Saturday, January 30, 2010

I heard about this Annotated State of the Union Address at the Atlantic is how it starts. Read on at the link below.


Fallows has linked Obama's State of the Union Address to source and commentary that supports or under cuts the President's presentation.


"Still, by the test that usually matters about SOTU addresses – how they come across in real time, during the largest built-in TV audience a president usually has in the course of the year – I thought Obama did a good job. Details below, but in summary: "

By James Fallows

■He answered the threshold question of, “Is this man beaten? Is he shrinking before our eyes,” less by his explicit answers – “I will not quit,” etc – than with his calmly confident manner, from word one of the speech;

■He answered another question – what would a “populist” or “angry” or “fighting” Obama look like? – in the only way that could work in the long run, which was being “angry” on his own terms. A tremendous and underappreciated advantage for Obama, in my view, is that he is always the same guy. Things look good, things look bad, he’s provoked, he’s successful – but his tone on the stump and airwaves rarely varies more than 10 degrees in any direction. Some of his partisans complain about this when he doesn’t seem committed enough, fiery enough, etc. I think it’s the only way that an out-of-nowhere candidate, not to mention the first non-white candidate with a serious chance at the presidency, made himself seem “familiar” enough to win. It’s hard to think that there’s some “real” Obama we’re not seeing, when every view we ever have is of the same temperament. What this means in this speech: if he had sounded like John Edwards (at one time that would have been a compliment) about “two Americas” or like Bill Clinton in lay-it-on-thick pain-feeling, it would have rung phony.

■He gave his side talking-points for what they’ve tried to do, and still have to do, on the enmeshed questions of jobs/stimulus/health care/reform. In the eight days since Scott Brown’s victory gave Republicans their 41-seat “majority” in the Senate it was an open question of whether Obama would simply declare the health fight over for now. He re-told the strongest side of his case – if we don’t do anything, things will get worse – and laid down a marker for challenging Republicans to act as part of the responsible government again.

■He went on very long – at 70 minutes, about 10 minutes too long to my taste (will suggest specific cuts below) – but past experience suggests that audiences are more patient for SOTU detail than the pundit class generally assumes. AND:

■He did well on the minor stagecraft of the SOTU, including the always-amusing game of tricking the opposition into standing and clapping when they don’t really want to, or leaving them sitting in stony disapproval in ways that don’t look good. Details below.

■Three bonus stagecraft points: 1) No explicit “Lenny Skutnik” moment – calling out the citizens sitting in the First Lady’s box as exemplars of American virtue. The exemplars were there, but he didn’t name them. 2) Great dramatic moment with the Supreme Court, about which more later; 3) On the “purple” question, I am in the “it had to be on purpose” camp. Purple tie on Biden; purple outfit for Pelosi; purple dress for Michelle Obama. Just by accident they all have the color that melds red + blue? I don’t think so…..

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