Instant Reactions to Obama's State of the Union Address

Although we already knew a lot of Obama was going to say in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, critics didn't waste a second to pounce on the president when he said it. 

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Although we already knew a lot of Obama was going to say in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, critics didn't waste a second to pounce on the president when he said it. The speech spanned from jobs and economic recovery to immigration and cyber security, opening up President Obama to all kinds of gripes. He also floated the idea of universal pre-kindergarten education programs, an idea that's hard not to like or realize how historic it would be if it actually passed. Everyone loved seeing Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old woman who waited six hours to vote a couple of months ago, sitting up in the gallery. Nobody seemed impressed when John Boehner failed to stand up and applaud her. There's always a strange theater to these speeches, though, and this year, the boos and applause took the form of tweets and blog posts that hit the web with extreme speed almost as soon as Obama said, "God bless the United States of America." We've collected some of the more thoughtful musings below.

General Consensus

The consensus seems to be that it was a pretty good speech. It wasn't the most amazing speech that Obama's ever given, and it certainly wasn't the most disappointing. It was enough, however, to woo the rascally Andrew Sullivan, who wrote that attention-grabbing Newsweek cover story just over three months ago. He wrote on live blog Tuesday:

Now we're really into Reagan territory. The 102 year-old is pretty damn amazing. And, yes, it is a national scandal that she had to wait six hours to vote. Then a heroic cop. "That's just the way we're made." I have to say that even to these jaundiced ears, that peroration moved me. The passion, the reason, the sincerity: this was an invigorated president, trying to shift the mood away from zero-sum partisanship to non-zero-sum citizenship. It's what we always hoped from him, and I think it places the Republicans in a horrible bind.

Howard Kurtz, Sullivan's former coworker at NewsBeast, described his satisfaction with the speech more simply — that is, without using the word "peroration." Kurtz also pointed out how the president was almost overshadowed by the Dorner manhunt:

Still, the president delivered a well-paced, energetic, and substantive address. And while he glided across other pressing issues—notably immigration, climate change, and Afghanistan—its emotional heart was an appeal to viewers who are far more concerned about their bank accounts.

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post described Obama's speech simply as ambitious:

It’s often the case that candidates are more ambitious than presidents. But Obama’s second term is showing precisely the reverse progression. The speech went much further than Obama’s 2012 Democratic convention speech. There, his address was notable mainly for how modest the policy proposals were. Here, his speech was notable for the sweeping nature of the proposed changes. Obama’s agenda hasn’t been this bold since 2009.

The New York Times published a staff editorial not long after the end of the speech, praising the president but doubting the likelihood that his ambitious ideas would see fruition:

What is required to move the country forward is political will, which has been missing for too long. While many of the president’s proposals were familiar, and will probably be snuffed out by politics, his speech explained to a wide audience what could be achieved if there were even a minimal consensus in Washington.

The Economy

Chris Cilizza demanded more specifics at his Washington Post blog, The Fix:

Yes, the bulk of the speech — in terms of words spoken — dealt with the economy. And, yes, he urged Congress to avert the sequester and not shut the government down at the end of next month. But the devil, as always, is in the details and Obama didn’t offer many of them. With Republicans already on record as opposed to any attempt to bypass the sequester, it’s hard to see how the Congress finds a way to do so. Yes, President Obama talked about the economy. But it’s hard to say he moved the debate forward. At all.

Saxby Chambliss took his complains about Obama's jobs ideas to Facebook, where he racked up the Likes:

I am pleased that President Obama is once again pivoting to jobs, but was disappointed in his larger message. Bigger government and more spending are not the keys to American prosperity. To create more jobs and a better quality of life for all Americans, we must tame our debt and deficit while getting our nation’s spending under control.


Michael Bloomberg rushed up a supportive statement lauding the president's immigration plan:

Reforming our immigration laws is critical to job creation and securing our nation’s economic future. I am more hopeful than ever that the President can work with leaders of both parties to achieve meaningful reform on these profound issues.

Cory Booker concurred. "Love!" he said in a tweet quoting Obama saying, " Pres on immigration reform: "The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time to get it done"

Gun Control

Ted Nugent, a walking press stunt already, took a few moments to rant to reporters about Obama's misguided gun control plans after the speech:

Its more nonsense. Nothing he proposes or nothing he's been proposed would have stopped any of the shootings. None of those shooters are gonna register anything. Canada finally abandoned its multibillion waste of a C68 gun law where goose hunters and farmers had to register their squirrel rifles. And it didn't do anything to reduce crime or save any lives.

Rep. John Carter, a Texas Republican, didn't appreciate all the mentions of shooting victims:

Disagreeing on an issue of guns makes you in favor of killing dead children. To me that’s offensive and that’s demagoguery and I was offended by that… I’ve done more for children than he has. So he doesn’t get to lecture me on children and the protection of children. But the right to keep and bear arms is part of the protection of our children.

Climate Change

John Walsh at Salon wonders if the president will be able to keep his promises on addressing climate change:

It was important to hear him link climate change to extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to wind storms to drought, and the fact that “12 of the hottest years on record have come in the last 15 years.” I look forward to seeing the “executive actions” he promised if Congress didn’t act on climate change, because this Congress won’t act.

Al Gore likes where Obama is heading on the carbon control issue. He tweeted, "The President's call to put a price on carbon pollution and solve the climate crisis was bold and meaningful. We must act now."

Everything Else

John McCain was not pleased, however, and got on the president's case for not drawing more attention to the Middle East. "Disappointed but not surprised by the President's failure to seriously address the issue of 60,000 dead in #Syria," the senator tweeted.

Sarah Palin obviously had something to say. She more or less live-tweeted the whole speech. This one got the most retweets: "Keep in mind that the sequester was Obama’s baby. He signed it into law. Now he thinks it's economic Armageddon. "

Paul Rieckoff, CEO and Founder of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, didn't think vets got enough attention: "A disappointing speech for veterans. No focus on the VA backlog. No specifics on mental health, employment, suicide, MST."

Rachel Maddow was not impressed with Marco Rubio's response:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.