Live Blogging The State of the Union

The White House has released a copy of the prepared remarks, and I’ll refer to that (courtesy of Olivier Knox from AFP, the French News Agency).

And here he comes….looking dapper and yet excited.

He’ll start the speech with a reminder of the Tucson tragedy, and use that to reemphasize the need to work across the partisan divide.   Look for the standing ovation  and a camera shot of the family that lost their daughter in the shooting. From there he’ll pivot to the economy, and jobs, which will be the focus of this speech, and of the reelection campaign.  The primary audience here is independents – those voters that the Democrats lost in the November midterm, and who are crucial if Obama is to win reelection.

Interesting seating arrangement tonight – if you haven’t heard, there’s been an effort by some to pair up with a member of the opposite party in the seating arrangements – again, a reaction to the Tucson shooting.

And, of course, instead of Nancy Pelosi chewing her mints, we get to see John The Tan Boehner behind the president. Let’s see if he acknowledges the new Speaker.  When George H. W. Bush was VP under Reagan, he and Tipper O’Neil used to go at it pretty well behind Reagan during these speeches.

Will John cry?  Yes he will…

After the somber opening, look for Obama to make this an uplifting speech, focus on progress, the American spirit, etc.  No malaise…Much of the speech will be designed to lay out a challenge to compete – compete globally, with China, India, etc., and emphasis the need to work together to meet this challenge .

After all, we just had an election (and we got our ass kicked!)

But where are the jobs??  We measure progress by….jobs!

Look for him to emphasize the U.S. competitive advantage: innovation, particularly in the “high tech” industry.  He’s going to compare this period to the post-Sputnik space race.

(Chris – I think using China/India as our competitors is a safe, nonpartisan approach – the enemy is overseas, not here!)

Facebook got some applause…

How often have we heard clean energy touted as the wave of the future, and how often have presidents laid out goals.

Education is a bipartisan issues – but Race to the top is not.  Democrat-leaning  teaching unions are not entirely on board with this program as yet. For the most part, however, he’s stayed away from purely partisan issues.   Note the Colorado reference – that’s a state that has experimented with  merit pay, something teacher unions have opposed.  Beyond unions, however, education reform sells well.

(Sorry about the delay in posting your comments – the network was acting up.)

Ok, I’m on a new computer – not Middlebury issue, so it should be working.

What did I miss?

Never mind – he’s making the case for health care.

(btw, high speed rail is a nonstarter – don’t know how that slipped in).

The spending freeze is going nowhere either, since it pleases neither the Left nor the Right and, frankly,  is mostly symbolic.  Look for the Republicans to pounce on this in the rebuttal.

Is he going to going to propose raising taxes?  No – he’s throwing it back on the Deficit Commission.

He’s ready to address social security – but again he’s going to pass the buck.  Appoint a bipartisan commission ….

simplifying the tax code – another perennial favorite.  So far, no hard choices.

Next up: government waste!  This is all pretty much pablum

Nothing here yet on foreign policy – look for that to come up next….

(When it was smoked, did he inhale?   Yes, that’s the point!)

Note his language on foreign policy – it is positively Bushesque “We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you”

Look for him to praise the START treaty, and to remain committed to keeping Iran and North Korea bottled up….otherwise, however, this is the Bush foreign policy extended….

Look for him to slip in, very carefully, a reference to allowing gays in the military – big applause line coming up when he says it….it’s hidden in reference to diversity in the armed forces, and it’s paired with a plea to reestablish ROTC on college campuses…

(I’m resting easier knowing he’s visiting El Salvador!)

Chris – the soaring rhetoric comes at the close – he’ll do the obligatory paean to what our country stands for, but you are right – this suffers from the laundry list aspect that always drags down the State of the Union….

In case you  are wondering, the military are not allowed to applaud – that’s not necessarily a reflection of their views toward gays in the military.

OK, he’s finishing up.  Another pitch for bipartisanship, and a reminder that it’s allright to disagree.

Interesting pirouette here – he’s going to bring in the Chilean mine rescue!  Pulling out all the stops!

Here comes the water works!

And now on to Chile…..notice that they are always small business owners?  This guy’s is an oilman!  Why don’t we ever stand up and applaud Rockefeller and Standard Oil?  Anyone see the irony of bashing the oil companies, yet praising the drilling company?

Do you know who buys their drilling equipment?  big oil!

OK, roughly an hour long.   Struck some broad themes.  but no one yelled “You lie!”  so the partisan rancor might have been muted by the seating arrangement.  Time for the talking heads – thoughts?

Some early impressions: I think Chris was right – the middle part began dragging with the obligatory effort to touch on so many issues, but without really proposing hard choices.  Big on theme, short on answers.  This was Reaganesque in some ways – more a campaign election opening speech than a sober analysis of what was wrong and how to fix it. I can’t be sure how much was foisted on him by his advisers – one of the big myths of these speeches is that the spring solely from the President’s pen.  He’s under a lot of pressure to put in items pressed on the White House by other interests.  (High speed rail, for instance).

Is the seating getting some attention?  I think it wasn’t the seating – it was the avoidance of red meat issues.  The only controversial issues he mentioned were immigration and repealing health care.  I think more of this was also the post-Tucson effect rather than the seating.

Don’t go away – Michele Bachmann is coming up!  Can you spell TEA PARTY! (Paul Ryan first – he’s bland but darn smart).

A couple of things to remember about the State of the Union – on average, (and I’ve blogged about this before), they have almost no impact on a president’s approval ratings.  so don’t look for this to be a turning point as so many have suggested.

Tarsi – you are right. Nothing he said was realistic in terms of laying down a roadmap for reducing the deficit.  And health care is an easy call, because he has the veto.  No risk there.

Ryan is on.  Look for him to outdo Obama on the details of the budget, if not in the soaring rhetoric.  It will be interesting to see just how detailed his deficit reduction plan is – and will it propose tax increases?  No it will not.

Where do we begin? With the job-killing killing – health care bill.   what constitutes responsible budgeting – will he say?  Nope.  He just promises they will produce a budget – but where’s the beef?  He’s no more inclined to lay out hard choices than Obama was – instead, it’s all about principles.

Hmmmm….those Republican principles sound familiar…let’s think….thinking…thinking….the Constitution!   The Republicans believe in the Constitution! Otherwise, there’s nothing here.   Let’s bring on Michele.

uh oh – Greece, Ireland….we’re next!  So, what does limited government mean?   I guess it means not relying on Washington or Wall St.  I guess that leaves Main St.

Tarsi – I agree.  There’s nothing here beyond platitudes.  But that’s probably to be expected.  How’s it playing with the talking heads?

Chris – merit pay for teachers at Middlebury?  I can tell you I work for free, so yes – I’m all for merit pay!

David Plouffe is on NBC – he’s coming back to the White House.  Let’s see how he spins the speech…

Tarsi – Usually the media are given a copy of the speech shortly beforehand, so this isn’t that new.  I think the White HOuse was going to add some bells and whistles to the presentation on the White House website – did anyone check it out?  (I was busy trying to get my Middlebury College computer to stop overheating!)

Chris – I don’t do it for the money.  But I could use a new computer.  I missed close to 20 minutes of blogging time just trying to find a loaner.  this can’t continue – it’s time for you and other alumni to write the President and get me a new computer.

I don’t get the cable here, (as you all know) – is Michele already on?  I can’t tell if NBC  is going to cover her?

There seems to be some discussion regarding Obama’s failure to address gun control – but the better question is why he didn’t address mental health treatment in this country.

Ok, apparently Michele gave her response and I missed it. I’ll have to check up on the internets.   Meanwhile, I’ll be on tomorrow, if I can, to assess the post-speech reaction.

(Thanks Chris for the Michele summary – sorry I missed it.  She was just on NBC to knock down rumors that she was competing with Ryan.)

Goodnight all….


  1. Family, unity, commonalities – setting the tone….it’ll be interesting to see if how the standing and applause work with seating arrangements.

  2. How about going to the US vs. China early in the game? We are now inferior – we must work together to be better than them? Very interesting

  3. Heading to innovation into energy and then into redesigning our economy for a more sustainable future, in the American fashion….powerful rhetoric?

  4. You were right about the Sputnik reference — he just mentioned it! And yes, always safe to blame China, although I wonder what that says about his meetings with China last week when Hu Jintao came to visit…

  5. yikes he’s being ambitious….with percentages, inspiring but very much not practical politically? ……..

  6. fine, health care needs fixing, that’s good to note, but there are some things he won’t revisit….good politics?

  7. freeze domestic spending…..400billion, and painful cuts….defense cuts, and community action cuts – what can’t we afford to do without? Most vulnerable citizens, for sure.

  8. prepared to work on tax code? great, because i can’t figure my own out. And not extending tax cuts because they contribute to the deficit? seriously, I don’t economics and that makes sense.

  9. yup here is the foreign policy, shining beacon, defeating threats – Iraq withdrawl reference, slowly but surely and largely a lesser topic these days maybe

  10. Is it just me, or is this a bit disappointing? Obama just doesn’t have the flying rhetoric that he usually has.

  11. Very different speech. He painted in much broader brush strokes than any other recent SOTU that I can remember. And to me at least it was a little lackluster. It seemed almost incomplete. While one can say that they didn’t want to do a laundry list type speech, but this speech seemed like it was rushed and not enough thought was put into it. Ok, so we have to reinvent and reinvest in America. That sounds nice. I guess we’ll do it with…clean energy? I was hoping for more.

  12. the “in this together” is being said to go over well overall, seating arrangements are getting some comments about how they brought on confusion about when to applaud….

  13. How much talk / analysis of the seating arrangement will we have? I’ve heard it talked about on ABC and CNN already.

  14. he proposals for deficit cutting aren’t particularly possible are they? and with his health care discussion – reform but some things he wouldn’t compromise on? was that expected?

  15. Republican response: deficit, spending, the response is, confusing me – the values he’s citing for the party, seem very govt heavy. except for there is always more than one approach….

  16. I’m pretty sure that as long as the dollar remains the primary world currency, that Greece and Ireland aren’t the next step….

  17. He did just what Obama did – lots of talk and no action. BTW, this idea of paying teachers for how good they are, you think MIDD would take that on?

  18. talking heads, seem….nonplussed. when do the real fireworks begin? Also, historically do we usually see full remarks ahead of time? if so, clearly I wasn’t paying attention. If not, why start?

  19. i dont have the cable here in my apt, so I’ve lost most of the talking heads I think. Next day or two will be interesting to see how it plays out. Of course the next 365 days will really prove that this is 90% rhetoric.

  20. Professor D,

    I’m not saying much would change!! J/K we all know your blogging sustains us during these political events.

  21. She is on. But if you can imagine a midwest accent saying “OBAMACARE IS BAD” spending is bad, liberty and freedom from government. Then you’ve got it all.

  22. funding for mental health though is something that could have been addressed, while political motivations are tenuous at best, the shooting did more directly relate to a troubled individual

  23. The Opinionator on the New York Times website has collected the opinions of every major web columnist, commentator, and blogger who had something to say about the SOTU onto one page, and it’s pretty interesting.

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