SOTU By Morning

These speeches are always wish lists but last night’s seemed even more so than usual. After watching clips of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, where Republicans were taking turns intimating that a former Republican Senator was a secret mullah at worst, and a fellow-traveling closet Muslim at best, and after witnessing what it takes to get the House to agree to anything, the notion that any of what Obama proposed during that speech will do anything but die in committee is hard to swallow.

But I will say that the last few minutes, where he mentioned guns and voting, two issues where well over two-thirds of the population agree that something must be done, were pretty well done political theater. John Boehner looking like his piles were acting up, and refusing to applaud a hundred year-old lady who waited in line hours to vote, were just what Obama and his team wanted us to see. And a gallery full of victims of gun violence, including the police officer who was shot 15 times, juxtaposed with gun nut Ted Nugent also sent a pretty good message, as did Obama’s request for a vote on the gun legislation.

I have no idea what “regular people” think of these speeches, but if they stayed tuned until the end, they got another dose of the key Democratic message: the country will get nothing that it needs from Republicans. We’re always complaining about Democratic messaging but I thought the last 10 or so minutes of that speech were top-notch, especially when judged against other State of the Union addresses.

54 replies
  1. 1
    Robin G. says:

    I agree that he’s probably not going to get anything he asked for, but what else is he supposed to do? “Y’all are assholes aren’t going to give me a thing, so there’s really no point to this speech. Let’s watch this herd of puppies on YouTube instead.”

    Last night’s speech was about the 2014 midterms. Obama talked about a lot of awesome things and then laid it at the doorstep of the Republicans. When they don’t pass even the simplest, most popular measures, the campaigns are made.

  2. 2
    JPL says:

    Just a couple of quick thoughts.
    Lindsay Graham looked confused when Obama mentioned the NY City high school that graduates student who are prepared for a job. Maybe he is more concerned about education in Benghazi.
    Boehner hates these things but why not stand when the President said he was bring the troops home. Doesn’t he care about our men and women in uniform?
    The last ten minutes of the speech on voting and gun control will be remembered. The repubs are planning on putting a poison pill in any bill that mentions gun control though.

  3. 3
    nancydarling says:

    A genius did the seating assignments for the SotU.

    Next to Nugent is Thomas Lauderdale, pianist, founder of the band, “Pink Martini”. He supports progressive causes with his music—among them the Occupy movement.

  4. 4
    Chyron HR says:

    And a galley full of victims of gun violence, including the police officer who was shot 15 times, juxtaposed with gun nut Ted Nugent

    The joke’s on you, libs. Everybody knows that devout ammotheists like Ted Nugent are the real victims of gun violence.

  5. 5
    Napoleon says:

    I didn’t watch, but curious, did any of the coverage mention the visit the Secret Service made to Nugent? When I heard he was invited it occured to me what a gift that could be to Dems if it basically gave the press an opening to mention how gun nuts are nuts.

  6. 6
    dr. bloor says:


    Lindsay Graham looked confused when Obama mentioned the NY City high school that graduates student who are prepared for a job.

    He’s to be forgiven–he’s from South Carolina. He’s unfamiliar with the concept of kids graduating high school, and particularly with the concept of an employable graduate.

  7. 7
    bcinaz says:

    I liked the way he backed up some of the ‘wish list’ by giving notice that he would use his Executive Power to get done what he could.

    Next year, I hope he explains to the rest of us what every Southern politician knows – the real causes and effects of Nullification.

  8. 8
    drew42 says:

    John Boehner looking like his piles were acting up,

    That’s exactly what I was thinking, and not even as a joke. He looked like he was in mild physical pain throughout, and had trouble sitting still. Either something was wrong, or Boehner’s grinding hatred of Obama has festered to the point that he can’t control himself anymore.

    Also, at least on my TV, Biden had coal-black eyes with zero whites showing. Kind of freaked me out.

  9. 9
    Donut says:


  10. 10
    General Stuck says:

    Last night you saw Barack Obama, community organizer, everyman liberal. You saw and heard the man expose himself for who he is, uninhibited by the possibility of mitigation needed for applied politics. It was Obama the person, and what he personally believes and cares about. I would say to some, told you so, but won’t.

  11. 11
    japa21 says:

    He had warned the GOP leading up to the first fiscal cliff issue, “Be nice, or I will expose you for the rotten, descipable thugs that you are.” (I was told those were his exact words by a friend of a friend of a cousin of someone who was in DC at the time.) For him, who always believes that an iron fist should be in a velvet glove, both the inaugural speech and the SOTU were doing just that.

  12. 12
    Amir Khalid says:

    Is there video of the SOTU address anywhere?

  13. 13
    nancydarling says:

    @Amir Khalid: You can get it at C-SPAN, Amir.

  14. 14
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @nancydarling: I saw him there (I’m a big fan) and wondered who invited him?

  15. 15
    nancydarling says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Probably a Rep or Senator from Oregon since Lauderdale is based in Portland. Can’t say who though.

  16. 16
    kay says:

    @General Stuck:

    I thought it was a great speech, and not just because he spent ten minutes on voting rights.

    The minmum wage is a good issue for Democrats. When it’s gone to referendum at the state level it’s done very well. They don’t have anything to counter with, except this lame argument about more tax credits for low-wage workers. In my experience, people see “more tax credits for low wage workers” as the government picking up what employers should be paying for, when it’s a response to a call for a raise in the minimum wage. They’re essentially saying the government should subsidize (further, more than they already do, which is PLENTY) low-wage employers. People think employers should cover wage increases, not the government. Reasonable, I think.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    gogol's wife says:


    I love Pink Martini!

    Most of my entertainment idols are Republicans (Shirley Temple, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, James Stewart), so I’m glad to hear of a liberal one.

  19. 19
    Maude says:

    Obama used the phrase smart government. How are the Repubs going deal with that? Stupid government is better?
    Obama hit important points and a lot of what he proposed is possible.
    Nancy Pelosi tweeted last evening that the House might have the votes for the VAWA.
    If things don’t get better by 2014, the Repubs will have a serious problem with Congressional elections.
    The Feds need to raise the Federal Poverty Guidelines amount.

  20. 20
    Camel says:

    I also love pink Martini! You politics is so complicated that I would not want even to try it.

  21. 21
    quannlace says:

    Boehner hates these things but why not stand when

    From the very first minute, I couldn’t decide how many lemons Boehner’d been sucking on.

  22. 22
    JPL says:

    @nancydarling: Poor guy. Since we know that Nugent has a poopy problem when he is scared, I would not want to be in the same audience as him.

  23. 23
    Cassidy says:

    From the very first minute, I couldn’t decide how many lemons Scotches Boehner’d been sucking on down.

    Cheap and easy, but true.

  24. 24
    handsmile says:

    W.B. Yeats: Character isolated by a deed….

    Boehner’s refusal to stand to applaud a 102 year-old woman for her indomitability in performing the quintessential act of citizenship is one of the most classless and clueless acts I’ve ever seen by a national political leader.

    That incompetent lout, the Congressional head of the Republican party, couldn’t get off his ass for an elderly, immigrant, woman whose belief in American democracy compelled her to wait six hours (in fact, she returned to her polling station after the first three!) to exercise her constitutional right.

    This single, brief incident exposed in the starkest and most indisputable way just what shade of lipstick now adorns the GOP pig. For all its much-heralded “re-branding, it remains the party of nihilists and sociopaths.

    After Boehner’s disgusting antics (his moral vacuity revealed as well during the President’s repeated call for Congressional votes on gun safety proposals) and Marco Rubio’s mind-boggling meltdown last night, what epithet or mockery is adequate to describe the GOP’s leadership?

    How grateful the Republican Party must be for the American corporate media: constantly and reliably spinning its shit into fool’s gold. Because what I’m hearing and reading this morning from that “whorehouse of a 1000 player pianos” (Pierce) is that the President’s SotU address was same ol’, same ol’: overbroad, underdetailed, partisan, not the kind of speech of a leader who truly cared about “bringing America together again.”

  25. 25
    kay says:

    9.51 pm. I wasn’t aware – and should have been – that the minimum wage for a family of four is $14,000. But I’m surprised by the unapologetic liberalism there. Does he believe that raising the minimum wage would have no impact on jobs growth? Does he believe it would actually increase employment and growth?

    That’s Andrew Sullivan, last night.

    Someone should tell him there is no “minimum wage for a family of four”. There’s just a minimum wage, earned by one worker. The “family of four” only has bearing on the federal poverty level. Can he really continue to weigh in on this without understanding that we’re talking about a WAGE here, which is different than what he seems to think is some kind of federal subsidy or program, becomes it comes from an employer?

  26. 26
    Cassidy says:

    @kay: It’s Sully. Facts are fungible.

  27. 27
    Robin G. says:

    @kay: If you can’t afford to pay your employees minimum wage, you shouldn’t be in business.

  28. 28
    General Stuck says:


    That’s just Sullivan’s Tory views on class, and maintaining their traditional roles as a matter of keeping order in the realm.

  29. 29
    Sterling says:

    Ratings have been falling on the SoTU speech for a long time. It goes on too long, and the media telegraphs the main points before the event. I’d tune in if there was more tension involved or something newsworthy often happened. But it’s mostly dull, predictable political theater. I’d rather read about it the next day.

  30. 30
    FlipYrWhig says:


    Lindsay Graham looked confused when Obama mentioned the NY City high school that graduates student who are prepared for a job.

    It looked to me like Graham and Schumer kept needling each other throughout the speech. Schumer was basking in that shout-out, so maybe that was part of why Graham made a face.

  31. 31
    kay says:

    @Robin G.:

    Well , it bothers me, because I read his site on this and I think he’s pushing this argument that tax credits are better than a raise in the minimum wage. I don’t have any objection to the tax credits we have, but I don’t go along with this conservative idea that we all have to join together to protect low wage employers from wage increases. There’s another party to this transaction and it’s the worker.
    For one thing, it devalues low wage work, and I’m not sure low wage work can GET any more devalued, unless you’re talking about “volunteers”. It’s like Reagan gave the seal of approval to tax credits for low income families, and conservatives are stretching that out to ridiculous lengths.
    ” Why pay these people at all! Their work doesn’t have any real value!”
    They’ve lost the connection between “wages” and “work”. I think people who do these jobs want to get PAID for them. That seems like the minimum level of dignity and respect for their work we could afford them.
    It’s this purely academic discussion. It just bugs the shit out of me. He’d never accept it applied to his work. They want to get paid.

  32. 32
    Paul W. says:

    That’s actually because Biden poked his right eye while putting in contacts (or some such) and got a blood red eye as the result.

    He was still the most jovial guy in the room even though you could clearly see his discomfort.

  33. 33
    David in NY says:

    I listened to the SOTU speech on radio (and I don’t hear real well), and at first I was really underwhelmed. It was a bunch of points just rattled of, was what it sounded like, not much emphasis on particular words or ideas — just seemed like an understated list, as if he were the recording secretary going over the minutes of the last meeting.

    To the extent it seemed effective, it was in a low key way, the continuing emphasis on what there is (or should be) agreement on, so what could be enacted on a bipartisan basis. Whistling in the wind, maybe, but an obvious set-up for 2014 that the Republicans have to watch out for.

    And of course, the ending, the emphasis on the right to vote and the need for a vote on gun issues, was absolutely terrific. Too bad though that there never seems a real theme carried through these things.

  34. 34
    lojasmo says:

    Lest I offend my sensitive stalker, Corner Stone;

    I thought this speech was absolutely lovely. It couldn’t have been better if there were kittens and puppies frollicing on the house floor.

    On a more serious note, the president touched on global climate change, minimum wage and pay equity, parity for our GLBT citizens, drawing down the war in Afghanistan, and gun safety legislation, while recognizing that congress and the POTUS are behoden to the American electorate for actually, you know…DOING THEIR JOBS (tut tut, I’m not angry, stalker)

    I thought it was a delightful reporesentation of what a SOTU should look and sound like.

    The republican rebuttals were equally delightful, in their rediculus ways.

  35. 35
    MikeJ says:

    @kay: Also when you give tax credits instead of wages, the Republicans will then return and say that all of those people getting tax credits instead of wages are deadbeats who shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

  36. 36
    Calming Influence says:

    @kay: I know it’s an old chestnut, but the reason Henry Ford paid his workers twice the going wage wasn’t that he was a screaming socialist commy liberal, but that he wanted them to be able to afford to buy his product. The single easiest and quickest way to pump money into the economy is to give it to people living paycheck to paycheck. Conservatives hate the idea because they look at it from the employers point of view without recognizing that it doesn’t change individual business’s competitive advantage; the playing field is raised levelly.

    Plus, they think the suffering of those at the bottom builds character and combats slovenliness.

    Double-plus, pumping money into the economy might actually help the economy, which should never happen when there’s a Kenyan Usurper in the oval office.

  37. 37
    David in NY says:

    @lojasmo: Having just complained that it sounded like a list, I agree that a lot of the items on that list, like those you mention, were very important, and some were things we hadn’t heard him speaking about much before.

  38. 38
    Cassidy says:

    @kay: You need to keep in mind that Sully and those like him don’t respect “work”. They have zero respect for someone who does some sort of labor for a living because they don’t. They write and pontificate and ruminate and flatulate, but they do nothing that is physically productive. Yet, in their minds “this is where I work” is an accurate phrase.

    This can also be applied to our society. We call our jobs work, but the reality is that most of us do no work. We concentrate and complete our tasks, but is typing or taking notes or making spreadsheets or diagnosing (software, humans or animals) really work? No, it isn’t. We all say we work hard for our income, but the reality is that many work much harder for much less. In our defense, we recognize that and want to make it better and more equal, but Sully and Conservatives are not willing to step back and realize they do not actually work for a living.

  39. 39
    kay says:

    @General Stuck:

    keeping order in the realm.

    He’s gross on this. It’s like he’s taken the worst parts of stereotypical liberalsim and the worst parts of stereotypical conservatism and combined them.

    “can no one give these poor serfs some kind of… payment rather than burdening their employers?”


    They want to GET PAID by their EMPLOYER, Andrew, in exchange for THEIR WORK. How hard is that to understand?

  40. 40
    Steeplejack says:


    Obama nailed it last night when he said (paraphrasing slightly), “If you work full time you should not be in poverty.” That is about as succinct as you can get.

    The minimum wage should be going to $12, not $9. That would be about $24,000 a year for a full-time worker. Enought to (allegedly) support a family at the poverty level. But, I know, baby steps.

    A side question to Aussie Deb or someone else Down Under: isn’t the minimum wage in Australia something like $14? And why has that not led to the complete destruction of your society?

    Also, what is the minimum wage in European countries?

    Finally, tax credits don’t do you a damn bit of good unless you’ve got taxable income on which to apply them. That is where the Republicans are most clueless and/or disingenuous.

  41. 41
    kay says:


    Obama nailed it last night when he said (paraphrasing slightly), “If you work full time you should not be in poverty.” That is about as succinct as you can get.

    That’s what we used in Ohio. “Fair”. Is this FAIR?

    The proponents of the measure were Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage and the key sponsors were labor unions and the community organizing group ACORN, who supported similar measures in five other states during 2006.


    It was all labor here. Big success, too. I hate the obsessive focus on federal taxes among both (some) Democrats and (all) Republicans. It’s only one piece. Wages matter to the people who work for them. I hate what I see as this patronizing idea that well, your work doesn’t matter at all, has very little value to “policy makers”, but we’ll throw you this subsidy bone to keep you showing up because it’s “good” that you work in some abstract moral sense.

  42. 42
    General Stuck says:

    I listened to the SOTU speech on radio (and I don’t hear real well), and at first I was really underwhelmed. It was a bunch of points just rattled of, was what it sounded like, not much emphasis on particular words or ideas — just seemed like an understated list, as if he were the recording secretary going over the minutes of the last meeting.

    That “bunch of points” was a spot on recitation of core democratic values and policy wish. It was delivered for the first time in my memory of watching these events, without apology, without the usual half ass advocacy with watered down rhetoric, to not appear too liberal. And without fear of what the republicans might think and say about it.

    The process stuff at the end was good, but it always amazes me how so called tru blue liberals gloss right over meat and potatoes, kitchen table support for the poor and middle class that makes liberals/dems who they are. It seems always that focus is put on something else like process, that is important, but not the inner sanctum of core center left hopes and dreams.

  43. 43
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    I hate what I see as this patronizing idea that well, your work doesn’t matter at all, has very little value to “policy makers”,

    Some of these people are cleaning the office lavatories and restocking toilet paper. I wonder how happy the “policy makers” would be if things like that just stopped happening.

    One of the interesting things about “Downton Abbey” is that it shows that the gracious living at the top was the result of a lot of hard work and planning down below. It is something that people forgot far too easily.

  44. 44
    Calming Influence says:

    @General Stuck: I’m with you. This was basic stuff, and Obama didn’t just read a list; he explained why increasing the minimum wage would help all of us, and why investing in infrastructure was good for business.

    These “liberal” policy proposals are different than the Republican party’s “trickle-down small-government” mantra in that they have been proven to actually work.

  45. 45
    hoodie says:

    @General Stuck: The meat and potatoes in this case fits with the process theme. People elect politicians for meat and potatoes. Why the else would people vote? It’s not fucking talk radio, but Republicans treat it like it is.

    The way he leveraged the gun and voting issues was particularly interesting. The first, meat and potatoes part of the speech that dealt with economic issues, simple things that could be done but lies neglected (the Jobs Act) and the threat to the economy from the sequester, was summed up by “‘We can do this’ – but you refuse to act.” That contrasts with national security, where Obama has done substantially what he has promised, and taken actions, like ending DADT and the announced troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, that show that he is not afraid to act and live with the consequences. In other words, I’m doing my job, but the Republicans aren’t. Nice use of McCain, who he basically singled out as too chicken to take the risk of doing stuff he advocated just a few years ago.

    The emotional culmination of that theme was voting rights and Newtown. A 100 year old woman will stand in line for hours to vote, but Republicans do nothing except flap their gums about nonexistent vote fraud and make voting problems even worse, because they’re afraid to let people vote. Having to stand in line to vote is a meat and potatoes problem; folks have jobs to do, it’s hard for an old lady to stand in line for 6 hours.

    Regarding Newtown, the Republicans come up with a million excuses for not doing anything, no matter how reasonable and popular, about 6 year-olds being gunned down in their own school. Getting greased by an AR-15 is a meat and potatoes problem, but instead Republicans want to talk about some airy interpretation of the 2nd amendment and paranoid fantasies about jack booted government thugs. Nice contrast with a cop that takes 11 slugs to save a bunch of people who don’t even look like him or pray to the same god. “You can vote no, but you owe them a vote” is another way of saying you’re a bunch of cowards, afraid of your own people and hiding behind a bunch of abstract, speculative bullshit about the deficit, voter fraud and gun confiscation that you claim are based on “principles.” You have no principles because you are unwilling to put them to the democratic test.

    That pathetic response from Rubio reinforces that theme. They don’t even form a coherent opposition and have no real leadership, e.g., they need two different rebuttals to the SOTU because they don’t know who leads them. The Republican Party is Dog Day Afternoon, a hostage drama with a disjoint recitation of grievances by a bunch of obsessives, not a political party that serves the interests of regular people.

  46. 46
    handsmile says:


    From Encyclopedia Wikipedia, “List of Sovereign States in Europe by Minimum Wage”:

    (I’m afraid you’ll have to do the Euro/$ conversion.)

    ETA: As the list appears to be compiled from 2010 figures, the Euro crisis of recent years may have diminished its current utility. Pretty chart though.

  47. 47
    handsmile says:


    Very shrewd analysis; really enjoyed reading it! Thanks.

    As for the “Dog Day Afternoon” metaphor, it’s now “Benghazi!” instead of “Attica!”

  48. 48
    gogol's wife says:


    Excellent, excellent analysis.

  49. 49
    General Stuck says:


    Interesting take. I’m a little surprised at reading some winger blog responses that appear to get the all around power of this speech, with warnings to their readers not to simply dismiss it because of basic disagreement on policy. They are clearly worried for an ideological shift toward the left. And that Obama is locked on to that, in a sort of mind meld with the middle class voter.

    Or, more accurately, additional citizens realizing the republicans have been bullshitting them all along, and that they may well be more ‘liberal’ all along, than they had previous thought. A sort of awakening from three decades of dead pan consumer bliss, and right wing demogoguery that may have runs its course on controlling the masses. We shall see.

    What is truly amazing to me, was the WAPO poll yesterday, showing the public not approving of Obama on individual issues, EXCEPT national security, and still giving him an overall job approval of 52 percent. That has to be making the wingnuts crazy .

  50. 50
    Steeplejack says:


    Quick calculations (€1.00 = $1.35):

    Austria, $7.79
    Belgium, $11.22
    France, $12.45
    Germany, $11.48
    Greece, $5.76
    Ireland, $11.68
    Netherlands, $10.89
    Portugal, $2.59
    Spain, $5.75
    United Kingdom, $9.22

    No numbers given for the socialist hellholes Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, or for Italy. And the German number is the “proposed” minimum wage for the apparently very low number of workers who aren’t covered by (gasp!) union agreements.

  51. 51
    kay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    It is something that people forgot far too easily.

    I feel as if there’s a complete understanding and recognition that these wages aren’t enough, because of the names of the subsidies and programs: “Making Work Pay” . “The Earned Income Tax Credit”. Hmm. Why doesn’t work this work pay?

    They’re just much more COMFORTABLE talking about tax credits, because then it’s more polite and abstract and we don’t have to get into who makes what for what work.

    Screw that, Let’s talk about wages. Skip the tax middleman.

  52. 52
    hoodie says:

    @General Stuck: Maybe they more readily recognize that he’s kind of using an updated version of the Reagan playbook. What Reagan sold was largely meat and potatoes; you’re being taxed and getting nothing for it, i.e., liberalism is not delivering the goods it promised. Now Obama is tapping into the realization that conservatism hasn’t delivered, e.g., your wages put you below the poverty line, you can’t afford to go to college to raise your economic status, you can’t afford preschool to put your kids on a path to a better middle class existence, medical care will bankrupt you, you can’t feel safe going to the movie theater or the mall because of a profusion of guns, you can’t afford to retire, your investments are not safe, etc. Many, if not most, of the “conservative” experiments of the last 30 years have failed to some extent for everyone, and have failed miserably for those at the lower end of the economic scale, which is an increasingly large number of people. Maybe conservatives subconsciously sense this more than others precisely because of their abstract psychic investment in these failed ideas as part of an ideology. Only idealogues view policies as part of some grand system and thus view mounting failures of individual policies as a threat to the grand system.

  53. 53
    McJulie says:

    @Cassidy: Hey, now. Ordered and productive thinking is obviously work, otherwise people would do more of it (and the Republicans would never win another election.)

    The rest of your point stands. Punditry, in particular, seems about as far from work as you can possibly get, since it doesn’t seem require anything in the way of intellectual discipline.

  54. 54
    McJulie says:

    @hoodie: What Reagan sold was largely meat and potatoes; you’re being taxed and getting nothing for it, i.e., liberalism is not delivering the goods it promised. Now Obama is tapping into the realization that conservatism hasn’t delivered

    Neatly put.

    What I think the right isn’t getting, is that the American people as a whole were never movement conservatives even when they voted Republican. They are mildly conservative in that it sometimes takes them a while to get used to an idea (such as same-sex marriage) but when the idea really is a good one, they eventually come around.

    They wanted the goods, not the ideology.

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