The most significant revelation of this week's State of the Union address was that as much as the Republicans hate Obama, they hate each other even moreby Diane Roberts / January 30, 2014 / Leave a comment
Obama has pledged to go it alone ©PA Images
Presidents traditionally decamp from Washington as soon as the last claps die away, leaving the punditry to grade their latest State of the Union speech. Was it passionate? Eloquent? Confrontational? Substantive? Which designer was the First Lady wearing? This time the verdict is that Barack Obama significantly watered down the ambitious plans of last year, when he demanded comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, reigning in Wall Street and getting aggressive with climate change. The president knows that congressional Republicans are unlikely to agree with him on whether the sun rises in the east, much less work with him on substantive issues. The most interesting moments of the State of the Union speech weren’t actually in the speech itself, but appeared afterward, in the multiple formal responses.
This quasi-monarchical ceremony in which the president processes into the House of Representative to put forth his vision for the coming year as the assembled members of the three branches of government applaud (or don’t) went off much as expected. There were the usual guests-as-national-examples in the First Lady’s box: the first female CEO of General Motors, a gay professional basketball player, a wounded soldier, and a woman from Illinois whose unemployment benefits have run out because Congress refuses to renew them. There were the usual bouts of sartorial speculation by the media: President Obama sported a sky blue tie, the colour of the Democratic Party —does that mean that he’s given up working across the aisle? Michelle Obama wore a dark green dress by the Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaca. Is this proof that the First Lady is ashamed of her country? Or is it a nod to the Arab Spring?
As for the speech itself, Obama was relaxed as he chided Congress–which polls show is less popular with the American people than colonoscopies and cockroaches–for spending all their time either debating the scope of government or staging another pointless vote on the Affordable Healthcare Act. He warned them that if they continue their obstructionist ways, he would govern via executive order: “America does not stand still,” he said. “And neither will I.”
The president pledged to raise the minimum wage for federal contracts, ramp up regulations on polluters, demand gender equality in pay, keep on top of Syria, Afghanistan, Russia, Iraq and especially Iran, foster science,…