1) Obama seemed to have contracted Reich's Disease, the annoying affect of lecturing to his audience as if they were schoolchildren in the manner of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. He dropped this attitude as the speech wore on, then recontracted it for the closing paragraphs. Note: It's even worse for Obama to lecture than for other politicians to do it, since the reason he is unlikable (to people like me) is that he seems stuck up.
2) Civility is boring! Who knew? It was way more invigorating when people cheered and shouted "You Lie!" Next time, rigorously separate the parties and give them cheerleaders with megaphones. Yes, boring SOTUs sometimes play well with the electorate. But what about the people who have to cover them?
3) Tactfully leaves out cheap unskilled labor as an explanation of other countries' competititveness.
4) Nuclear power: it's back (still).
5) Obama's earmark veto threat seems ill advised, since he will probably have to eat it. This will be the Beltway CW, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.
6) REGO is back! "Reinventing Government," that is:
In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote—and we will push to get it passed.
Here is a sponge that can soak up Washington's excess legislative energy while the administration in effect marks time as it waits for the employment rate to rise and the health-care law to take effect. It seems like stall tactic—hard to believe the Obama White House really cares about reorganization. But it's a peculiar kind of stall tactic, since it's also what we Californians call a "juice bill," highly effective at squeezing campaign donations from every corporation or interest group that might be threatened if its pet agency gets reorganized. And that's a lot of interest groups. Maybe contributing to Obama's reelection campaign—or not contributing to one of the Republicans' new independent expenditure campaigns—will encourage the Obamans to look after you! In short, this seems like Kabuki legislation for a post–Citizens United world, in which Democrats need to deter and intimidate the businesses that otherwise might spend money opposing them. It doesn't really matter if the reorganization bill will pass—and Obama's last line ("we will push") suggests it won't. The threat is what will get the juice flowing, and employ half of K Street. Then Obama is happy and the lobbyists are happy. Win-win. But maybe I'm too cynical.
7) In the big Social Security paragraph, Obama said:
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. [Emphasis added]
The line about "slashing benefits" would seem to rule out "means-testing"—i.e., cutting the checks of the well-off. Maybe Obama wants to be forced into it, but it's hard to see another way to wring massive savings from Social Security in order to finance universal health care.