Instant Reactions to Obama's State of the Union Address

The Atlantic Wire

Although we already knew a lot of Obama was going to say in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, critics didn't waste a second to pounce on the president when he said it. The speech spanned from jobs and economic recovery to immigration and cyber security, opening up President Obama to all kinds of gripes. He also floated the idea of universal pre-kindergarten education programs, an idea that's hard not to like or realize how historic it would be if it actually passed. Everyone loved seeing Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old woman who waited six hours to vote a couple of months ago, sitting up in the gallery. Nobody seemed impressed when John Boehner failed to stand up and applaud her. There's always a strange theater to these speeches, though, and this year, the boos and applause took the form of tweets and blog posts that hit the web with extreme speed almost as soon as Obama said, "God bless the United States of America." We've collected some of the more thoughtful musings below.

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The consensus seems to be that it was a pretty good speech. It wasn't the most amazing speech that Obama's ever given, and it certainly wasn't the most disappointing. It was enough, however, to woo the rascally Andrew Sullivan, who wrote that attention-grabbing Newsweek cover story just over three months ago. He wrote on live blog Tuesday:

Now we're really into Reagan territory. The 102 year-old is pretty damn amazing. And, yes, it is a national scandal that she had to wait six hours to vote. Then a heroic cop. "That's just the way we're made." I have to say that even to these jaundiced ears, that peroration moved me. The passion, the reason, the sincerity: this was an invigorated president, trying to shift the mood away from zero-sum partisanship to non-zero-sum citizenship. It's what we always hoped from him, and I think it places the Republicans in a horrible bind.

Howard Kurtz, Sullivan's former coworker at NewsBeast, described his satisfaction with the speech more simply — that is, without using the word "peroration." Kurtz also pointed out how the president was almost overshadowed by the Dorner manhunt:

Still, the president delivered a well-paced, energetic, and substantive address. And while he glided across other pressing issues—notably immigration, climate change, and Afghanistan—its emotional heart was an appeal to viewers who are far more concerned about their bank accounts.

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post described Obama's speech simply as ambitious:

It’s often the case that candidates are more ambitious than presidents. But Obama’s second term is showing precisely the reverse progression. The speech went much further than Obama’s 2012 Democratic convention speech. There, his address was notable mainly for how modest the policy proposals were. Here, his speech was notable for the sweeping nature of the proposed changes. Obama’s agenda hasn’t been this bold since 2009.

Chris Cilizza demanded more specifics at his Washington Post blog, The Fix:

Yes, the bulk of the speech — in terms of words spoken — dealt with the economy. And, yes, he urged Congress to avert the sequester and not shut the government down at the end of next month. But the devil, as always, is in the details and Obama didn’t offer many of them. With Republicans already on record as opposed to any attempt to bypass the sequester, it’s hard to see how the Congress finds a way to do so. Yes, President Obama talked about the economy. But it’s hard to say he moved the debate forward. At all.

John McCain was not pleased, however, and got on the president's case for not drawing more attention to the Middle East. "Disappointed but not surprised by the President's failure to seriously address the issue of 60,000 dead in #Syria," the senator tweeted.

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