Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The First Post-Modern SOTU

I think the President really seemed like The President as in totally settled into the job tonight much more so than at his last State of the Union Address, and the whole thing had a completely different vibe. Gone was the sentiment of "You lie!" will the chamber completely integrated from the Presidential podium down to the Dems and GOPers completely intermingled -- if you don't believe me, check out this NY Times chart.

Building off of his incredible Tucson speech, President Obama was deft in finding issues that both sides could cheer for, but in a setting where no one side was in a contiguous bloc. It's the perfect extension of the theme he introduced at the 2004 Democratic National Convention -- purple America. Who would have imagined. So sad that it took the shooting of Rep. Giffords to do it, but it's been put to good use and, as if on cue, her condition has been upgraded tonight to "Good."

I happen to agree with the President on reforming malpractice lawsuits (and trust he won't go overboard in any one direction) and urging private universities to allow ROTC back on campus. It's a new age, an all-volunteer army, and college is more expensive than anyone imagined back in the post-Vietnam era. We need the smartest officers we can get, and I like the idea of my alma mater being represented in the new gay-friendly military.

And that was the forceful, audacious balance he found tonight. Celebrating his triumph of military inclusion, with the soldiers there from the top staring stoically ahead -- how could we all not be proud? America true to it's ideals.

His main success was in articulating a vision for America in the 21st Century -- identifying the "Sputnik" type threat and offering a clear vision for an economically evolved America. He touted the best parts of healthcare reform and undermined the GOP by making their way look like "going back to how it was" as if it was so many years ago, offering to fix what doesn't work -- the reasonable, sensible, forward-moving leader in the room.

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How could the Republican response(s) not look small in comparison. Especially because the chosen one, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WS) got unwelcome competition from Tea-Brainer Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), in her audacity of Sarah Palin-wannabee self-promotion.

Obama scored in the 80%'s on speech favorability in post-SOTU polling. As for Ryan, he reinforced my theory that today's Conservatives have taken over from the 1970's Liberal reputation for dealing entirely in unproven abstractions based on their own imagined notions -- per Jonathan Chait:

Obama framed every issue in specific terms -- here is a plan to improve education, here is a factory that is now growing due to my policy, here is a person who would suffer if we repeal health care reform. Ryan's speech existed almost entirely on the plane of abstraction. Obama's meta-theme was pitched straight at the center, while Ryan's was pure right-wing dogma.

As for Bachmann, John Amato has the best line:
Michele Bachmann was reading her short soliloquy on a teleprompter -- which she usually attacks Obama over -- but made a very bad technical mistake. It looked like she was speaking into the Tea Party camera and not CNN's, which gave it this freakishly creepy effect. Bad lighting and makeup didn't help her appearance either. If you saw it on CNN you wondered who she was talking to. Are you talking to me?

With Rep. Bachmann, hilarity always ensues.

If I were the GOP tonight I'd be as nervous about 2012 as they looked in the room. He's outplaying them like crazy. And he still has the veto. They can't just be the Party of No, they have to pass legislation...that he'll actually sign. That will even get through the Senate. They may screw around on the edges, but they've got to be looking at a resurgent 2012 incumbent and thinking about all those voters who he'll bring to the polls that didn't show up this past November.

If they pass any of the conservative items in his agenda, he gets to look bipartisan some more, reinforcing his core message. And to top it off they can't go on their wingy delegitimization -- dehumanization -- attacks in the post-Giffords environment.

The next two years -- bigtime Presidential politics, America. Strap in.

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