The only thing missing from Obama’s speech was a mic drop at the end!
While watching President Obama’s State Of The Union address last night, I texted a friend asking them, “Where was this Obama in 2014?
Ever since the midterm drubbing, the President has become bold, strident, and most of all, confident. Combined with an improving economy (still too slow for my taste), a huge drop in gas prices, and ending a failed and unpopular Cuban policy, Obama appears to be leading the way many of us thought he’d lead when we voted for him in 2008.
It’s strange, but Obama has appeared more liberated ever since a handful of those southern Democratic senators lost last year. He’s picked-up the progressive mantle again, which is what led him to his ’08 election blowout victory. It goes to prove something I’ve always believed in both sports and politics: Stay on the offensive. Propose plans. Keep truckin’. The moment you become wishy-washy and defensive, you’ve given your opponent the daylight needed to blunt your progress.
Obama has stayed on the offensive a few times in the past, like getting Bin Laden, passing Obamacare, and campaigning against Mitt Romney. However, the majority of the time Obama has been playing defense.
I’m wondering if Senator Elizabeth Warren has played a crucial role in Obama’s sudden transformation. In many parts of his speech, Obama echoed some of her economic populism by speaking to the middle class rather than talking strictly to those in the room.
While she may not run for president, Warren has deftly positioned herself as a Kingmaker within the Democratic Party corridors.
Here are some other reactions from last night’s speech.
Andrew Sullivan says Obama is showing Clinton the way to win in 2016:
This is a speech that revealed to us the president we might have had without the extraordinary crises – foreign and domestic – he inherited. I’ve always believed in his long game and in his bent toward pragmatism over ideology. Events can still upend things, but this is a president very much shaping the agenda past his own legacy. He’s showing Hillary Clinton the way, and has the midterms to point to as the result of the defensive crouch. If his standing improves still further, he will box her in, and she’ll have to decide if she’s going to be a Wall Street tool and proto-neocon or a more populist and confident middle class agenda-setter.
One of his best. And for the first time in his six years, he has the economic winds behind him. Stay tuned for my review of the GOP response, and for the Dish’s round-up of the blogosphere and Twitterverse.
The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein wasn’t as enamored by the speech:
It was a fitting tribute to the contrast between the promise of his campaign rhetoric and the reality of his presidency that toward the end of his speech, Obama called for “debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.”
Shortly after, Obama said, “I have no more campaigns to run” and Republicans cheered. Obama snidely shot back, “I know because I won both of them.”
Maybe he wasn’t quite ready to turn the page after all.
Adam Smith tweeted exactly what I was thinking during the speech:
Laura Ingraham was not a fan of Obama’s statement that global warming is an immediate crisis that needs attention, now:
Bill Maher had the opposite opinion and wasn’t too pleased to see Republicans sitting down when Obama talked about combating global warming:
Essentially, the speech was designed to set the economic policy/political debate, as Jonathan Chait explains:
Now, to be sure, it is not a remotely honest strategy. The Republicans have no plan to spread the benefits of the recovery more evenly. They can blame Obama for the economy’s longstanding trend to concentrate more income in the hands of capital and less in the hands of labor, but the Republican program would exacerbate this trend. (Bush’s promise of a tax cut that would give the biggest share to the poor was based on lies.) Republicans have formulated plans to benefit working-class Americans directly, but all these plans have foundered on the problem that Republicans have no way to pay for them: they may be willing to cut taxes for the working poor, if that’s what it takes to win an election these days, but they certainly don’t want to raise taxes on the affluent. (“Raising taxes on people that are successful is not going to make people that are struggling more successful, insisted Marco Rubio recently.”) This means the money to finance the new Republican populist offensive must be conjured out of thin air.
Thus the blunt quality of Obama’s plan: he will cut taxes for the working- and middle-class by raising an equal amount from wealthy heirs and investors. Obama’s plan is not going to pass Congress, of course. Probably nothing serious can pass a Congress that still has no political or ideological incentive to cooperate with the president. The point is not to pass a law. It is to lay out openly the actual trade-offs involved. Obama isn’t just looking to tax Mitt Romney. He wants to out-debate him.
Yes, Obama wasn’t completely providing details to pay for his goals, but he’s at least proposed a blueprint to pay for tax relief for the poor and Middle Class. One cannot argue that he hasn’t explained how to pay for it.
It’s now up to the Democrats to keep pushing the message Obama has provided for them.