Okay, first of all, whose brilliant idea was it to have the State of the Union speech on Fat Tuesday?
I didn’t watch the speech live. Not that I was out Mardi Gras-ing, or anything. I just kind of spaced until after it was over. I’ve gotten so in the habit of watching podcasts for news coverage (Countdown and the Rachel Maddow Show, natch) that I don’t turn the TV on anymore…and most of the time, I don’t miss anything except a few commercials with this approach.
So I kind of blew it last night, and missed Obama’s SOTU.
Fortunately, everything is available on the internets these days, so I can watch the speech and Jindal’s response in the comfort of my favorite coffee shop. Following are my thoughts on his speech, in more or less chronological order, along with a few quotes so that the comments aren’t arriving in a vacuum:
- Okay, did he just say hello to every single person in the chamber before taking his place at the podium? Also, did the Shrub get a standing ovation just for being presented the last couple of SOTUs he gave? I think I would have remembered that…
- Jeez, could Hillary’s suit possibly be a more vivid color?
- Also, somebody needs to explain to Nancy Pelosi that she is also on camera during these speeches and needs to not mess with her hair.
- A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.” Yeah, Dubya, he’s talking to you.
- Let the record show that when President Obama said, “And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law,” the Republican half (oops, sorry, significantly less than half) of the chamber sat on its hands, while the Democratic side gave itself a standing ovation.
- “And that’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.” Okay, that’s a sound bite that’s going to end up in the history books…
- “Already, we’ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we’ve done in the last decade.” Not that that’s difficult to have done, since Dubya and his minions did exactly nothing on the health care reform front, beyond adding a Medicare drug benefit that was written by Big Pharma. Oh, and vetoed SCHIP every chance it got…which is why the Obama administration can claim to have done so much.
- Forty three minutes after his introduction before he actually says the word “Iraq”, and then only to talk about the no-bid contracts there… okay, granted I am radically opposed to those contracts and the Halliburtons and Blackwaters running around that country acting in our name on cost-plus contracts (anyone who’s seen my reviews of the movie War, Inc., and my comments on Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine knows my position on this). Just seems like he should be talking about Iraq and Afghanistan more than this…
- “We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.” Hallelujah! I had a HUGE argument a few years back with a friend who does business consulting who took a gig on behalf of an Indian company trying to get American jobs. His rationalization was that he was helping American corporations operate more efficiently, and couldn’t see or didn’t care that he was sending American jobs overseas. Or maybe he just wanted to remain in denial… (Are you reading this, my friend? You know who you are…)
- Okay, this is amusing. At the part of his speech where Obama reveals that families making less than a quarter million a year won’t see their taxes go up a dime, all the Democrats in the chamber stood up right away, but initially the people on the Republican side of the chamber remained seated. Then it apparently occurred to some of them that staying seated on this point might not look real good to all the less well-off citizens who vote against their financial interests in supporting the Republican party, and some of them started standing up, too. Out of touch much, Repubs? Remember, if it were just the rich people voting for you, you’d maybe have four or five congressmen and a senator or two…maybe.
- Ooh, another mention of Iraq and Afghanistan, this time in connection with the budget. They’re including the “full cost” of fighting these conflicts in the budget, instead of doing supplemental things that make it harder to track how much the government is spending…very nice. “For seven years, we’ve been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.” Yeah, Bush, he’s talking to you…again…
- Ah, 46 minutes into a 58 minute speech, finally we get to actually ending the war in Iraq: “Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.” Yay!
- “And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Quaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.” Um, sorry, does this mean we’re going to be fighting Pakistan, too? Aren’t they ostensibly one of our allies? Or is he just talking about launching raids into the remote areas of Pakistan where the government really doesn’t have any power?
- At least he is doing more than just mouthing platitudes about “supporting the troops” and talking about DOING things to help them out: increasing pay, increasing recruiting, and expanding health care benefits for vets. That’s something…
- And 49 minutes in he mentions closing Gitmo, “…because living our values doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment here tonight.” Yeah, that’s aimed at you again, Duhbya…
- “New era of engagement”…”cannot shun the negotiating table” … “lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors”…Groovy
- And of course, something inspiring to close on: “I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far. There are surely times in the future where we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. I know that. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground. And if we do, if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then some day, years from now, our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, ‘something worthy to be remembered.’” Very nice.
This wasn’t nearly as much fun as blogging Bush’s SOTUs, which were so damn mockable…still, it’s a nice change having a president who is capable of speaking without completely mangling the English language. Which is actually damning with faint praise – Obama is one hell of a public speaker.
Jindal’s response next…