No politician these days gets any traction from the exploitation of bad news, unless he/she is currently out of power and, like the GOP, trying to work their way back in. Democratic presidents concerned with their legacy are not in that position; which is why all we can legitimately expect of any State of the Union Address these days is some sort of claim for progress in the immediate past, plus an equivalent case for more progress in the year to come. That, in truth, is most of what we heard from President Obama on Tuesday evening. Fine rhetoric well delivered, mildly progressive goals modestly pursued, and a strong statement of the continuing importance of American exceptionalism and American power. But just because a president cannot do a full and honest stock-taking of our overall condition, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't.
The romantic bygone era of winning the Space Race is in the past. Wouldn't it make a stronger case for NASA funding if we were more honest about our competitive positioning? We can bash them all we like, but there is a reason countries are so eager to work with China, and it's certainly not because the they are failing.
I count it a lucky break to have been born in a day and age when answers to the question "Why do I have to die?" were still looked for in the experimental laboratories of art and literature as well as in the teachings of religion. The problem hadn't yet been referred to the drug and weapons industries, to the cosmetic surgeons and the neuroscientists.