State of the Union: Long on Words, Short on New Ideas
Last night a few intrepid souls charged forward and watched the State of the Union broadcast. We joined them and the most pithy analysis of the event was the same speech from previous years with a little different window dressing.
As expected President Obama threatened on many occasions to wield his pen to implement executive orders, then implored Congress to “send legislation to his desk” so he didn’t have to. Of course the House of Representatives has been busy sending all sorts of legislation to his desk, it’s the Senate that can’t seem to find a way forward.
That said, outside of the many of the same ideas and themes getting rehashed, there was a different tone that was reminiscent of President Obama’s first presidential campaign. The introduction of the speech was completely different and as Editor Rob Burgess noted, the White House feed of the speech was truly interactive using images to compliment the President’s words. His rhetorical focus was decidedly on the American people and not as much on himself, though he really didn’t deliver on what he wanted to do except to say there’s important work to be done and if Congress isn’t going to set the direction, he’ll take action himself.
In the most poignant moment of the time, the President recognized Sgt. Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who on his tenth deployment was critically injured and has been working to overcome his injuries. Sgt. Remsburg deservedly received the most applause on the evening and the President used his story as a paradigm for what America needs to do to move forward.
I really anticipated that some reference to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster would be incorporated into his speech, given the State of the Union was delivered on the anniversary of that unfortunate event. I can only speculate that he stayed away from it because he’s pretty much demolished American space policy and felt alluding to the anniversary might take him off message.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) gave the Republican response and in general terms did an excellent job. She spoke well and managed to avoid the gaffes that have plagued many who have delivered the response over the past few years. That said, the response in and of itself didn’t really address the President’s speech other than to say that we disagree and this is why. I was left wondering what the goal of our response was other than to “not screw it up.”
There was much made about the “multiple” GOP responses to the State of the Union which I find amusing, as there are always 535 responses to this address every year. It is one of the busiest days of the year for Congressional communications staff because every publication wants their legislator’s response to what the President had to say. There were some responses that were “broader” and perhaps not on the talking points distributed by the conference, but each Member of Congress always has their own reaction. Some legislators choose to target their response to a wider audience – which does suggest some disunity within the party, but I don’t think it dilutes the Republican message as some commentators suggest – it just highlights that there are many different Republican brands right now that cooperate but have their own set of interests.
We did our best to share insights and commentary from around Indiana during the course of the broadcast on our Twitter feed. I am certain that we missed some folks, but I think you did get a good flavor for what was being shared online about the speech. If you missed it and would like to go back read the stream, check out our Storify feed below: