tack.

First applause line:  hopefulness hits home!

We do not give up, we don’t quit (Churchill – we will never surrender)….applause again for the Amurican people…

And who are the evil people!  the banks!  We all hate the banks! (How’s Tim Geithner feeling right now?)

Oh, he supported the “last administration’s bank bailout program” – how long can he play that card?

I forget – did he cut taxes?

Real interesting play here – do you notice how playful he is?  A real effort here to break through the “cerebral aloof” Obama and try to connect with the middle class.  It’s all part of the package – jobs, taxes, man of the people and more jobs for real people.  Smart, smart, smart!

And no mention of health care!

Jobs, jobs, jobs.  He gets it.  The question is: how do you pay for a jobs  bill.

Republicans like America’s business!

A critic might suggest that in order to grow businesses, you need banks to loan money… and he jumps on it.   Fitting with the populist theme, we are helping “small business” – never the big businesses.

Tax credits – this is a line out of the Republican playbook – ended capital gains.

The Left has to be incensed here – this is really a pretty centrist agenda: tax cuts, tax breaks, tax incentives –  Obama has seen the light, and it ain’t the moving Left.   Say goodbye Daily Kos, Andy Sullivan, etc.

Is that the first mention of health care?  Chris says yes…

“I’m not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”  Let’s go Otter!

Where is this segment going besides drawing applause?  is he leading up to health care?

Financial regulation – a veto threat!  He’s trying to show some spine.  I’m sure people are wishing he said the same thing for health care  – where is health care?

How the times have changed – bipartisan support for nuclear power!   Offshore oil drilling!  Nancy just swallowed her tongue!   What party is he representing?  This is amazing!!

This is a rather lukewarm endorsement of the climate bill!

Jaime has a link to what commentators are saying (see her comment for the link)

We are all for exports, but how do you increase them when companies are laying off workers and banks aren’t loaning? This is meaningless boilerplate – enforcing trade agreements, strengthen trade relations, blah blah blah. Meaningless…

Education is a potentially bipartisan issue – Bush capitalized on this.  I think he can get Republicans on this….a mixture of spending and stricter accountability.  Win-Win…

Community colleges – another shoutout to working families, and a shot at banks profiting on students loans for good measure.  Again, a nice touch…

Here that Midd students?  You shouldn’t go broke listening to me lecture!

Finally – health care.  No laughing matter….

This ought to be interesting – does he double down, or pay lip service to reform?  (A shoutout to Michelle – she doesn’t look real enthused!)

The CBO estimate just isn’t going to cut it.  If he’s serious about reform he’d drop that.  This is lip service unless he comes out specifically for what’s in one of the two current bills.  Let’s see if he’s serious…

Take another look?  He just kicked it under the bus…

Health care just died.   He threw in the towel….A year of effort and it’s done.

Let’s move on … and he is on to the deficit….and blaming the previous guys…

(Chris A.  – are you arguing that he’s serious about pushing for health care?)

Nancy does not like a spending freeze…

A second veto threat – but this is largely meaningless because he just exempted roughly 3/5 of spending in the form of Medicare and Social Security and the Defense Department.   Totally meaningless…

Still another bipartisan commission to study Medicare  — politically safe and a clear sign that he’s passing it on to another generation of Americans.

A freeze that takes place next year?  That’s how budgeting works?   There’s the lead Youtube video….sigh…

Who took the “under” on fighting – I haven’t heard the word yet?

(Jack – that’s the second veto threat by my count).

Lobbying disclosure, yawn…. .

See Bert Johnson for an opposing perspective on the impact of the Court decision – he suggests it will have no impact at all, or very little…

Earmark reform.  I hear he also wants to outlaw rain falling on weekends….

Transparency?  After how the health care negotiations took place?

A subtle jab at filibusters and holds…. .

He is still digging the bipartisan hole – it plays well, but it simply is unrealistic without action

(Chris – I think your take on health care is right..)

Amy – yes, it was!

Boy, he’s really playing the “friendly” card…

You watch, he’s still going to have to play tough on security…  and there it is.  More Al Quaeda captured or killed than the previous guy did!

“Combat” troops out means roughly 30,000 Americans will still be there by most estimates – all the troops will not be coming home.

(Chris – don’t pick on Max.  I’m surprised he’s up!)

Instead of going to funerals, Joe Biden does commissions….

Jack – No, he doesn’t really believe we are leaving Iraq, but he gets around it with the use of “combat troops”…..

what consequences, in particular?   My mother used to threaten me with that …. “you just try me!”

jaime – you are absolutely right – really treading a careful line there to sound tough but not alienate the base.

He’s finishing with reference to American values, and relatively bipartisan issues.

Again, how exactly does he work with Congress to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell?  He could end it now, with a stroke of the pen!   This is mostly rhetorical fluff here – no real hard choices, no details, instead an appeal to abstract principles and promises to do “the right thing” with little recognition that if it was so easy to do that, it would have taken place already.

And here’s the reference back to his no Republican or Democratic values – only American values.

Anyone watching focus groups here?  How’s this change mantra playing?  Are people listening?

Too much pointing fingers – this from the guy who spent much of this speech pointing the finger at Bush!

He just threw health care under the bus – and he’s criticizing others for failing to do what’s hard?  Is this playing?

Marty – my read at the outset is that the Republicans were going to play this really safe – they have the political winds at their back and don’t want to provide any pretext for voters to turn against them…

Ok – talking heads time – what are you hearing?  What’s the first take?

My initial thoughts:

1. The obvious omission here was health care – he essentially signaled that he won’t push for the current bill.  It’s back to the drawing board.

2. Second, the Republicans were on their best behavior.  The political winds are at their back and they really didn’t do much catcalling although there were a couple of moments of snickering.

3.  Obama was clearly trying to come across as more personal, more human, more emotional. He understands that people are angry – he’s angry too.

4.  He clearly caught the message from Massachusetts – from here on it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs…much of the substantive focus was on taxes – cuts, exemptions, credits, etc. – very Republicanesque.  Nuclear power, offshore drilling – he has clearly signaled, in light of Massachusetts, that’s he moving to the Center and daring the Republicans not to work with him.   I think it is a very good strategy, but it will have the netroots in open revolt tomorrow….  .

This is a man who is politically chastened, who sees support among the middle eroding and who is facing a potential loss of the Democrat’s working majority in a matter of months unless the economy begins turning around.

The biggest problem:  can he get a bitterly divided Congress to take up his proposals?


jack agrees, a move to the middle.  Others?  do you agree he threw health care under the bus,  and has adopted Clinton’s triangulation strategy, only this time doing it before losing the Congress, whereas Clinton did it after losing the Congress?

let’s watch the Republican response.  Clearly they’ve learned from the Jindal fiasco, when he gave the speech from a hallway in his house!  This setting is much more fitting…

(Jack – no t-shirt. I didn’t hear fight once.  I heard alot about Amuricans….)

The Republican reaction is on: it’s  jobs, jobs, jobs – and you won’t get it through more government!  It’s an easy pitch, but will it work without being matched with reform?  The private sector got us into this mess  … Republicans have to have a program….I guess the program is Facebook and Twitter – he’s going for the 18-29 year old vote.

Drill, baby, drill!

(Jack – you are welcome – great participation tonight.  Even Max!)

Jaime – agreed.  the techo-references just don’t fly.

Wow – Scott Brown is now the face of the Republican party!   And a shot at Obama and Dem’s for coddling the Christmas bomber.  That’s a winner….

And the common Republican themes – federalism, individual choice, deregulation….the Reagan mantra.

(Is that young lady crying?  Or is she on painkillers?)

OK, that’s it… I’ll be on a bit more taking final thoughts while I unwind with a scotch and, of course, tomorrow I’ll try to give an update on the post-speech reactions.  My sense is that the netroots are going to be completely up in arms here.

Chris – do you mean the “rainbow” coalition seating behind McDonnell?   I thought they were typical republicans!

I have an early departmental meeting tomorrow, so I’m going to call it a night.  Great participation from everyone – you outdid five thirty eight tonight in terms of comments.  And, of course, you were alot smarter… .

More tomorrow…


  1. I never did get mine. Also, big misfact on the State of the Union, right? Didn’t Jefferson stop for a few years?

  2. that “pettyness” is almost part of the institution in which we are governed now….and the challenges of party politics and electoral math

  3. I’ll take the under. Obama’s a uniter, not a divider.

    Also, it took a while to get to that first applause . .

  4. and here comes the economy. root canal….hah. And nice bridge to previous administration’s policies – and of course recovering money from the banks was relatively positive. taxing banks, populist tone kicking in…

  5. citing the recovery act, the stimulus bill….citation…notice clapping divide. gotta love the whole “moving beyond partisanship.”

  6. I’m not sure the humor works for him though. Almost makes it seem like he’s not taking the problems seriously.

  7. Here comes the anecdotal evidence — Obama loves bringing up the small town stories to support his argument.

  8. nice for community banks! Roosevelt students at Yale advocated for this, and it seems like there are some great benefits

  9. interesting reference to china, given its political system….they have more capacity (in some ways) to reform in some ways…gotta love the “gridlock” of democracy

  10. and we’re onto energy. innovation and american creativity, and the call to safe nuclear power plants … seems pretty well received…

  11. Sounds like Obama is treating the Senate like the rest of the world treated him with the Nobel Peace Prize: “they haven’t done as much as the House yet, but I’m going to praise them because I know they are going to make me proud in the future (Or else).”

  12. why would he bring up health care at all, unless he needs to make one final pitch for a less ambitious version? If only to get it off the table…?

  13. US news and world report had a great overview of some education success stories and challenges a few weeks back, and i know the deadline for applying for these funds is coming up in the very near future. renewing education bills, on success stories, and a pitch for community colleges….high school (especially as some stand today) is not enough. true enough. funding for public education…and republicans love that

  14. notice his gentle joke about the first lady “getting embarrassed?” What a folksy, down to earth guy . . .

  15. Health Care. The question is good: What’s in it for me? Unfortunately, he hasnt answered it so far

  16. He’s going over the head of the press and of Congress here. Getting back to the basics. He is saying the you know we need change and its time to try. I’m giving it my best and I’ll listen if you can help out. A rally cry, one last chance. Perhaps using his ability to unite people with his speech to try and to give it that final push.

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