Mitt Romney was not as far off as some Democrats would have liked.
In his oxy-moronic pre-buttal, Romney accused Obama of using the State of the Union as a launching pad for the campaign. It became painfully obvious as the speech progressed that Obama was doing just that. Romney had some facts wrong -- he claimed that the unemployed didn't get to sit next to Lady Obama, when, strangely enough, Obama had picked a woman who had just gotten a new job after going back to school to sit next to his wife -- but the tone of the pre-buttal clearly played itself out in Obama's speech.
Obama spent a good amount of time reminding the Congress and National audience about his victories in Iraq, Afghanistan and a Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden met his demise. To be sure, those are great accomplishments that deserve to be taken note of. But the pandering to voters was clear. Obama spent a good 3 minutes at the end of the speech talking about the raid, ostensibly in order to point out that that is how all of American should act. One reminder would have been sufficient.
The President's speech covered a lot of ground in a little over an hour. From immigration reform, to alternative energy to government debt and corruption, Obama covered most of the major issues of the day, lying out, as he has in his last 3 speeches on the state of the union, some specific plans and some not-so-specific plans. He laid much of the work on the shoulders of Congress, constantly re-iterating some variation on the theme: "Pass this bill, and get it to my desk so I can sign it."
In a forceful challenge, however, Obama refused to let Congress obstruct his agenda, saying: "I will fight obstruction with action." And later, he gave an even more obvious challenge: "With or without this congress I will take action." Even as he threw down these gauntlets, he encouraged bipartisanship and action saying that Washington's temperature needed to be lowered. He encouraged Congress to take a page from the book of the military and work together toward one common mission.
The night was not without its lighter moments, however. In reference to an outdated regulation that would require dairy farmers to display competency in containing milk spills, Obama joked that that would be an instance in which one would be justified "crying over spilled milk." (Meanwhile, Joe Biden checked his phone.)
Overall, Obama's speech was inspiring, effective, reasonable, and rhetorically powerful -- exactly as it was expected to be. However, it also showed Obama's strategy in his re-election campaign -- blaming previous administrations (rightly or not) for all economic woes, while throwing statistic after statistic at the American people showing the economy is improving. Will it work? Only time, and voters, will tell.
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