Tonight I popped me a bowl of popcorn and turned on the television to watch the State of the Union address by President Obama. I’m no political pundit, but I am someone who speaks publicly often (well, actually, weekly) and so I watch these things with the eye for the effect and style as much as substance. What I noticed about the flow of the speech is that it started very slow and very wonkish but constantly and steadily increased in rhetorical flare as the monologue progressed. I’ve broken my evaluation down simply into what I liked about it and what I didn’t.
What I liked:
- I liked Obama’s tie. It was rockin’ awesome. He looked great. However, I did notice that the three years in office have taken its toll on him. He looks like he’s aged 10 years.
- I liked that Joe Biden couldn’t seem to sit still. Watching him squirm back there reminded me of an eight year old boy sitting through a concert he hates. At one point it looked like he actually put a mint or candy in his mouth. Joe Biden is a major motivating factor why I pray for Obama’s health and safety regularly. On a side note, John Boehner didn’t look as orange this year.
- I liked that Obama rattled off initiative ideas that sounded great without giving any kind of specifics at all. It was brilliant. That way people feel he is on the job, but in reality, it was just paper.
- I liked his conclusion. It was a real tear jerker to go to the Navy Seal team that took out Bin Laden and speak about it in such patriotic tones. Nice touch and well done.
What I Didn’t Like
- I didn’t like that he did the whole thing where he referenced people sitting up in the box by the First Lady. Bill Clinton was the master at it and for Clinton it had the effect of being novel and innovative. When Obama does it, it feels forced and is not very effective.
- I didn’t like all the references to fairness in taxes. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge believer in fairness in taxes; but we will never have fairness in taxes in our nation until there is a major overhaul of the tax system and it is replaced with either a flat tax or a nationwide consumption tax. In my personal opinion, income taxes are, by nature, unjust and unfair. I like the consumption tax, but I would settle for anything that is sane and simple.
- I didn’t like how many unilateral decisions Obama seemed to be making. I know it is political posturing. He is attempting to couch the congress as a “do nothing” group while he is out there doing stuff to make things better. However, as a historian I realize that the arguments for “effectiveness” and “efficiency” are often the mask for power grabs. I am not really accusing Obama of doing that because I do think it is just election year politics, but it does make me nervous.
The best moment of the evening, for me, was before the speech ever began. When Gabrielle Giffords came into the room, and then Obama hugging her, was special. That tugged at me at a level that goes beyond politics, beyond patriotism, and into the human and spiritual realm. That actually is an image I will retain for a long time. It reminds me of when Bush (43) in one of his State of the Unions announced a massive AIDS spending initiative for Africa. Obama and Giffords will last longer in my memory than any of the particulars of the speech.