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Liveblogging the 2011 State of the Union Address

25/01/2011
Seal of the President of the United States
Image via Wikipedia

I try to make a practice of taking notes on the President’s annual State of the Union address. Since this is President Obama’s second (his very first address is officially a Statement to a Joint Session of Congress), and with the electoral routing in November, it will be an interesting note of where we are and of how far we have to go.

9:04 pm: Liveblogging is usually easier with a computer that doesn’t suck…but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve also been surfing back and forth between Fox and NBC to see what the correspondents have to say. The chamber is filling, slowly as always, and there’s a lot of discussion about guests of honor and the high school lunchroom manner of seating arrangements: as has been discussed in the last few days, members of Congress have chosen to intermingle their seating between parties to promote a symbol of bipartisanship.

9:06 pm: The Sergeant At Arms has just introduced the President — here goes another 20-minute journey to the lectern…and hey, Dennis Kucinich got in the shot!

Back to the guests of honor: Daniel Hernandez, the intern in Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ office who is credited with saving her life by his actions in the middle of the chaos in Tucson, is celebrating his 21st birthday today with a seat by the First Lady, as well as the family of 9-year-old Christina Taylor-Green, the youngest victim of the Tucson massacre.

9:10 pm: POTUS has just taken the lectern, decorated with a pretty orange Speaker of the House, Ohio Representative John Boehner — at least he didn’t tear up, though…

“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, fellow Americans…”

Boehner’s expression after Obama’s congratulatory remark: “Oh, come on…(glee!!)”

There is an empty seat in the chamber for Representative Giffords, who is still in a hospital in Houston recovering.

9:13 pm: “We share common hopes and a common creed…that too is what sets us apart as a nation.” President Obama’s treatment of the Tucson shooting is pitched perfectly — he stands before Congress as a father figure, one who moves above the question of blame and focuses on the most important thing: America is still a family. And we need to work together.

9:15 pm: Here we go, friends, the real meat of this year’s SOTU: Jobs. Economy. Individual prosperity. And it looks like he’s getting bipartisan applause, but of course it’s hard to tell without that split down the middle. Can I guess by tie color? (I can on the lectern…)

Thank you, thank you for pointing out what should be completely obvious in the modern world. Working hard is still important, but what that means has changed. Working smart has become central.

9:20 pm: Enter the requisite “strong America” quote… Yes, Mr. President, more students come to the U.S. to study, and they do better than the American students who attend those same colleges. I agree with his pro-globalization stance, however, because other countries’ developments are good for us.

“The future is not a gift; it’s an achievement.” Good Kennedy reference, though totally expected.

Awww, Boehner already looks sleepy.

9:23 pm: The first step to improvement is innovation, and it’s something with which we should be familiar. “This is our nation’s Sputnik moment.” Biomedical research, clean technology? I completely agree that we should invest in those things, but somehow I see those budgetary hash marks being stricken in the House.

Next: energy policy. If scientists can focus on the most difficult clean energy questions, the government will fund their research. Goal: 1,000,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2015. In exchange, Obama wants a reduction in tax subsidies to oil companies. “Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.” New goal: by 2035, 80% of Americans’ electricity will come from clean energy sources.

The President is making excellent points so far, and if progress would actually move in the direction he proposes then we would truly be a revolutionary state. Unfortunately, I think these remarks would be most accurately put to “Imagine” in the background.

9:28 pm: Moving on to education. We are 9th in the world in the proportion of our citizenry with college degrees. Responsibility for providing our children with the best opportunities is at home, with the family. “It’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” (standing ovation)

9:30 pm: “Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our education system in a generation.” Not only is this true, but it’s a serious call out to No Child Left Behind…and oh, as I’m typing there it is! Let’s replace NCLB. AMEN.

Obama is right about how we need to treat our teachers — more like “nation-builders” and less like a nuisance. And he admits that there is such a thing as a bad teacher. I approve of the draft call for young people to become teachers.

Higher education: College may be more affordable for students now, but what about those of us with student loans?? I didn’t benefit from any of the tax breaks or subsidies the President discussed.

We’re on the road to #1! (Random shot: Kerry and McCain are seat buddies? Wow…)

9:36 pm: DREAM Act…Again, great way to highlight both sides of the immigration issue.

9:39 pm: I’m interested in the infrastructure discussion and goals — YEAH TSA JOKE!! Ahem. I’m recalling the Sagan Colloquium presentations on the innovations in infrastructure that are necessary to bring our nation forward, and it’s nice to see that the administration takes those needs seriously. Too bad Ohio’s new Governor, John Kasich, disagrees with that and turned down the money earmarked for Ohio’s high-speed rail system.

(Side note on seating: It makes it more difficult for the GOP to stay seated if everybody’s intermingled…enthusiasm is contagious. So is embarrassment.)

The Korean trade agreement keeps to Obama’s promise to only sign agreements that maintain the interests of the American worker, and he remains committed to the Asia-Pacific trade discussions as well as reaching an agreement with Panama. But still, American interests first.

9:44 pm: That transition to healthcare reform was genius. Obama listed several reforms that have been made to protect the American people, things that nobody on either side could argue against, and moved right into healthcare. He is a true diplomat, one who can put his foot down (as he is so eloquently doing now) without stepping on toes. We need an adult in the room, and the President is taking up the challenge.

9:47 pm: Next up, the federal deficit. The message of fiscal responsibility can’t be lost on either side, especially since “living within our means” is exactly what the GOP argues should be done. His proposal to freeze spending for five years would cut the debt down to Eisenhower-era levels by the end of the decade; it even includes cuts to defense spending, something that has been verboten for at least the extent of the last administration.

9:56 pm: Sorry, computer malfunctions. As I’m sure you’ve realized if you’ve been watching, this is nothing new. The President is as always a pragmatist and a dreamer all wrapped into one, but his proposals for spending cuts are palatable and possible.

As to restoring faith in the institution of government, that is something we desperately need on “Main Street” if people are to ever turn away from the biased, skewed media and to believe that America’s leaders have her people’s best interests at heart.

Foreign policy: there must absolutely be a balance between hard and soft policy in our dealings with other states. However, I have to disagree with the sentiment that the Iraq war is “coming to an end”; I don’t see a real end in that region for many years to come, regardless of our level of engagement in the region. The inclusive tone regarding American Muslims is right and legitimate, and as Reza Aslan discusses in Beyond Fundamentalism it is a large part of why so few American Muslims join the global Jihadist movement.

July is the starting point for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, or such is the promise. But now we come to Pakistan, and it makes me wonder if the soldiers currently on tour in Afghanistan will simply be leaving one desert conflict for another…

10:02 pm: A revitalized involvement in NATO, that’s rather laughable. But it speaks positively of American commitment to truly engaging in the global community rather than asserting an outdated sense of “otherness”. We are in and a part of the world. “The United States…supports the democratic aspirations of all people.”

10:06 pm: “Beginning this year, no man or woman will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.” Oh, POTUS, that brought a tear to my eye.

“It is time to move forward as one nation.”

(Completely unrelated to the speech: The rivets on the benches in the chamber are shaped like Mogen Davids…)

I think it’s great that the President acknowledges that we will probably fight about everything, but that we wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I think I hear catcalling in the chamber along with the applause — it’s almost a party!

“We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promises that say ‘you can make it if you try.'”

10:10 pm: Boehner, for the record, still hasn’t cried.

10:11 pm: Plan B, not to be confused with…the other Plan B…Seriously, Mr. Fisher, awkward name for your drilling technique.

10:12 pm: Here is the President I love: hopeful, inspirational, reliant on the examples set before to show us the path ahead. And of course, “the state of our Union is strong.”

Tomorrow I’ll share some more cohesive comments on the SOTU address as a whole, as well as my reflections on Representative Paul Ryan’s response (and, if I’m feeling particularly steel-willed, perhaps even a treatment of Representative Michelle Bachmann’s “unofficial” response on the Tea Party Express Web site).

Good night, and good luck.

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One comment

  1. I didn’t know that Kasich turned down that money… it doesn’t surprise me, but I’m pretty pissed anyway. What good has that man done? Even tuition is supposed to go up next year… ugh



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