State Of The Union: Reactions, Analysis Of Obama's 2010 Address

Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address Wednesday night. Below is a roundup of analysis and reaction to the speech.

CBS News conducted an instant poll after the speech and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive:

83% of speech watchers approve of the proposals the president made in his speech tonight. 17% Disapprove.

Chris Bowers, at Open Left, however, thought Obama wasn't hard enough on banks:

President Obama declared that he was not interested in punishing banks. Why? He should be interested in punishing banks. They are the great villains of our time--crashing the economy, taking huge amounts of public money, refusing to make new loans anyway, and handing out huge bonuses while the rest of the country still suffers. If there is anyone who he should be punishing, it is banks.

Josh Green, at The Atlantic, thought it was a good speech, but without lasting impact:

I don't see this being any kind of pivot point, catalyzing event, or even a speech that will have a lasting impact. I think it's main effect will be to boost Obama's personal popularity, temporarily. But I don't think it does much to help his party, move his health care plan forward, or--quite--fix the big problem of his having an agenda that's been stopped flat by Republicans. But it did seem uniquely "Obama"--call it "populism with a smile."

Mark Ambinder, also of The Atlantic, concurs:

I think this speech helps Obama. Not sure if it helps his party.

Matt Yglesias also gave the speech positive marks while noting the difference between rhetoric and reality:

I thought it was just great. A reminder that Obama is fantastic at delivering formal speeches and has a fantastic speechwriting staff. The past twelve months are a reminder that giving fantastic set-piece speeches has limits as a political strategy. You drop out of speech mode into the realm of cold, hard vote-counting and I don't think anything's really changed in that regard.

Ezra Klein, at The Washington Post, agrees that it was "a good speech that needs a good follow-through", starting with health care reform:

It's hard to imagine voters buying Obama's narrative of progress and achievement unless they see, well, some progress and some achievements. Obama made a strong statement in favor of health-care reform, but he didn't call on the House to pass the Senate bill, or the Senate to pass modifications, or for any alternative path to be followed. Success here will be measured not in reactions to the speech, but in the outcome of the effort.

Michael Crowley, at The New Republic, says "overall, I find this to be a strong, fluid speech," but he isn't too impressed with the foreign policy aspects:

It took Obama about an hour to utter the word "terrorist." This is not a George W. Bush SOTU. I do think he glossed over the security gaps exposed by the underwear bomber a bit quickly, it felt like he didn't want to be talking about it at all. I find the foreign policy section a bit pat. Granted, Obama gave a long speech about Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. But he might have done more to weave his commitment into the Big Picture for America.

Laura Rozen, at Politico, has a similar reaction.

Was struck that the tone of the speech was much more upbeat, less faux populist, more confident, self-deprecating and wry, than expected. ... Also worth noting the seeming downgrading of foreign policy emphasis in the speech, and the filtering more of the foreign policy issues through the national security lens. A trend I imagine we'll see more of over the next year.

Chris Cillizza, at The Washington Post, looked at the speech in the context of the Massachusetts election:

Some of his most forceful lines came when he challenged the two parties in Congress to avoid cowardice or opposition for opposition's sake. To Democrats, Obama cautioned: "We have largest majority in decades and people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills." To Republicans: ""Just saying 'no' to everything may be good short term politics but it's not leadership." While the challenge to the GOP was interesting, Obama's message to his own party was more surprising. It's hard not to see it in the context of fears of a wave of Democratic retirements in the wake of the Massachusetts special election. The question: Does Obama still have credibility with this group of wavering Democrats after what has happened in the past year?

Speaking of Massachusetts, here's the official statement from newly elected senator Scott Brown:

"I was pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge that our economy must be a national priority and I applaud him for taking some important first steps. But putting America back to work requires bold action. Bold action means broad-based tax cuts for families and businesses to create jobs and not merely targeted tax relief. Bold action also means major reform and restructuring to actually cut spending and not just freeze it. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle on far-reaching new initiatives that will put our economy back on track and get our fiscal house in order."

Mike Tomasky, blogging at The Guardian, gives Obama a mixed review -- good on the economy and challenging Republicans, but less so on health care. But he still thinks the speech may have done him some good:

In the end the finest words in this long (one hour 11 minute) speech were three short ones that came right at the end. "I don't quit." That blunt talk is unusual for him. His supporters and those who basically like him but are waffling on him needed to hear that. So he's back in the fight. But what he needs now a legislative victory to follow up.

Andrew Sullivan expresses disappointment that Obama committed only to "working with Congress" toward repealing "Dont Ask, Don't Tell" but he concludes:

This was the president I supported and still support and will support because he alone is calling us away from the cynicism, the ideology, the rhetorical poison, and the red-blue divide that keep us from the reform we desperately need.

Chuck Todd also sees Obama striving to get beyond left and right:

There's a LOT in this speech that appears to be aimed at independents; lots of proposals various GOPers have made.

Jeff Zeleny, of The New York Times, also sees Obama courting independents, specifically with his discussion of spending:

The challenges facing the administration over spending were clear by watching the reactions of Democrats and Republicans. The president seemed to be trying to get ahead of the argument, saying that Democrats will decry cuts in spending as hurting those who need help the most. And Republicans will simply call for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The president all but thumbed his nose at Congress, saying: "Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new." With no applause, he quickly moved to his next line. "Let's try common sense - a novel concept." Even if he doesn't get his wish, did the message get delivered to independent voters?

Adam Serwer, at The American Prospect, however, sees Obama's rhetorical concessions to the right as merely a strategy for advancing liberalism:

The brief apologies the president has offered -- even the gimmicky spending freeze -- have not changed the leftward trajectory of his agenda: Obama wants to reform the health-care system, restore sanity to financial regulations, turn the economy around, repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, and bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a close. The speech was a nod to conservatism, but a case for liberalism, and conservatives recognize the difference.

Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, gave the official Republican response:

Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much. Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs 'immediately' and hold unemployment below 8%. In the past year, over three million Americans have lost their jobs, yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and grandchildren. The amount of this debt is on pace to double in five years, and triple in ten. The federal debt is already over $100,000 per household. This is simply unsustainable. The President's partial freeze on discretionary spending is a laudable step, but a small one. The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper, limited role of government at every level.