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SOTU Live Blog!!

Tuesday, 25. January 2011 15:36

Your one-stop shopping for all things State of the Union! I’ll be covering some of the initial coverage here as well as giving my reactions during the speech and the Republican response.

Is the SOTU address meaningless?

SOTU address preview.

In the wake of last year’s challenge to the court issued by Obama in his SOTU on the Citizens United case, will the Supremes show up tonight?

Tim Carney suggests the theme for tonight is “National Greatness liberalism.”

8:11pm – Ok, we’ve got all the traditional stuff out of the way (the shaking of hands, the introductions, etc.). And no surprise that President Obama starts off with recognition of Gabby Giffords, the congresswoman from Arizona shot in the tragedy of Tuscon.

8:13pm – Obama suggests that the Tuscon shooting reminds us that we are all part of the same country and suggests the true test isn’t whether we can sit together tonight (a chance for this SOTU, in the wake of Tuscon, is that R’s and D’s are sitting together rather than seperately as is custom) but rather whether we can “work together” tomorrow. Clearly a call for bipartisanship.

8:16pm – The “things are getting better” part of the speech…cites the stock market. But notes that jobs have lagged behind. Calls for work on jobs. Touts the tax cut extension from the Lame Duck session in December.

8:20pm – Definately hitting an optimistic tone here with the cheerleading of America’s economic leadership and small ‘d’ democratic leadership. This is what Carney was talking about.

8:25pm – Clear liberal argument here – we have government ‘investment’ in research in education to thank for new innovation that kept us competitive. Draws an analogy between the challenge of Sputnik (the Soviet satellite that beat America into space) and suggests that we must invest in “clean energy technology.” I’m not really buying it. Even with substantial government subsidies, the ‘green jobs’ that were supposed to materalize mostly haven’t.

8:27pm – You can’t force green energy technologies to be competitive…even if you subsidize them. If they don’t scale up (see solar, wind) or if they are impractical or overly expensive (electric cars), the market simply won’t favor those alternatives. Setting artifical goals won’t do anything other than waste money.

8:28pm – OK, now we’re on to education. He notes that we’ve fallen behind on some international measures of education abilities. Lecturing parents on emphasizing education…OK. But doesn’t give anything concrete on how you’re going to change this.

8:30pm – Talking about the “race to the top” program…I’m not really clear on what it does. Any call for new spending necessarily runs up against the fact that education spending has massively increased over the last few decades while scores have fallen. So is it a lack of funding that’s the problem?

8:33pm – He touts educational successes and calls for more good teachers…but again vague on what specific policy he is going to implement to encourage/ produce this result.

8:34pm – Defends and celebrates the decision by Dems to eliminate private student loans to go to college. Only Dems applaud this.

8:36pm – First real partisan issue, Obama argues in favor of immigration and calls for a bill to deal with “undocumented workers”…this is the amnesty bill. I suppose he has to make this point, but there’s no way amensty goes anywhere in the House.

8:38pm – Free internet, more railroads. Oh, and here comes the infrastructure argument. The first two are longtime liberal positions that haven’t gotten much traction. The infrastructure argument has been around every since the bridge collapse in Minnesota. Ah, first joke: the TSA patdown. Ha.

8:41pm – SOTU’s are too long.

8:41pm – A call to simplify the tax code and lower the corporate tax rate. Now there’s a ‘reach across the asile’ proposal and is along the lines of the 1986 tax code reform. A sucessful bill there could really help Obama’s reelection campaign.

8:43pm – Just a line on the free trade agreements. Clearly not a priority. Still, the nod in their direction is a good sign for the free-trade folks.

8:44pm – This is the “everything I passed in the last 2 years was great!” part of the speech. The financial regulation legislation, and, of course, Obamacare.

8:45pm – Obama comes out in favor of eliminating the ‘book keeping burden’ that R’s tried to pass last year…certainly a point of bipartisanship that will likely get passed. Obama says he isn’t willing to go back on the precondition part of Obamacare…but then Reps haven’t exactly come out and called for that.

8:46pm – This is going to be a real test for Obama. One of the advantages Clinton had in 94-96 was that his health care bill failed…he didn’t have to keep arguing over it. As is evident here, Obama is going to have to continue defending Obamacare and as such it will certainly be an issue in 2012.

8:47pm – Here is the “debt problem” part. Obama acknowledges it exists, he proposes a freeze of annual domestic spending. Not clear exactly on the specifics…though Obama did mention cutting spending in “community action programs” and military spending.

8:49pm – But Obama wants more spending on ‘education’ (though he calls it investment)…definately a point he’s going to class with Reps over.

8:50pm -His argument that Obamacare cuts Medicare and Medicaid is simply questionable. When you spend a ton more an health spending elsewhere by cutting a little out of the programs, you aren’t doing anything to bend the cost curve or cut spending on health care.

8:52pm – Calls for social security reform but asserts we can’t cut benefits and makes no mention of raising the retirement age, two reccomendations of the Debt Commission.

8:53pm – Call for ‘cutting fat’ and inefficiency out of the government. Always a popular idea (see Al Gore’s efforts in the 1990’s)…but the devil’s in the details. Still, a reorganization that actually cuts departments and makes the government more efficient will get significant Republican support. The question is whether Obama is serious abour real cuts and a real reorganization that slims the government. Time will tell.

8:56pm – Promises to veto bills with earmarks. Interesting, since the Dems have been very adamant about retaining these…even some Republicans have supported them.

8:57pm – Sure are a long way into the speech before he hit foreign policy. So far the tone is cheerleading, suggesting we’ve ‘restored’ our standing in the world and taking credit for ‘success’ in Iraq.

8:58pm – Strikes an optimistic tone on Afghanistan. Characterizing the war in Afghanistan as a continuation on the war on terror, though he doesn’t use that phrase.

9:00pm – Promises to bring the troops home in July…again with this deadline stuff. All indications are that we won’t be ‘bringing the troops home’ any time soon.

9:01pm – A bit of ra-ra on the START treaty.

9:02pm – Two sentences on Iran and North Korea. Not exactly a big priority here.

9:04pm – These next two paragraphs are reminiscient of George W. Bush’s SOTU’s…an emphasis on promoting freedom internationally (South Sudan, Tunisia).

9:07pm – Another bit of ra-ra, this time on the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But at the same time Obama levels a challenge to universities to permit ROTC on campus, something many liberal college campuses had forbidden ostensibly on the basis of the DADT policy.

9:08pm – Ah, now this is a neat part of the speech. A veiled hit on China, pointing out that our democracy, while messy, is preferable to nations where the central government can simply order something to be done. I wonder what Tom Freidman (a columnist who has often admired China for its ability to simply order things to be done) thinks about this. Ha.

9:09pm – Awwww, very nice. A couple of lines praising the new speaker and his rise from humble beginings “the kid from Scranton.” Positively Clintonian (in a good way).

9:11pm – Tells the story on how Americans helped with the rescue of the miners who were trapped for months. It was a “small company” that does “big things.” This is the theme for the later part of the speech. Doing “big things.” Again, the “national greatness” theme.

9:12pm The last line: “The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.” Certainly strikes an optimistic and forward-thinking tone.

Well, it was a pretty good speech as SOTU speeches go. Wasn’t as combatitive as the last SOTU as I recall, and it certainly had several tangible incidents of reaching out for bipartisanship. I think several of these items have a good chance of being passed in this Congress.

Next, the Republican Response.

Just an initial note on these responses, I’ve never thought they were a good thing, politically, for the opposition party. There’s no way to compete with the prestige of the president and the pomp and circumstance of the SOTU, especially with all the applause. The closest thing I’ve seen to getting close to that was last year when the new Republican governor from Virginia spoke from the well of the Virginia assembly (and had legislators there to applaud). This year’s response will be given by Paul Ryan, a member of the House…so we’re back to the closed room with no one else…the response-giver speaking to the camera. A stark contrast to the SOTU, no matter what the specifics or content of the response. Bad politics, IMHO.

9:25pm Ryan starts out acknowledging Gabby Giffords and expresses sympathy. Again, he’s in an empty room. I just think the ambience is a real political negative no matter what the content.

9:26pm Ryan says Reps want to work with Obama to cut spending and touts the House’s start on cutting and makes the argument that cuts are imperitive given the looming threat of crushing national debut.

9:29pm Ryan is spending most of his response laying out the case for a spending crisis and size of government crisis and the necessity for significant cuts in government spending through big budget cuts.

9:32pm Distinguishes Reps from Dems, labels Dems as tax and spenders and the consequences of that – record deficits and debts.

9:33pm Real contrast between the doom and gloom of Ryan’s case and the optimistic tone of Obama’s speech. However, while Obama had an optimistic tone, he also emphasized alot of problems…though most of those problems seemed to have a ‘more spending’ solution…though he didn’t say it specifically.

9:34pm Ryan’s argument is distinctly ideological. His limited government argument is right out of the conservative manifesto (if there is such a thing).

9:35pm Noticably absent: any mention of foreign policy or social issues.

9:36pm Ryan does hit a note of American greatness there at the end…but spent most of his talk arguing we’re on a train track that’s headed for a cliff. Not bad as responses go, but, again, the contrast in pomp and circumstance is evident.

Well, that’s it folks. Hope you enjoyed the SOTU coverage here at PoliSciPundit.

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