Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOTU impressions

I'm not sure I have that much to add to what others have already said about the president's speech.  Personally, I was impressed.  In some ways, that seems easy -- Obama rarely fails to deliver when a good speech is needed, and the SOTU environment is a pretty easy one to thrive in.  But my expectations had been lowered in the past two weeks by the White House's absurd over-reaction to Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts and by pre-speech hype which all focused on a bizarre spending freeze.  Obama more than met my lowered expectations; he actually delivered what was one of the better SOTUs I've seen.  I'd also add that this one was unusually fun to watch.  There was a lot of back and forth with the Congress.  The audience was lively, even occasionally abrasive, and Obama actually seemed to be having fun with it.

A few things stood out for me, mainly on the rhetorical side.  One was the lengthy, somber beginning, in which he went on for several minutes without an applause line explaining the causes and persistence of our economic woes.  Presidents are supposed to say that the state of the union is sound, even when it's not.  I was bothered when Bush opened his 2002 address by saying "the state of our union has never been stronger," even while we were mired in recession and war and while crews were still picking pieces of two of the world's tallest buildings out of a hole in lower Manhattan.  So I appreciated the departure from tradition here.  It seemed appropriate and useful.

And the closing of the speech was incredibly strong.  I liked this line:
Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That’s just how it is.
I've been annoyed when politicians -- Obama included -- describe partisanship as something akin to bad manners, as though there weren't sincere policy beliefs behind it.  Tonight, Obama said that partisanship is something to be expected.  It's supposed to be this way.  He didn't quite say it, but it's a sign of a healthy democracy.

1 comment:

Dusty said...

well said, smotus.

let's see how these next days and weeks pan out. the last 1/4 of the speech was brilliant and will hopefully help change the tone for now (i'm not naive enough to think the tone in washington, to use a trite phrase, can ever actually be changed) as the majority grapples with where it goes with health insurance reform and other domestic priorities.