SOTU OPEN THREAD…. I’ll have all kinds of content on President Obama’s State of the Union address in the morning, but as I wrap up for the evening and jot down some random thoughts, I’m struck by how different a speech it was than most of the modern SOTU addresses. White House officials had made it clear that they intended to avoid the laundry-list approach that’s become the hallmark of these addresses, and it worked.
The key takeaway, at least at first blush, is the scope of the president’s vision. Remember George H.W. Bush lamenting the fact that he lacked “the vision thing”? We received a powerful reminder tonight that Barack Obama has no such problem.
The usual model for a speech like this is to hear a president explain to Congress what he expects from lawmakers over the next year. The president is clearly thinking well beyond the next 12 months, asking policymakers to consider the next decade and generation, and presented a compelling map for how to get from here to there.
It wasn’t the kind of inspirational speech we heard in Tucson two weeks ago, but it’s not supposed to be. The notion of a “moving” or “emotional” or “exciting” State of the Union is almost a contradiction in terms.
Generally speaking, this also wasn’t a confrontational speech. If there were any doubts about the model Obama intends to follow — Truman’s give-him-hell tack vs. Clinton’s more conciliatory outreach — it’s clear the president favors the latter. That’s neither praise nor criticism, necessarily, but Obama seems far more inclined to challenge Republicans than threaten them. If I had to guess, I suspect Obama’s outreach is in line with most of the public’s expectations.
It’s always a challenge trying to guess how the mainstream will respond to an address like this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the reaction was a very positive one. Obama was forward-thinking and optimistic, presenting sound judgment and priorities, with an emphasis on cooperation and common ground. If the larger theme was a past-vs.-future fight, Obama clearly has his eyes on the horizon, even at the expense of lauding his own achievements from the last two years.
With that in mind, his goal was likely to bring as much of the mainstream together as possible around his vision for the future, specifically how to “win the future.” From where I sat, the president succeeded in doing just that.
And with that, let’s open the floor to some discussion. What’d you think?