One word: Eh. More words: It was a bit weird; the rhythm was herky-jerky and the audience didn’t seem to know if it wanted to applaud or not in places, and basically the whole thing felt like school play with the main character thrown off his game by no one else knowing their lines. Note this observation has nothing to do with the content, merely the presentation. But the presentation matters, and this was a little off for me.
Content-wise I liked it just fine, which isn’t surprising, since in a general sense I like most of Obama’s policies and platform; it strikes me as generally sensible politically, economically and ethically. But then it would, as I’m cut out of the same moderate-left cloth as he is (note to wingers on both sides: expressing the opinion that Obama is not in fact moderate-lefty in the current US political spectrum, but is instead whatever thing you hate the most, is an IQ test in itself. Try not to fail it). If most of what he proposed got through, I wouldn’t complain.
But Obama’s real problem is not Obama or his own policies; Obama’s real problem is that in Congress, his allies are incompetent cowards and his adversaries are smug dicks. I find it genuinely appalling a Democratic president has to prod his party members in the Senate, with a 59-seat majority, to stop acting like spooked children. The lot of them need to have a stick jammed up their ass, because it’s clear they don’t have much in the way of a spine. As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be.
The gist of it is that I feel genuinely sorry for Obama that he has to be president in this political climate, with the allies and adversaries he has. He deserves better in both respects, and so do we. As noted before, despite this he’s managed to be pretty effective in his first year, something he doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for, and I do imagine that in the next year he will continue to be so, despite both the Democrats and the Republicans on the hill. For all that, if I have one wish for Obama, it’s that he play harder ball than he’s been content to do so far, and that includes with his own party, not just against the Republicans. He’s from Chicago, he knows how to do it. If he wants to get his State of the Union agenda through in an election year, I suspect he’s going to have to.