State of the Union

01.24.12

Daily Beast Contributors Weigh In on Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address

In his State of the Union address, Obama pitched tax reform, defended American exceptionalism—and made his case for a second term. Howard Kurtz, Eli Lake, and more on whether the president’s rhetoric was enough.

How Obama Blew It
by Peter Beinart

This was not the speech we’ve been waiting for. From Mitt Romney to Newt Gingrich to Glenn Beck, the conservative assault on Barack Obama comes down to this: Unfettered capitalism is true Americanism. Obama’s efforts to use government to make American capitalism more stable and more just constitute an alien imposition, hatched in foreign lands, and designed to make us less free.

Obama will either effectively answer that charge, or he will lose reelection. And he did not do so Tuesday night. Yes, he talked about government efforts to help improve American manufacturing, American education, American energy policy. But he did not use those proposals to make the essential broader point: that vigorous government does indeed represent true Americanism, because democratic government is the mechanism through which Americans come together to solve problems they cannot solve alone.

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President Obama’s Lofty Laundry List on Display
by Howard Kurtz

President Obama, all but shoved offstage during the Republican primary craziness, had a rare opportunity to grab the spotlight Tuesday night and attempt to answer a question at the heart of his reelection effort:

Just what does he want to do with another four years?

An election-year State of the Union is a tricky assignment, given that a divided Congress is unlikely to accomplish squat and the incumbent is already under daily assault by those who want his job. So as the halftime act between a pair of Newt-and-Mitt debates, Obama’s challenge was to sketch his vision of the future and rekindle some of the excitement he generated in 2008.

This laundry-list speech was an aggressive attempt, and Obama was savvy to lead off with Iraq and close with a moving recitation of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

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Obama's Re-Election Address
by David Frum

Last night's State of the Union address by President Obama put me very much in mind of a line from the movie Wag the Dog. A Hollywood producer has arrived to help the president of the United States with a major speech. The producer shows the draft to the president's chief of staff. She replies hesitatingly: "It's sort of corny."


The producer explodes: "Corny? Corny?! Of course, it's corny!"

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Obama’s Just Another Clinton
by Andrew Sullivan
 
I was hoping for a vision. I was hoping for real, strategic reform. What we got was one big blizzard of tax deductions, wrapped in a populist cloak. It was treading water. I suspect this will buoy liberal spirits, but anger the right and befuddle the independents. It definitely gives the Republican case against Obama as a big government meddler more credibility. I may be wrong—but the sheer cramped, tedious, mediocre micro-policies he listed were uninspiring to say the least.
 
We voted for Obama; now we find we got another Clinton. The base will like this. I'm not sure independents will. As performance, he did as well as he could with the thin material he had in his hands. As a speech, I thought it was the worst of his SOTUs, when he really needed his best.

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6 Worthy Policy Ideas From Obama’s Speech
by John Avlon

President Obama’s election year State of the Union address was attacked in pre-buttals from the Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress alike. But there were thoughtful moments and policies with bipartisan potential that deserve attention beyond the predicable partisan spin. Yes, there were plenty of contentious election year policy contrasts—especially a minimum tax on people making more than $1 million a year. And deficit reduction, unfortunately, was almost entirely absent from the speech.

But Obama presented six policies that are worth a serious look from both parties, even in an election year. Action on some of them might just help raise Congress’s approval rating from its current low.

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Obama Stresses Nation Building at Home Over Nation Building Abroad
by Eli Lake

Historians will likely study the Arab Spring for decades, but President Obama began framing the upheaval in the Middle East in his State of the Union tonight. He said, “As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo, from Sana to Tripoli.”

That phrase implies that the American exit from Iraq, a war that President Bush had hoped would birth the modern Arab world’s first democracy, has given way to a new era marked by the fall of dictators.

Republicans will likely point out that until this fall, the United States had been negotiating for a small U.S. military presence to remain in Iraq. But the broader point is clear. In a speech in which Obama got applause for promising to do more “nation building at home,” nation building abroad is no longer a U.S. priority.

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Obama’s State of the Union Was Strong on Substance, Weak on Poetry
by Michael Tomasky

Grade: B. It was . . . a good speech. The big newsmaker is the new definition of the “Buffett Rule,” that people who make $1 million or more a year should pay at least 30 percent in taxes. And it’s fairly clear who this was aimed at: “When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich.  It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference” (hint: he released two years’ worth of tax returns yesterday and paid around 14 percent). Obama was tough on the banks, a little tougher than I’d expected. And I was surprised to hear him mention some “process issues” and call for votes on presidential nominees in 90 days. But just mentioning that in passing isn’t enough; he needed to explain to people what Republicans were doing if he wanted that part of the speech to lead to action and follow-up, and he didn't do that.

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