It's late and I won't say much about the State of the Union right now, but my first impression is that I'm pretty pleased with President Obama's performance, and eager to see how it will play out in the polls over the next few weeks. The president sounded conciliatory but tough - a good balance for the public to see, but the president will have to be willing to play hardball with recalcitrant Democrats behind closed doors if he wants to get anything done in 2010. He'll have to completely ignore Republicans and move on without them, which is, ironically, the best way to get them to turn around and cooperate when they see they have suddenly become irrelevant. A good resource for specific themes in this address is Tom Shaller on fivethirtyeight.com.
I think my favorite lines in the whole address were President Obama's chastisement of Congress - he spoke of the Senate in particular, and he did not spare Democrats his frustration, which is good when the American public is similarly frustrated with Democrats. He repeatedly pointed out that the House already passed items on his agenda, but the Senate - where Democratic majorities are stronger - has failed to move on practically anything, which is partially due to Republican obstructionism and more to do with Democrats being hesitant and ineffective.
But President Obama directly addressed Republicans, too, by mentioning that if they are going to use their meager 40 seats in the Senate as some kind of mandate, then they are part of the government too and need to take ownership of the country. By this point Republicans had already heckled the president - condescendingly and, in my opinon, in a way that was not fitting of the event - and needed to be told off. He could have been harsher in those cases, but I think he shamed them in a smooth way, and in any case maybe their rudeness will embolden President Obama into being less concilliatory himself.
I'll be interested to see how the snickering and pouty faces Republicans made through most of the speech play in the media over the next few news cycles - they were so out-of-it that they didn't even stand and clap when President Obama first mentioned cutting the capital gains tax for small businesses, which has been a Republican issue for ages.
Even moreso, I'll be interested to see just how many points President Obama upticks in the polls after this - I expect it to be more than a couple but less than a complete game-changer (I expect to see him around 53 - he'll get back the people who voted for him). I'm very pleased to see him taking ownership of the way the last year has gone and pleased to see exactly how he expresses his view of his mistakes and others'. Here's to hoping the next few weeks are full of action and that a forceful White House can light a fire under congress to do something meaningful in 2010.
Did you watch Obama's first State of the Union Address?
How did your interest in this year's State of the Union relate to your interest in others?
Rhetorically, how did the speech strike you?
How did this year's State of the Union influence your opinion of the President?
In terms of substance, how do Obama's plans for 2010 strike you after the speech?
How did President Obama's comments towards the Democrats in congress strike you?
How did President Obama's comments towards the Republicans strike you?
When you watch or read about Obama's State of the Union, which perspectives do you take? (select the ones that dominate your view)
Tell me something you would change about the speech
Last question: What did you think of the Republican response?