The President’s State of the Union address last night was a predictably partisan grab bag of free stuff for some Americans at the expense of many others. He did not disappoint.
President Obama went off script to say that he’s not running for office and urged lawmakers to break from the Washington culture of campaigning. That was a nice way of saying he no longer needed to be polite and from that point on in his speech, he was not.
Not only was the President incredibly partisan –taking numerous digs at conservatives– but the laundry list of proposals which he’ll send to Congress as part of his budget were a basket full of big government spending items meant to boost dependence on government and popularity among the masses at the expense of higher earners and business.
So how many times can you thumb your nose at conservatives, let us count the ways:
After rattling off some general positive economic news (despite the many caveats that each of these improvements comes with) from lower gas prices to falling unemployment, the President was quick to congratulate himself and bully Republicans:
“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.”
On raising the federal minimum wage:
“We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
On all workplace-related policies:
“We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage?—?these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact. And that’s what all of us?—?Republicans and Democrats alike?—?were sent here to do.”
On the environment:
“That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. “
And on working with Congress:
“So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for?—?arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.”
The strongest zinger he reserved for the end, so it would be fresh on memories:
“Understand?—?a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.
A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.
A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.
A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.”
The line about “fake controversies” might have been his most galling. After all, the IRS scandals and even wiretapping of journalists are make-believe fodder for his critics. He reminded us of that last night.
For all of the President’s scolding and finger wagging he committed to working with Republicans – every Republican in fact:
“If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”
The problem is that most of the policies he recommended are extremely partisan and driven by ideas about the role and approach of government that are fundamentally at odds with those of Republicans. Perhaps if he presented truly bipartisan ideas on education reform, economic reform, rolling back regulations that strangle business, and tax reform, there could be a starting point. He does not. He threatened vetoes to upcoming proposals including a veto to protect Obamacare.
How did Republicans – particularly Presidential candidates – respond? Some saw it as a swing even further to the left in pushing progressive policies. Bloomberg captures those tweets, videos, and remarks.
In short, the President is as obstinate as he’s always been and despite facing an entirely Republican-led Congress, he is gritting his teeth and will dig in.