State Of The Union: Obama At His Best Or Most Desperate?


I suspect chances are fairly slim that you didn’t manage to see part of President Obama’s first official State of the Union speech last night. It was long (clocking in at 1hr 10 mins and 30 secs it was reminiscent of Clinton’s extended addresses) and it was everywhere. Obama has a lot to talk about! Perhaps most notably he didn’t get around to talking about health care (practically the only thing he talked about for the better part of last year) until more than 30 minutes into the address. Also, he didn’t get heckled this time around…technically speaking. Here’s a look at some of the reactions from across the board.


If Mr. Obama thought he could take the rostrum in the House chamber and restore his image as the change agent who came to Washington to end the politics of division, he received another reminder just how hard that will be. Mr. Obama tried to recapture the magic of his yes-we-can campaign after a season of no-we-can’t governing, but conceded little if any ground to critics on either the right or the left. It was a confident performance, more defiant than contrite, more conversational than soaring.


In a favorable light, his State of the Union speech may have revealed the mind of a leader who has never cared much about traditional ideological categories and is determined to create his own results-oriented composite of ideas from across the spectrum. Less charitably, the address could be interpreted as the work of a president who is desperately improvising by touching every political erogenous zone he and his advisers can think of.

Under either judgment, however, it was inescapable that his 69-minute speech — for all the rush of words and policy ideas — was a document of downsized ambitions for a downsized moment in his presidency.

Joe Klein:

This was Obama at his best. He wasn’t cuddly, but who cares? He was smart and he was funny–and he was drop-dead serious about the country. The speech should do him some good, but it’s not enough. Now he has to preside, in the true sense of the term. He can’t let himself get caught up in the tawdy doings of the Congress. He has to stand above the muck, leading, jawboning a sense of responsibility–as he did tonight.


Obama is making a lot of arguments tonight that the WH should have been making for months now.

Ed Morrissey:

Impact: No grade, as SOTU speeches rarely have ANY impact except as scorecard later on everything not pursued. Not a game changer…

Andrew Sullivan:

Ending DADT: it’s the right thing to do. But I note that he has committed only to working with Congress and the military to end the ban this year. If he achieves it, I will stand up and cheer. But I have experienced enough crushing disappointments to believe it will actually happen….This was the president I supported and still support and will support because he alone is calling us away from the cynicism, the ideology, the rhetorical poison, and the red-blue divide that keep us from the reform we desperately need.

Sarah Palin:

This is why people are disenchanted and becoming more and more disengaged really from what their government is doing because when we see an issue like this, words spoken that may not be true, coming from our president, and embarrassing our Supreme Court and not respecting the separation of powers, we have a problem and that’s illustrated there by that justice there mouthing those words, ‘not true,’ now one or the other is being disingenuous here, either our president in what he just claimed or the Supreme Court justice…and I think its going to be a huge take away moment from the speech tonight.

Big Government:

I doubt that President Obama helped himself or his party with his State of the Union Address. A year ago, such a speech might have done him some good and would have done him no harm. By now, however, too many people are aware that they are being had. If anything, his decision to continue pushing his signature measures — cap and trade and healthcare reform — is likely to wreak havoc on his party in November.

Alessandra Stanley:

Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address was as much about his state of mind as the nation’s: the president repeatedly asserted that he feels as strongly about the impasse in the capital as ordinary Americans do…The adage says that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. Mr. Obama used his time before Congress to posit that, actually, the American people deserve a better legislative branch.

The Awl:

Obama has never chanted “USA, USA, USA” before in his life. And it shows. Apart from that? I give that a pretty high marks for an ending. We don’t quit! I don’t quit! It was like a really good car commercial, back when we made cars.

The Sartorialist [In our Liveblog, 9:52 mark]

Obama’s tie = British-style left-to-right “repp stripe”; Biden’s = American-style right-to-left ( Who approved those optics!?

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