Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOTU Live Blog

In for a penny, in for a pound. I'll be live-blogging the speech at this post (refresh for updates).

* * *

9:25: Alright, I'm out for the night (I have no interest in hearing McDonnell's response). I might have a broader reaction post up later, or I might not. Anyway, thanks for hanging with me, and have a nice night!

9:20: "We don't quit. I don't quit." Great finish, to a good but not great speech. B/B+.

9:18: The recurring theme of this speech is about pressing forward, and not being timid. Yet in terms of what is actually being proposed, there aren't any blockbusters. It's a weird contrast. You can't do "Give 'em hell, Barack" without some hellraising to give.

9:13: Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell comes in the civil rights section of the speech. I expected it to be in the national security section, but I prefer it here.

9:12: "America must always stand on the side of human freedom and dignity. Always." Always.

9:08: The defense stuff is pretty good, but it's nothing new. Bring the troops home, torture is bad, security and liberty aren't at odds. Veteran care would be a wedge issue if Democrats were more ruthless.

9:02: "Democrats, we have the largest majority in decades," is the civil way of saying "pass the damn bill".

9:00: I agree with the sentiment behind Obama's plea for civility, but I can't help but wonder if it makes him look weak. The oblique attack against Senate holds is appreciated, but perhaps too quiet.

8:57: Here comes the smackdown of the Supreme Court. I was wondering if he'd go there. They sit stony face (it would have been cool if the dissenters had given a hearty "hell yeah", but oh well).

8:55: Obama's dig on Republicans ("that's what we did for 8 years") is not exactly accurate. The problem was that Republicans never were serious (and still aren't serious) about deficit reduction -- so of course deficits would rise on their watch.

8:52: The spending freeze is a promise he's simply not going to keep, particularly given the exemption for defense spending.

8:51: And here comes the neo-Hooverist portion of the speech.

8:46: Obama has always been a fan of this format -- he loves having a free rein to give out laundry lists, and explain policies, and clear up misconceptions. It brings out his inner wonk. And the good thing about Democratic policies is that the policies themselves tend to be popular, which is why they're so rarely attacked based on their actual content.

8:44: "I didn't take on health care because it's good politics." With all due respect, Mr. President, it's only a strike if you watch it as it sails by.

8:43: Health insurance reform finally comes up. This ought to be good.

8:41: Education focus is good, focus on community college is better. I approve. And student loan reform! Fabulous -- if it ever gets through Congress.

8:36: I wonder who Joe Biden just looked at with a shit-eating grin when Obama passive-aggressively mocked climate change deniers. I'm banking on James Inhofe.

8:35: Nuclear power! I'm surprised and pleased.

8:31: Finally, some aggression. This speech was feeling pretty conservative for awhile. Now Obama is bringing out the big guns against the persistent calls for delays, and that's a good thing. Anything that takes some wind out of the sails of spineless centrists who are afraid of their own footsteps.

8:30: Attacking the record of the Bush administration (even indirectly) is a weird thing. It's perfectly accurate, but is there anything left in the well?

8:28: Infrastructure! And it's the high-speed rail project in Florida that I've heard good things about! Excellent.

8:27: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) doesn't like helping community banks, I guess. Or using the big bank's money to pay for it.

8:24: New jobs bill is the first concrete policy proposal. Doubling down on the stimulus, I guess -- at least he got that passed.

8:22: That little jab at congressional Republicans -- "I thought I'd get some applause there" -- I think was subtly quite effective. If Republicans won't applaud tax cuts, doesn't that show they just dislike anything Obama does?

8:21: Obama's starting out with straight out populism -- attacking the banks, bonuses, and the bailout. Anything that puts a wedge between Republicans' thrall to big businesses, and popular rage against the hyper-rich, is an effective strategy.

8:17: First applause comes six minutes in. That was a long intro. I'm bored already.

8:14: "The worst of the storm has passed, but the devastation remains" is good framing, I think; it balances between forward-looking optimism and recognition of current hurt.

8:11: Obama opens by telling us he's here only because the constitution tells him so. And history is looking over his shoulder.

8:10: Here we go! (I love the way Biden cheers).

8:05: I'll be curious how the spending freeze will be played in speech, particularly since Republicans have taken everything off the table.

8:00: You know what would be awesome? If Michael Buffer was hired as the sergeant-at-arms, just for tonight.

7:56: Will Obama announce that the best days of America are ahead? I'm banking on the upset: "The best days of America are behind us. I have formed a death panel to ensure that we handle our decline with grace and dignity."

7:53: Haitian ambassador is apparently getting a prime position in the audience.

7:49: Here's a shocking development (CNN calls it a "remarkable contrast"): Republicans think Obama has been too liberal, Obama doesn't think so. Whoa.

7:47: CNN reports Republicans are planning on being their best behavior. No more "you lies" this year ... assuming they can contain themselves.


Unknown said...

I listened to seconds of the Republican reply. At first I wasn't going to but then I thought maybe it'll be better than the venal attacks on the Governor that the Republican reply to Governor Nixon's state of the state consisted of. Nah. It wasn't. When Republicans want to scare the public about health care reform they say that the Democrats are planning to take over a huge portion of the GDP of the country. Yet tonight McDonnell says that the Republicans would fix everything with a short simple bill. The two claims don't mesh. In addition they tossed out the canard about how tort reform would contribute hugely to cutting costs. Yet another lie I'm really tired of hearing. It's worth doing but quit claiming that it would make some huge difference in this country's health care costs. It's just not true.

N. Friedman said...


You write: 9:12: "America must always stand on the side of human freedom and dignity. Always." Always.

Yet, that is exactly what Obama has not done. And, that does not only relate to Iran. And, I should add, it does not even relate to what Obama, at least when he came into office, seemed to want to go. Remember Chas. Freeman and his seeming support for the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. He fit in perfect with how Obama has behaved.

When I heard Obama say that, it occurred to me that Obama will say anything.

The rest of his speech was pretty good, as speeches go.

I have two questions for you.

1. While one can blog one's impressions while a long speech is occurring, I do not see how one can digest and thus grade a long speech without time to digest it. Hence, my question is, what is the real point of blogging live on a speech?

2. Does not blogging live impact, by distraction, on how you will later understand the speech?

joe said...

Come on, we can't watch an Obama speech anyone time. He is liberalism's messiah, after all. As Rush has so keenly observed ;)

(Obligatory internet disclaimer: "In case you have not noticed, I am being sarcastic.")

David Schraub said...

I think that virtually all of the SOTU's value is based on how it instinctively feels to persons listening to it. Few citizens go out and "digest" it (and I don't think the speech is designed to do so). So I think it makes more sense to try and give out an instinctive grade, then to pretend like this is some sort of academic essay I'm grading based on pure substantive content. It's a rhetorical exercise.

Plus, as a debate judge, I'm used to grading speeches essentially as they happen, so this isn't new for me.

ModernityBlog said...

Sorry, slightly off topic, but I thought you'd want to be informed.

Seismic Shock the Video is out.

Please do embed it and pass it on
Cheers :)

PS: I didn't think it was too bad the speech, the bits I heard.

I'm getting the impression that his rhetoric is cooling, it lacks the bite of the pre-election campaign, but it's miles better than anything the Republicans have come out with, but it is not, as far as I can see, up to his usual standard.

I liked the bit about the banks, very canny move.

N. Friedman said...


That's fine. I was not challenging you. I just was curious about your reasoning.

For what it is worth, I thought Obama did himself some good. His problem, though, is that absent a change in the economic situation (i.e. jobs), a saint would have low poll ratings. And, on top of that, he managed to convinced a large swath of the public that his political agenda is more important than people's jobs. I think his speech suggests that he understands that point.

I am not sure that I agree with how you think people understand a speech. I think there is the immediate but then there is the next to the water fountain interpretation at work the next day and there is also how the speech eventually sinks in which depends, at least in part, on what is really in the speech.

joe said...

You set up an interesting tension there, David, because debate judges at least supposedly grading very differently than your average citizen. Not many people at home cared if Reagan's flow was sloppy or Lloyd Bentsen made a new argument at the end ;)

But the really fun thibng about debate judging is how it also divorces itself from actual knowledge. It's this twilight zone of form between reason and gut instinct.