The President’s State of the Union Address: What They’re Saying

The reactions have been pouring in since the President gave his State of the Union Address last night.  If you missed it, you should by all means read the speech or watch the video of our first-ever “enhanced” presentation of the Address, but we thought you might also be interested in some of the early responses from observers across the country:

Newspapers and Magazines

Wall Street Journal: “President Barack Obama Used His State of the Union Address to Challenge Lawmakers in Both Parties to Rise Above Partisan Divisions to Tackle Problems that Will Allow the U.S. to Compete in the Global Economy.” “President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to challenge lawmakers in both parties to rise above partisan divisions to tackle problems that will allow the U.S. to compete in the global economy.” [WSJ, 1/25/11]

New York Times: Obama Called “For Americans to Unleash Their Creative Spirits, Set Aside Their Partisan Differences and Come Together Around a Common Goal of Out-Competing Other Nations in a Rapidly Shifting Global Economy.” “President Obama called Tuesday night for Americans to unleash their creative spirits, set aside their partisan differences and come together around a common goal of out-competing other nations in a rapidly shifting global economy.” [NY Times, 1/25/11]

MarketWatch: “President Barack Obama Urged Lawmakers to Set Aside Partisan Differences and Bolster the Economic Recovery and America’s Competitiveness…” “…President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to set aside partisan differences and bolster the economic recovery and America’s competitiveness in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. In an address before a joint session of Congress, Obama laid out a blueprint for job creation and ‘investments’ in the United States, saying the U.S. must “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” [Marketwatch, 1/25/11

Forbes Blog: “President Obama Appealed to Democrats and Republicans to Put Aside Partisan Differences and Work Together to Restore American Competitiveness.” “In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama appealed to Democrats and Republicans to put aside partisan differences and work together to restore American competitiveness.” [Forbes Blog, 1/25/11]

New York Times Editorial: “Mr. Obama Did Not Wade Into Every Fight and Ignored Some. But He Did Take on Some Tough Ones… Americans Need to Hear a Lot More Like That from Mr. Obama in Weeks to Come.” “Mr. Obama’s speech offered a welcome contrast to all of the posturing that passes for business in the new Republican-controlled House. On Tuesday, House Republicans pushed through a resolution calling for reducing spending on domestic programs to 2008 levels.  That will not do much, if anything, to bring down the long-term deficit. In a fragile economy, especially, cutting back spending on transportation, education, scientific research, food safety and childhood nutrition, will do huge damage. Mr. Obama did not wade into every fight and ignored some. But he did take on some tough ones. He said it is time, for example, to stop deporting young people who were brought to America by undocumented immigrants and are now successful students. Americans need to hear a lot more like that from Mr. Obama in weeks to come.” [NY Times, Editorial, 1/26/11]

Roll Call: “In a Speech That Echoed the Voices of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy…Obama Hammered the Message That the American Dream Is Still Within Reach…At the Heart of His Road Map Is a Plan to Put the Nation on a Strict Fiscal Diet While Also Making Targeted Investments In Clean Energy and Infrastructure to Boost the Economy.” “In a speech that echoed the voices of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, who led the nation through another period of economic and emotional transition, Obama hammered the message that the American dream is still within reach but only if people can meet the demands of a new age…Obama, speaking for about an hour, used much of his address laying out his vision for moving the country forward based on five themes: innovation, education, building, reform and responsibility. And at the heart of his road map is a plan to put the nation on a strict fiscal diet while also making targeted investments in clean energy and infrastructure to boost the economy.” [Roll Call, 1/26/11]

Experts, Commentators and Pundits

Brookings Institution’s Bill Galston: “President Obama Offered a Wide-Ranging Program for Revitalizing the American Economy and Retaining U.S. Global Economic Leadership… It Is a Narrative, Not of Anger or Resentment, But of Optimism and Hope.” “In a State of the Union address devoted almost entirely to domestic matters, President Obama offered a wide-ranging program for revitalizing the American economy and retaining U.S. global economic leadership. His agenda rested on five pillars: spurring innovation, reforming education, rebuilding America’s infrastructure, removing barriers to business success, and regaining fiscal balance… In short, President Obama argued, the main drivers of economic change are technology and globalization and (he implied) not trade or corporate misconduct.  This is the narrative favored by mainstream liberals and mainstream conservatives, and also by corporate leaders, but not by populists of either the left or the right.  It is a narrative, not of anger and resentment, but of optimism and hope.” [Brookings Institution’s Bill Galston Blog, 1/25/11

E.J. Dionne: “A Smart Speech…Reassuring Americans That We Can Overcome Challenges to Our Economic Power…Embracing the Idea of America As an Exceptional Nation That Always, Well, Wins the Future.” “It was a smart speech aimed at scrambling the political debate, reassuring Americans that we can overcome challenges to our economic power, and redefining the political center…Obama has clearly decided to take that challenge on, embracing the idea of America as an exceptional nation that always, well, wins the future.” [WashingtonPost.com, 1/25/11]

David Gergen Tweeted That Pres. Obama’s State of the Union Speech “May Not Be What People Want To Hear But It Is What We All Need To Hear.” [Twitter, 1/25/11]

ABC’s Christiane Amanpour Said President Obama’s Speech Was “Reagan-esque” in its Optimism and “Full of Kennedy-esque Encouragement to Break a New Frontier.” “Well, full of sunny optimism, very Reagan-esque, on and on about American exceptionalism in many, many instances, and full of Kennedy-esque encouragement to break a new frontier. That "Sputnik" moment was remarkable – of course, harking back to 1957 when the Soviet Union put the first unmanned satellite in space and started the space race and really launched a whole new era of technological, scientific, and all sorts of progress – and the president calling for more of that here.” [ABC News, 1/25/11]

Time’s Mark Halperin: Pres. Obama’s State of the Union Address Marked A Return To His Inspirational 2004 Self. “Whatever happens next, the president's 2011 State of the Union speech represents not a new Barack Obama, but a return to the original version.  You know the one. The magnetic Barack Obama of the ‘Red American/Blue America’ 2004 Democratic convention speech. The distinguished Barack Obama whose non-ideological best-selling book captivated the nation. The inspiring Barack Obama whose post-partisan rhetoric and promise won him the White House with decisive support, including from independent voters. Tuesday, that Obama, optimistic and unifying, borrowed from the best of his predecessors, as all smart politicians do... [Time, 1/25/11]

  • Halperin: Pres. Obama’s “Soaring State Of The Union” Was “Close To Flawless” In Presentation And A “Return To His Rhetorical Roots.”“Obama's presentation was close to flawless: upbeat and animated, leisurely and assured, surprisingly engaging even when he lapsed into the professorial mode he favors over tub-thumping...As the president declared in his speech, there will be tough political fights ahead.  Tuesday's feel-good tableau was fueled by well-crafted words that are, in the end, just words.  But by returning to his rhetorical roots -- as a progressive who believes America can meet its challenges only by working across partisan lines and rejecting tired old politics and extremist demands -- Obama harnessed the momentum he has had following his December bustle and Tucson leadership to achieve a soaring State of the Union.” [Time, 1/25/11]

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: Obama Brought Both Parties to Their Feet 45 Times – “I Think That Sets a Record for Modern States of the Union.” “And he brought both parties to their feet, Diane, at least 45 times, from our count. 45 instances of bipartisan applause. I think that sets a record for modern States of the Union.” [ABC News, 1/25/11]

CBS News’ Katie Couric and Jeff Greenfield: President Obama’s Speech Was “Reaganesque.”

COURIC: And in many ways, you felt this speech tonight was almost downright Reaganesque. There have been some comparisons made in recent days about how this could be his Reagan moment. Do you think it was in any way?

JEFF GREENFIELD: I think there was an effort on several grounds. One, the story telling was woven throughout the speech. Every political point or policy point he wanted to make was illustrated with that. Second, it was the future. He kept talking about winning the future and that was always a big theme about Reagan. It's not left/right, it's the past versus the future. Perhaps, most of all, the constant reiteration of optimism. We do big things, there isn't a person here who would trade places with anyone else on earth. I know we'll get there. That's almost like Martin Luther king, I’ve been to the mountain top. So in that sense he was clearly strike rhetorical notes that reminded me of Mr. Reagan. [CBS News, 1/25/11]

CNN’s Gloria Borger: “He Was a President Who Was Reaching Out to Republicans Saying I Get What You’re Saying I Understand It, But I’m Playing a Long Game Here. I Care About the Future of This Country As You Do. So We Have To Figure Out a Way To Do This Together.” “He was a president who was reaching out to Republicans saying I get what you're saying I understand it, but I’m playing the long game here. I care about the future of this country as do you. So we have to figure out a way to do this together, and I think it's something the public will respond to.” [CNN, 1/25/11]

CBS News’ Bob Schieffer: President Obama’s Speech Was “Well-Written” and Was “An Extension” of Obama’s Speech in Tucson.  “I thought the president had a very well-written speech, especially the beginning and the end… His Reagan moment was when he made that speech in Tucson. But I think he kind of built on that tonight. I thought this speech was something of an extension of that speech.” [CBS News, 1/25/11]

NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell: President Obama “Was Trying to Invoke the Optimism, the Can-Do Spirit That Brings to Mind Ronald Reagan in These Settings.” “That’s exactly what he was trying to get after. And I think he was trying to invoke the optimism, the can-do spirit that brings to mind Ronald Reagan in these settings. That, plus the heroes sitting with the first lady, of course, been replicated by all of the presidents since Reagan first did it in 1982. But the fact that he is trying to say we have passed the point of crisis, and now, we can do something, we can invest.” [NBC News, 1/25/11]

Howard Dean: “It Is a Very, Very Good Speech. I Am Delighted.” “I am going to be blunt about this I have seen the speech. It was leaked. It is a very, very good speech. I am delighted. I'm frankly a little surprised. The president is mindful of the deficit. He makes it clear he wants to work with the congress but with the most extraordinary thing is he lays down the gap gauntlet. Millionaires will have to pay more taxes if we are going to cut kids and other folks dependent on it. He made it clear this is going be a shared sacrifice and the tax cut extended for the people who make a million a year is not going to be extended again if we are going to do anything about the deficit. That was extraordinary. There is a lot of great stuff about the environment. I have to say, in print, we'll see how he delivers it, it is one of the most substantive speeches I have seen him make.” [MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, 1/25/11]

  • Dean: “It Is a Statesman-Like Tone. He Sets Down Markers that Democrats Can Be Proud of.” “I have to say I’m jubilant about what the president is about to say. I didn't expect it. I didn't expect the tone. It is a statesman like tone. He sets down markers that democrats can be proud of.” [MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, 1/25/11]

Fox News’ Juan Williams: “I Liked the Speech. The Reason Was I Thought it Spoke to Our American Moment.” “I liked the speech. The reason was I thought it spoke to our American moment. I thought this is not a moment for fake oratory that seeks to soar at this moment, because America needs to dig in and get some things done.” [Fox News, 1/25/11]

Donna Brazile Said President Obama’s Speech Would Be Remembered Not Only for the Words He Spoke, “But Because of the Spirit of Civility that Really Was in the Room Tonight.” “Now, this speech will be remembered not simply because of the worlds that he spoke, although uplifting, but because of the spirit of civility that really was in the room tonight.” [ABC News, 1/25/11]

Former Sen. Judd Gregg: “I Thought It Was an Excellent Speech… And He Was Actually Pretty Specific, I Thought, on Some of the Things He’s Willing to Put on the Table.” “Well, I thought it was an excellent speech, as you would expect. He was elegant. Especially at the end in his language. That we do big things, is a very American way of saying what we're about. And he was actually pretty specific, I thought, on some of the things he's willing to put on the table. Social security, tort reform, the issue of addressing the health care bill, not repealing it, but coming at it from different directions. Freezing spending for five years, discretionary spending. Tax reform, which I think is critical in my opinion, because we have the highest taxes in the nation than other industrialized states. Let's see where we go from here. I thought he outlined a whole series of specifics, if he's willing to sort of put -- he put the antes on the table. Will he follow up with the bid will be the question.” [CNBC, 1/25/11]

Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker Praised Pres. Obama For Reaffirming His Commitment To Social Security. “However, the Wall Street crew and the people they fund in Washington have been vigorously pushing for sharp cuts in Social Security and Medicare, as though these programs were the program. President Obama resisted this pressure and reaffirmed his commitment to protecting Social Security both for current and future retirees. This was very courageous - he would have received much support from business and from the elite media if he had come out for gutting these programs - but he instead stood by these essential programs. This gets the second half of his term off to a solid start.” [Politico Arena, 1/25/11]

Related Topics: Civil Rights
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