I was able to catch most of the State of the Union last night, and before the President even entered the gallery, I was struck by a few things. One being Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in her “Nancy Reagan red” suit yet again. She loves red suits, and she’s always in an aisle seat for the cameras so she can get in some fame whoring. Second, Congressman Joe Baca, ironically one of Congresswoman Sanchez’s alleged antagonists, was also in the center aisle early. I guess it is nice to see the President, Cabinet, and Supreme Court entourage up close and personal, but it’s interesting that these two characters would take time out of their day to stake out a seat. It’s not like they’re tourists who have never seen the President.
But to get to the substantive parts of President Obama’s speech, overall I thought it was ok. He did what we were expecting him to do, address the middle class and their needs, while focusing on jobs.
I liked that he addressed last week’s Supreme Court decision, especially stating that elections should not be controlled by corporations or foreign entities. You will notice that Justice Alito, who sided with the majority, seemed to be mouthing “not true.”
I also liked that the President urged the Congress to finish up health care reform, but he did not give any details or lay out a path for finishing it up. I hope that he doesn’t let the Congress abandon the effort, and even if a less desirable bill gets passed in the end, I’m hopeful that we can work to build upon it to improve it.
I thought that the short nod to immigration reform didn’t offer anything concrete, and Obama pointed toward the usual securing the borders and enforcing the immigration laws spiel that he usually says. I sense that many people feel that he could have come out more forcefully for immigration reform that restores justice and humanity to the process. But in light of the last outburst by Rep. Wilson last time “immigrants” were mentioned in a Presidential address before Congress, we should not be surprised that Obama didn’t offer more on the subject. As with health care, I think that Obama is going to let the Congress take the lead and see what kind of bill ends up coming out of the Senate.
On education, I was pleasantly encouraged. President Obama wants to pump $3 billion more into education and wants to expand Pell Grants and would like to limit the amount that people pay back in student loans, tying it to a percentage of their income earned after graduation.
Overall, I will say that President Obama knows how to give a great speech, but he’s at a point now where he has to show some results on his policy agenda. Undoubtedly, people are frustrated with this economy, but the American public, for all its frustration, will not remember that it took eight years of the previous administration’s policies that brought us to the brink of disaster. Instead, the public will look towards Obama and the solutions he offers when they head to the polls this November. We have a short memory in this country and forget our historical references. And finally, I’m inclined to believe that this proposed spending freeze won’t necessarily help people’s bottom line (check book), so in my view, it’s another gimmick for the public.