On Tuesday in our State of the Union pundit preview, we looked at all the talking heads offering President Obama yet more unsolicited advice. Now, as the instant reactions and morning-after columns settle in, it's becoming surprisingly clear that the President's speech — as uplifting and aggressive as it was wide-ranging and occasionally specific — may have actually satisfied our sample size of commentators across the issues. Here's your 2013 SOTU Pundit Accountability Index:
Pundit: Mark Halperin
What Did He Expect: a "semi-grand bargain."
Did He Get It? Not really. The President did touch on "the need for modest reforms" on Medicare — partly for the sake of avoiding the sequester — but that's not on the same scale Halperin was going for, and what Halperin was going for was a reach already. Obama told Congress to do its job, not to get along.
Pundit: Mona Charen
What Did She Expect: That Obama would chastise Congress for not getting more done.
Did She Get It? He pressured that Congress pass a number of bills he supports, and whether or not they will follow through remains unclear at best. (John Boehner was pretty stone-faced.) So, yes, to an extent. They didn't agree on anything else.
Pundit: Michael Tomasky
What Did He Expect: For Obama to get specific on new revenue.
Did He Get It? Nope.
Was He Satisfied? Yep:
My quick take: A very strong speech, better that most, an A-. The writing was prose, except for the "they deserve a vote flourish at the end," which was powerful, but the structure was very effective. I really liked the way he opened by diving right into the sequester (as I suggested!). The words weren't exactly the ones I'd have chosen, but it was good that he said--early, when everyone was still watching--that the Republicans are going to be the ones to blame if these cuts kick in.
Pundit: Lawrence Summers
What Did He Expect: The President would "embrace growth."
Did He Get It? Yes, the President said growth a lot. And everything was based on "growth." There were talks of spending cuts, sure, but it was all about growth without adding spending.
Pundit(s): Aaron Blake and Chris Cizzilla
What Did They Expect: Based on public opinion, Obama might be best off avoiding immigration reform altogether and putting more pressure on guns and ending the war in Afghanistan.
Did They Get It? Did you really think he was going to skip over a main agenda item for early in the second term? Obama actually pressed hard on Congress on immigration ("send it to me"), and also said, in a key moment, that guns "deserve a vote." The war in Afghanistan "will be over" by the end of next year, he said, with around 34,000 troops scheduled to return by around January 2014.
Were They Satisfied? More or less, except when it comes to the economy:
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.
Pundit: Bloomberg View editorial board
What Did They Expect: Obama would focus "on immigration, inequality and climate change."
Did They Get It? He pressure on immigration; urged Congress to pass the Violence Against Women and Paycheck Fairness Act; and asked for "bipartisan, market-based" climate change initiatives. A pretty easy three-run homerun for Bloomberg View.
Were They Satisfied? No, actually. They thought he could have done more:
At the same time, however, Obama had a way of pulling back, of making his ambitions seem less grand. This is easy enough to do when citing bipartisan commissions (we counted at least three references) and offering minor proposals (redesigning high schools “to better equip graduates for the demands of a high- tech economy”). It’s harder to do when making the case for the big issues.
Pundit: David Brooks
What Did He Expect: Obama should invest in the long-term by approving the Keystone pipeline; cutting corporate tax rates; relocating money from Social Security to other initiatives.
Did He Get It? Nope.
Pundit: Van Jones
What Did He Expect: The President should pressure action on climate change; abandon the Keystone pipeline.
Did He Get It? Yes; no.
Pundit: The New York Times editorial board
What Did They Expect: It's time for Obama to address electoral reform.
Did They Get It? The Times called this one, or Obama listened, or both. The President announced a new, non-partisan commission "to improve the voting experience in America."
Were They Satisfied? Their mood could be described as cynical at best:
What is required to move the country forward is political will, which has been missing for too long. While many of the president’s proposals were familiar, and will probably be snuffed out by politics, his speech explained to a wide audience what could be achieved if there were even a minimal consensus in Washington.
Pundit: Sen. Angus King
What Did He Expect: For the President to be aggressive toward Congress.
Did He Get It? He certainly pressured them to pass a lot of bills.
Pundit: Gerald Seib
What Did He Expect: Jobs needed to be the focus of the speech, with little bits about guns and immigration and secondary goals sprinkled throughout.
Did He Get It? It was a broad guess and he got broad answers. He nailed it.
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- President Obama