There was a lot of speculation about the State of the Union address, as there always is, that the President would be ready to be confrontational about the almost complete stasis in Congress, about income inequality, about the insane disrespect shown him as president. After the 5 years of watching this President turn the other cheek in the most congenial way, were those expectations realistic? No.
As much as we might want him to, Obama would never throw up his hands in public, call out the GOP and place it all on their heads – as appropriate as that would be. Instead he worked his zen jiu jitsu to wink at the Republicans, graciously acknowledging their intransigence, while asserting that he is not giving up in trying to lead the country and working towards solutions. And he’s going to keep hoping and praying that Republicans will want to do their respective jobs and work with him (wink, wink, he knows they won’t). But his infectious good nature and sunny optimism in the face of their mean spirited obstructionism absolutely undermines their message that he’s the problem what with his Muslim, Hitler unAmericanism.
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate — one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy — when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people….
And in the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America.
He calls out the intransigence, gently, reminding people of the shut down. He recalls the “rancorous argument” but he is without rancor. He brings up inequality, but using the words “opportunity for all”, language that is universally accepted and not seen as divisive. Most importantly, “Let’s make this a year of action” when almost every pundit called 2013 a wasted year and expects 2014 to be even worse because of the Nov. midterms. Obama set up the Democrats for those midterms by the challenge of this speech to be active, serve the American people and increase opportunity.
But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.
The stasis will not stand, man. Work with me, or watch my dust. Watch my approval rate go up and yours continue to scrape the ocean floor along with whale shit.
The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here.
This is as leftist an assertion as you can get – and guess what, only the Koch Brothers and the few real economic elitists would publicly disagree with this. This core tenet of America is what makes us a center-left country no matter what the beltway bloviators say.
Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home…. create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes… my administration’s launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year…
All popular ideas. The hubs are a version of Jack Kemp’s enterprise zones. Who could object?
He spoke about energy in the context of climate change, extolling natural gas as a cleaner bridge to renewables (which it is) without mentioning fracking (bad) and pushing solar. Again, he asserted what every fair minded person knows – that climate change is real and the people in the room shaking their heads are not fair minded or honest.
It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican given the horrible task of doing the so-called “response” did not vote for the Lily Ledbetter Act. McMorris Rodgers, although reportedly possessing a vagina, consistently votes against legislation addressing gender equity, reproductive freedom and women’s healthcare concerns. It’s the policies coming from the retrograde Republican Party that comprise the front of the War on Women just as much as the sexist comments from their male politicians and talking heads. Throwing a woman up there does not prove you are on the side of the 51% of the population you consistently disrespect.
Finally, the very popular minimum wage issue. Even a majority of Republicans are on board with raising the minimum wage. This, like almost all of the issues in the speech are issues Americans agree with him and the Democrats on. Only Congressional Republicans stand athwart the issue crying “Halt!”
To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. 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 — (cheers, applause) — our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty…. Give America a raise.
What a great line. A master stroke to put the GOP in the position of pushing forward with the President and the public or standing out as an obstructionist sore thumb.
You want to know how effective this speech was? GOP operative Alex Castellanos said:
A speech by Barack Obama is a lot like sex. The worst there ever was is still excellent