13 February 2013

President Obama's 2013 SOTU - an after-blog

(word cloud from the President's SOTU 2013)

Did not stay up last night in Germany to watch the SOTU live, so I taped it and am watching it now. I see that CNN was stupid enough to allow Newt Gingrich to be on it's pundit table, so it deserves what it gets hearing the crap he just loves to say. Sew = Reap.

5:59 PM, EDT: FLOTUS Michelle Obama has just entered the hall. A certain number of Supreme Court justices (Conservatives) are not present. Hadea Pendelton's mother is sitting next to the FLOTUS.

6:00 PM: Secretary of State John Kerry has just entered. The only Department Secretary not there, by law, is Steven Chu. The President's cabinet is now filing in.

You know, for a nation that wanted to shake off any forms of royalty, we sure do love our traditions that, in many ways, remind of royalty....

6:10 PM: the House Sergeant of Arms (Irving) announces: " Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States". Obama enters and "works the aisle". The President went out of his way to shake John McCain's hand. That is an interesting message. The President is greeting the Supreme Court Justices who are in attendance. He greets the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces.

6:14 PM: The President gives copies of the speech to both the Vice-President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) then introduces the President formally to the joint session of Congress. John McCain, Chuck Shumer and Graham are sitting together.

6:15 PM: The President begins his speech by referring to Kennedy's SOTU from 1962, where he said that "the Constitution makes us not rivals for power, but partners for progress".

As he mentions that war is winding down, large applause from the entire house.

As he mentions that 6 million new jobs have been created since the Great Recession began, the applause was less.

"Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis and we can say with renewed confidence that that State of our Union is strong". 

CNN pans in on Paul Ryan, failed Republican Vice-Presidential candidate from 2012, who looks very, very unhappy.

Obama makes a case for helping the middle-class.

6:20 PM: probably the core of all of this: 

"It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love. It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation."

He notes that American citizens expect the Congress and the Administrative branch to put their interests before party.


6:22 PM: Obama notes that the deficit has been shrinking. "We are more than halfway toward the goal of 4 Trillion dollars that experts say we need to stabilize our finances".

He speaks about the Sequester immediately, noting that it will hurt the military, education and cost jobs. 

His first real partisan shot was when he called out Conservatives for wanting to not cut the military budget but essentially gut everything else.

"We can't just cut our way to prosperity" -spending cuts and revenue.

"Already the ACA is helping to slow the growth of health-care costs"

Tom Coburn has a beard and is wearing new glasses, I think. He looks very unhappy. 

"We must keep the promises we have already made" - big applause.

Once again, Obama proposes cutting tax loopholes for the wealthy. Why do we hear this every year since I don't know when, but it never happens?

But I must say, Obama is really hammering the Republicans on this.

"Now is our best chance for comprehensive tax reform..." - applause from both sides of the aisle.

Al Franken, Diane Feinstein and Sherrod Brown are sitting together.

"None of us will get 100% of what we want, but the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on hard working americans...."

Core point number 2: 

"The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can't do it. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. " - huge applause from all over the house.

He mentioned his jobs act from 2012.

He mentions proposals that are fully paid for.

"Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.  It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."

He is asking the congress to support creating a network of 15 new high-tech hubs in the USA.


"Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy."..."Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.  Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. "

He moved to energy: 

"We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it.  We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen."

Obama is the first president to actually talk about combatting climate change.

"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late." - big, big applause.

"I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

Wow. Doesn't get much stronger than that.

"Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. "


"And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts.  I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings."

Big moment:

"Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. "

"Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.  Democrats and Republicans have supported it before.  What are we waiting for?  Take a vote, and send me that bill. "


"Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance."

Notice that Obama picked-out and praised two ruby-red states (GA, OK) for their efforts in pre-schooling. This makes it even harder for the GOPers in Congress to thumb their noses at the idea.

"Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so those German kids are ready for a job as soon as they finish High School. "

This is correct.

I cannot imagine any sane person could listen to what the President says about education and somehow disagree with it...

"Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.  And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck."

6:47 PM: The 600,000 pound elephant in the room: 


"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.  And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. (big, big, big applause)
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. (even Lindsay Graham applauded that one, amazingly...)
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done.  As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts.  Now let’s get this done.  Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away and America will be better for it. Let's get it done."

"Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  I urge the House to do the same."
Minimum Wage:
"Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.  We should be able to get that done. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families....So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."
(Paul Ryan now looks very, very unhappy)

Troop drawdown in Afghanistan:
"Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan.  This drawdown will continue.  And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over." (enormous applause)

Gays (and gays in the military):
"We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending.  We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.  We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. "

Voting problems:
"When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.  So, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America, and it definitely needs improvement.  And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it.  And so does our democracy."

"Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.
It has been two months since Newtown.  I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence.  But this time is different.  Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.  If you want to vote no, that’s your choice.  But these proposals deserve a vote.  Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton.  She was 15 years old.  She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss.  She was a majorette.  She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend.  Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration.  And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.  They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote."


"We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country.  We should follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez.  When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.
We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor.  When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours.  And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.  Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her.  Because Desiline is 102 years old.  And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”
We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy.  When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety.  He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.
When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”
That’s just the way we’re made.
We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us.  But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:
We are citizens.  It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status.  It describes the way we’re made.  It describes what we believe.  It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless these United States of America."

His  best SOTU to date. An effective SOTU, and full of much more substance than I have often heard at SOTUs.
The things that stuck out:
-no mention of the word "Iraq" - for the first time in 10 years.
-what a change 8 years make: in 2005, at Bush's 5th SOTU, no mention of immigration reform, not a word about gays, alone gays in the military.
-the great strength that Obama possesses is to unabashedly embrace a very liberal platform and describe in in a way that will cause most everyone to at least listen to it seriously.
-His oratory about Gun Control vis-a-vis Newtown is something the Right simply cannot combat, for american public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side on this issue.
-maybe someone should have told Ted Nugent that respectable people dress in a respectable fashion for a SOTU. What a shame that he decided to look like a slob, but hey, who am I to keep him from making a fool of himself? 

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