Ladies and gentlemen, Impromptus tomorrow — I mean, Thursday — is devoted to several topics, none of them SotU. So I thought I’d give you some SotU notes here in the Corner, if that’s okay. I’ll just give them in the order in which I scribbled them, as I was watching. I don’t pretend this is a comprehensive analysis — just some random notes, really.
1) Before the speech, a commentator on CBS said (I paraphrase), “He’s not going to give up on health care, much to the chagrin of the Republicans.” I was thinking, “Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, too: particularly those who have tough reelections.”
2) I don’t know if you know this, but CBS News is really a house of liberals. Had you ever heard that?
3) Obama looks arrogant, whether he’s arrogant or not. I don’t think he can help it: It’s the upturned chin. When actors want to preen and so on: They turn that chin upward. Yikes.
4) Watching these SotUs, I often think of Stalin: how they were afraid to be the first to stop applauding — they would be shipped to the Gulag the next day. The opening applause at the SotU is . . . well, a little much, put it that way. So is the applause throughout the speech. A speech ceases to be a speech and becomes an applause-fest.
5) I’m sorry — and I know I’m a partisan Republican — but Biden looks like a total goofball. He just does. If I were a partisan Democrat, I’d cringe, a lot.
6) The smoothness of the House speaker’s face is . . . remarkable. It is increasingly the style, among upper-crust ladies (and some men). Is it moving into the lower crusts, too?
7) Obama speaks very, very confidently, and very, very crisply.
8) Interesting that Obama reads letters (from citizens) “each night.” Reagan read a batch every weekend, at Camp David. He’d seal up his answers and give them to staff to mail. Drove certain staff nuts, that they could not see the presidential responses. Reagan thought his correspondence should be private.
9) I see John Kerry in the gallery: At long last, senior senator from Massachusetts. (Remember how long old Fritz Hollings was the junior senator from South Carolina?)
10) The American people, says Obama, are “tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness.” Tired of you, you mean? Obama is not guilty of “shouting,” so far as I know. But of the other two, very much so.
11) Senator Grassley’s Santa Claus–red vest: smart.
12) Is it hard for McCain to sit there, and not be president? If it weren’t, he would not be fully human.
13) It is to Obama’s advantage that he does not speak too slowly — that is a plague of speakers, more than too fast.
14) I see Sen. Byron Dorgan — hard to believe he is retiring. When I was a student in Washington, a group of us met with him — he was in the House at the time. Sort of new. Geez.
15) “They [the American people] share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to school. They’re coaching Little League and helping their neighbors.”
Very Reaganesque — reminds me of the famous ’84 ad (“Morning in America”).
16) Obama knows that applause can be a terrible momentum-killer.
17) Someone should tell Biden to nod less, and to react less, period.
18) The Levin brothers are sitting together — Senator Carl and Representative Sander. They’ve been in Congress from Michigan forever. And the older they get, the more they look alike, IMO.
19) Said Obama, after talkin’ tax cuts, “I thought I’d get some applause on that one” — fairly charming.
20) Obama: “We haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.” I thought he was going to then say, “Damn!”
P.S. Yes, I’ll split an infinitive when I want to, thanks.
21) The camera catches Harry Reid yawning — oops.
22) Sen. Ben Nelson and Lieberman are sitting next to each other — sort of interesting. And Nelson’s rug is atrocious. Does it have to be so big? It’s, like, as big as Nebraska.
23) Obama says, “Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America’s businesses.” Republicans are robust in their applause. Obama says (off-script, of course), “I agree. Absolutely.” He says this in a tone that says, “Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I agree?”
A very interesting moment — sort of an I-am-not-a-socialist moment.
24) Interesting, and effective, pronoun choice: “. . . or a worker decides it’s time she became her own boss.”
25) Obama keeps naming American towns — almost like he’s collecting them. Almost as though he were saying, “See, I really like, and know, the country!” Overkill. He should cut back the town mentions by about 35 percent.
26) He strikes me as a happy warrior tonight — and no tail at all between legs.
27) Obama: “From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious — that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for a while. For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?”
Reminds me of Reagan: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
28) Nuclear power? Really? Wow. Will we eventually be as mature as France?
29) Drill, baby, drill!
30) Obama: “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you doubt the evidence . . .”
Um, this is a very bad month in which to be arrogant about climate change — the IPCC has shown itself, once more, to be a farce and a disgrace (at least in part). (What a qualification!)
31) I hate this rhetorical sleight-of-hand: “invest” instead of “spend.” I think Clinton started that. Republicans oppose “investment in people” — i.e., spending on certain programs.
32) A long way in, I’m wondering, “Do State of the Union addresses have to be so laundry-listy? Deadens a speech.”
33) Head (mine) about to explode. Here’s why: “And let’s tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after twenty years — and forgiven after ten years if they choose a career in public service.”
Because “public service” is better than the private sector? Nobler, more laudable? Can I tell you what a public service is? Opening a good store. Inventing something useful. Employing people.
Thank you. Thank you, dear capitalists and entrepreneurs — you who are so seldom thanked.
34) I never liked Michelle Obama so much as when she told people, who were giving her a standing ovation, to sit down. Hand gestures and everything. Nice.
35) Says Obama, “. . . as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They . . . will face growing consequences. That is a promise.”
You shouldn’t make promises you can’t, or won’t, keep.
36) An interesting thing about Obama pronunciation: words like “homes,” “shores,” and “ideals”? There is no “z” sound at the end; it is basically a soft “s.” Very curious.
37) “America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.” Oh, that is awfully George W. Bush, Barack Obama! You sure you want to “go there”? You aren’t dictating to others, are you?
38) I’m not sure that little homily about good civic behavior wasn’t a little condescending.
39) Obama is a very, very good speaker — one of the best in memory. Wish his ideas, notions, and inclinations were better.