Home > Political > “Liveblogging” the State of the Union

“Liveblogging” the State of the Union

January 29th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

An actual “Liveblog” is a running commentary of a major event as it happens. I can’t really do that because I live in Europe, and being 6 hours ahead of Washington I don’t really feel like waiting up until the wee hours of the morning to watch primetime events live. I just watch them online the next day, then write about them when I get a chance. I don’t have much to say overall about the President’s first state of the union speech, so I thought I’d simply have a little fun and do a running commentary of my own that can hopefully be enjoyed even by people who didn’t see the speech.

I’ll post noteworthy quotes when I feel an urge to respond to them, and when I’m responding to something visual (like Republicans applauding or not applauding) I’ll try to make that clear.

Full disclosure: I already watched the speech once and took in some commentary, so some of my opinions are influenced by other bloggers, pundits, and columnists. But in most cases I’m writing the immediate reaction I had the first time around.

[re: the stimulus] Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted, immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

You lie! Things may get better in the short term, but there’s just going to be another storm because you’re not doing anything to prevent it.

[re: the American spirit] It’s because of this spirit — this great decency and great strength — that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.

The first applause line. Apparently everybody loves hope.

Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit.

You lie! Yes we do. Have you never even watched cable news?

[re: the bank bailouts] But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular – I would do what was necessary.

Then why don’t you?

To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest banks. I know Wall Street isn’t keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

Apparently republicans don’t like the idea of paying back taxpayers for rescuing the banks.

Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

Apparently republicans don’t like tax cuts either. And Obama calls them out, saying “I thought I’d get some applause there.” John Boehner is amused.

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

Republicans are standing now. Everyone likes jobs. Or at least everyone likes pandering to the unemployed.

[re: job creation] We should start where most new jobs do – in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.

Lifted directly from every one of Bush’s speeches. And Clinton’s. And Bush Sr.’s. And Reagan’s…actually every speech by every president in history.

[re: infrastructure] There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

You lie! There is a damn good reason—their governments actually do stuff.

And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it’s time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America.

Also lifted from every State of the Union address ever given.

[re: the jobs bill] Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. They will.

You lie! They won’t, and they know it.

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China’s not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany’s not waiting. India’s not waiting. These nations aren’t standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place.

If these other nations jumped off a bridge, should we do that too?

The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.

Hah! You’ll sign anything they manage to deliver to you, and you know it. Luckily for you, they won’t be able to deliver anything.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.

Yeah! Drill baby drill! Clean coal (which is utter bullshit)! Wahoo!

[re: global warming] But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.

Why? Why not let some other nation lead the global economy for awhile? Our recent track record hasn’t exactly been fantastic.

[re: free trade] And that’s why we will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.

This time, only republicans are standing. That could only mean this is a bad idea.

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants.

Now the republicans are sitting on their hands. I guess they’re opposed to kids being able to afford college.

And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform.

Republicans, as expected, are not in favor of health care reform…wait…oh now they’re standing. I guess someone finally realized how bad they’re making themselves look.

Now let’s be clear – I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.

You lie! You behaved exactly as though you were just trying to earn a legislative victory. Otherwise you would have actually fought to get a good bill.

And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make our kids healthier.

Damn, there are some angry vibes coming from that woman. She really seems to hate her husband now. That was quick. I didn’t think Hillary started hating Bill until a few years into his presidency. Can’t blame her though. She knows more than anyone in that room just how empty his words are.

[re: health reform] Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.

Well, that’s music to my ears. But why aren’t you explaining it now? We’re listening.

But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. I’m eager to see it.

Actually, I think I remember a guy who had a much better approach than the one currently on the table in Congress. I think he ran for president back in 2008. What was his name? Oh yeah…Barack Obama.

So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight. At the beginning of the last decade, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.

Republicans also hate being confronted with the fact that America existed before January 20, 2009.

[re: spending $1 trillion for economic recovery] I am absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I’m proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year. Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years.

This is the stupidest idea in the speech, designed to pander to the uninformed independent who doesn’t understand the difference between a family budget and a government budget. The only way you get out of a recession is to spend your way out. A spending freeze didn’t work under Hoover, it didn’t work under FDR, and it didn’t work under any other president during any other recession. This is a cheap political gimmick that won’t have any positive effects.

It won’t win any republican support, as whenever the president moves to the right they just move the goal-posts. It certainly won’t help the economy recover. The only thing it will do is give the conservatives the ammunition they need to go on pretending that fiscal restraint is the right approach to an economic recession, in spite of all the economists who say otherwise and all the historical evidence to the contrary. Obama should have been explaining why the government needs to spend money in a recession, but instead he’s just conceded the argument to the side he knows is wrong, purely for the sake of a gimmick that won’t help him politically anyway.

I know that some in my own party will argue that we cannot address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger.

Some laughter in the chamber, which is appropriate. The economy may be a bit stronger next year but not enough to justify a spending freeze.

Oh, but they’re probably laughing because they think he should start the freeze this year. Obama responds with a “That’s how budgeting works.”

Even stronger laughter, though I’m not sure from whom or why. Are they democrats laughing back at the republicans who didn’t seem to understand that you plan a budget a year in advance? Or are they republicans laughing at how naïve that line made him seem? “Look mommy, I know how budgeting works!”

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new. Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let’s meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let’s try common sense. A novel concept.

Did the president just give props to Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck?

That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why – for the first time in history – my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.

You lie! Lobbyists are still writing policy. They wrote most of the health reform bill.

And it’s time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.

Okay, that was awesome at least. The president chastises the Supreme Court (rightly so) directly to their faces while they’re sitting a few feet away from him! I find out later that Justice Samuel Alito was mouthing the words “Simply not true” in quasi-Joe Wilson fashion!

Okay, Sam, it’s not true? What exactly is not true about it? Please, I’d like you to explain exactly why you aren’t responsible for handing the entire United States government over to giant profit-seeking corporations on a silver platter. I really want to hear you explain that to me.

I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform.

Pandering to the McCain voters now. Why didn’t we just vote for him?

Now, I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era.

You lie!

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent – a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.

Yes, absolutely. Look at the republicans sitting there smiling knowing that’s exactly what they’re doing and that they have no intention of stopping.

The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators.

The republicans are sitting on their hands to indicate that they are totally in favor of holding up the confirmation of well-qualified public servants for the sake of political grudges.

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government. So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics.

And you will not stop failing miserably in doing so.

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills.

Democrats applaud, apparently not in favor of running for the hills. This indicates a major shift in strategy for them.

And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.

Republicans remain seated to indicate that they are in favor of practicing short-term politics that serve their own ambitions at the expense of citizens. They get points for honesty.

[re: national security] So let’s put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough. Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let’s leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future – for America and the world.

That ought to convince Dick Cheney.

We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.

You lie! Or to put it another way: Simply not true. Maybe most combat troops will come home but there will be troops there and military contractors for a long, long time.

[re: the troops] And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home.

Ooh, pandering to the troops. That’s politically risky.

That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.

He’s channeling Bush again.

This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.

You will? I’d like to see that. Honestly. Even if you are just pandering.

We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws – so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work. And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.

Pandering to women and pandering to xenophobes in the space of two sentences!

Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit. These aren’t Republican values or Democratic values they’re living by; business values or labor values. They are American values.

Oh man. China called. They’re missing a Pander-Bear (zing).

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions – our corporations, our media, and yes, our government – still reflect these same values.

You l…actually you’re totally right. I wonder why we’ve lost our faith…

I campaigned on the promise of change – change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change – or at least, that I can deliver it.

No shit. I guess this is the part of the speech that was focus-tested on disillusioned progressives like me.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

Thanks for explaining your strategy like that.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going – what keeps me fighting – is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism – that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people – lives on.

Man, you almost had me. I was almost ready to give you some credit and line up behind you to support your agenda. Then you went and turned it back into more ass-kissing of “the American people”.

[re: the American spirit again] It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, “None of us,” he said, “…are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail.”

Does every president think every American is a small business owner?

We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don’t quit. I don’t quit. Let’s seize this moment – to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

Great, I’m ready. So what do we need to do? You told us what you want to do, but you still haven’t called on the people who supported your candidacy to get behind you and stand up and fight the powers-that-be. All you did was propose small-ball legislation that, if you keep governing as you’ve been governing, will end up getting so compromised and watered down as to be completely ineffective.

Most importantly, you’re still doing your whole “There are not Red States and Blue States” schtick, speaking the language of bi-partisanship even though you know full well that genuine, constructive bi-partisanship is hopeless in today’s political climate. You refuse to take a stand on anything that might make anyone angry (except Sam Alito) and try to keep winning with the same playbook that got you elected: be as vague as possible about your own convictions so that everyone can just project their own political beliefs onto you.

Well, that won’t work anymore. You really have to pick a position and fight for it. There was nothing in this speech to indicate that you would.

Don’t get me wrong—it was a brilliant speech from a rhetorical standpoint, and you delivered it masterfully. You’re a really likable guy, way more comfortable to watch than W and almost everything you say—also unlike W—is something I agree with. I just no longer believe that you have a real desire to back up these words with actions.

I could be wrong. Maybe you really are going to undergo a course-correction and really turn things around this year and start fighting. Then I’ll take back all my “You lie”s and start writing about what a great president you are.

But this speech sounded only like you have people working for you who watch the news, who read the blogs, who talk to people from across the political spectrum and know what they’re thinking, and speech-writers who know how to seamlessly blend the cares and concerns of everyone into one coherent message. On the one hand, I suppose that’s the nature of a State of the Union speech, so I can’t really blame you for that. But on the other hand, you ran on a platform of Change, so you have to expect to be called out when what you deliver is simply more of the same.

In conclusion, if you’re really telling me that Change is coming, that the economy is turning the corner and the middle-class will rise again, that health care reform will finally be delivered, that we’re going to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that we’re going to break the stranglehold of major financial institutions on our government, I have two words for you.
(Hint: one of those words begins with a Y, and the other with an L)

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.