Wednesday, January 27, 2010


He did fine.  Of course he did; the State of the Union and other speeches to a Congressional Joint Session are among the easiest things that presidents ever do.  They have the wonderful setting; the built-in enthusiastic live audience; the poor opposition party, either going along (good for the president!) or looking churlish and partisan (good for the president!).  The SOTU does have the disadvantage of (by tradition) giving the laundry list of the president's agenda, which is, for ordinary Americans, presumably snooze city...but it has the advantage of being at a predictable fixed time, allowing the president's speechwriters the chance to work on it far in advance, and the president's political people to poll and focus-group test anything they're considering including.  Consequently, almost all presidents do well almost all of the time in their State of the Union speeches.  Hey, Woodrow Wilson (the guy who started the modern tradition of live SOTU speeches) may have been a moral monster, but he wasn't stupid.

On style points, I thought Obama was much better at the Joint Session format this time than in his previous two attempts.  I saw a lot of Clinton in him, this time, in his informal breaks in which he acted...don't know how to put on the joke, perhaps?  As I tweeted earlier, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that he watched one of Clinton's performances.

The newsiest bit to me -- and I watched it on CSPAN-2, and haven't seen anything other than a few people who were live tweeting -- was the prominent placement of DADT repeal.  Not exactly a surprise, since he's been leading up to it for a year now, but it was a clear signal that MA Senate isn't going to slow this one down.  I'm not quite there in predicting that DADT repeal will happen this year -- I have no idea where the votes are -- but I do think that it's on the agenda, so we're going to find out. 

On the rest, he did what he had to do on health care reform.  My guess is that the budget stuff was essentially unchanged by MA Senate; the White House has been talking about it for months, and really none of the proposals that dribbled out this week are very dramatic.  It was interesting that he endorsed legislative PAYGO, which was (presumably) purely for wonks and actual deficit hawks.  Other than that, I don't think there was a whole lot of news to be had.  On energy, he certainly threw plenty of bones to Republicans and dirty-fuel-state Democrats; if there's any hope for that one moving this year, it's going to have to be bipartisan, so he did what he needed to do.  Hey, policy people: is the GOP nuclear power fetish pretty much the equivalent of their missile defense fetish -- a totally useless policy that they've latched on to because it tests well in polls and delivers goodies to a GOP-aligned interest group? 

So, easy test, easily passed.  Now, back to the hard work portion of the presidency.

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