A speech about everything is a speech about nothing #SOTU

Obama...speaking

Obama…speaking

One thing I am going to be writing about on this blog is political speeches. This is because I want to be an expert at one point in the future so I will be writing about speeches and then grading them. My parents and society have kept me in school so long that the only way I can assess something is by grading something. Below is my review of the Obama speech from last night (and some brief thoughts about the republican response).

Last night was the State of the Union (or the #SOTU if you live in the Twittersphere…which I don’t like). I want to use my first ever, excluding my practice post, blog post to talk about the speech. Granted, during the speech I nodded off at (many) points but that does not mean that it was not a great speech…the fact that it tried to cover every issue that affects every person in the entire United States may have had a hand in diminishing it though.

However, I do not blame Obama (or Rubio for that matter), I believe this is something inherently wrong with an age old tradition that could just as easily be summed up in a public letter to Congress. (Please see the wonderful article in Politico Time to Retire the STOU?) However, because the State of the Union happened, I will write about it.

At the start of the night ABC News began inundating us, the viewers, with words to have in the front of our minds as if we did not know that these words would come up in the President’s speech. Graphics popped up with the words “gridlock…divided…gun control…immigration…healthcare” and a few more. I did not pay too much attention except to note that they were “priming the audience” (not sure if that is a real thing but let’s run with it) for a speech with even debated social issues.

Everyone knew that the night would be emotional (and about guns), Gabby Giffords was shown and many members of the audience wore the green ribbons to remember the horrific Newtown shooting. The anchors on ABC talked about how Speaker Boehner called out the President saying that he did not have “the guts to make the tough decisions” which, I hope everyone can see, is just the media making problems.

Even if the Speaker said that what is the goal of telling us? There is none. The media just keep driving their wedge agenda (conflict gets ratings, so to the media the Republicans want to have an old school rumble with the Democrats…Sharks vs. Jets style) between the two parties. What was important for the public to notice (and I know I did) was how incredible it was that Obama’s head did not explode from Speaker Boehner’s stare. But that is not the topic of this post…I have got to get to the speech (excuse my ramblings #myfirstblogpost).

Amidst the grey haired people Obama emerged…equally grey haired but exuding a good amount of what the anchors on ABC called “confidence” or what I would more aptly call – swag. He got up to the podium after he did the hand shake game and kicked off his speech. He began talking about JFK, which generally is a great start. He used the words such as “progress…grit … determination… and reignite.” He spoke about the debt, bi-partisan politics, and climate changed. He touched on of course every issue he could possibly get his hands on. The camera work for the speech was very quick and clever. When he talked about the budget it would cut to people like Mitch McConnell and his standard perpetual frown.  Obama preached “smart government” and love-surged (gushing from his love he can’t hold it in) for the middle class (not that there is anything wrong with that). He had a great line saying “we do not need bigger government, we need smarter government” which I thought was a well-positioned line against the opposition. Obama used, what David Meerman Scott would term as, “gobbledygook” meaning useless political jargon to explain situations in the White House and spoke AT the American people throughout the night. I would not say it was a great speech, but that is what you get when you cover the entire country.

There were two notable moments in his speech for me. One was during one of his gimmies. A gimmie is a line that is pretty much guaranteed applause and Obama knows how to work it. At each one of them his standbys (like Al Franken) shot up like a cannonball to clap as if being the first one to stand gets you a special sticker from the President… for all I know it might. After the press showed Franken usually the rest of the chamber stood and applauded. His best gimmie to me was about Israel.

I am an extremely proud Israel advocate. I love the state of Israel. I am an orthodox Jew who lived there for a year and visited the country about 7 times. His statements in defense of Israel always get me, the just do. I believe it is in the US best interest to continue its friendship with the only stable democracy in the Middle East and the fact that Israeli innovation has saved countless American lives, and the fact that Israel is a country that needs America to stay alive…ok I loved surged right there (I will save that for another post). So I enjoyed that.

When talking about his transparency it is important to remember that he left out drones…awkward.

Finally at the end of his speech he did something everyone was expecting but what I thought was a pretty smart move. He found a way to use the speech to make Congress and the Senate accountable for the gun deaths. He used the phrase “just one vote” (referencing that he wants just one vote for stricter gun laws). He said that “if the representatives have to vote no, then they vote no” which he knows is a hot button issue. Democrats in not only purple and red districts but even in light blue districts would have a problem with this vote. He also knows that voting against it would make them into complete buffoons. While Obama may be able to get the universal background checks through the House and Senate I think he knows that an assault weapons ban is going to be pretty close to impossible but he put the representatives in the hot seat anyway… kinda threw this own Democrats under the buss on this one. He put the situation a certain way saying “the families deserve one vote” and making it the focal point of his speech. He talked about the missed “birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries.” He did a great job selling it, but we will see if it sticks.

The full transcript is on Mediaite.com and below you can watch the full hour or the last ten minutes if you want. I would suggest sticking with the last 10 minutes.

At the end of the night the Republican Party stunned me once again with their sheer stupidity by having a divided response. It is not enough that everyone in the country thinks that republicans can’t get their act together but that they show it like this is absurd. Rubio was charismatic, emotional, and very impressive I thought. Who cares if he needed some water I thought his emotional appeal was solid and the Republicans need a candidate like this for the next election. I did not watch Rand Paul…the Bruins were in a shootout with the Rangers…then again I did not want to watch Rand Paul.

I think what I gathered from this State of the Union was that, as much as I love political speeches (it is something that I may want to go into when I “grow up”) I do not know how effective anyone can be when trying to speak about the entire country. Obama did do a great job at trying to engage the crowed for the full hour and had a few moments when he truly was engaging. He spoke with vigor and used his hands very well. I would say that he made the best of what he had to work with, tasked with speaking about the entire nation and everything in the world that is happening he did the best he could.

STOU Grade: B+

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