The President of the United States, Barack Obama, is always a relaxed, comfortable and effective speaker; last night’s State of the Union Address was no exception.
Tangible and incontrovertible was the precedent-setting seating arrangement, wherein the barricades to productivity were for a time lifted. As Democrats sat with Republicans, as liberals shared armrests with conservatives, none could fail to note the new hope established.
The President entered and, moving through the welcoming crowd, he turned right and left, greeting those there assembled on a one-to-one basis, recalling pending matters, and putting the guests at ease in discussing things important to each of them.
In the speech, he recalled the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, and reminded those present that we are all a part of an American family. We are, he said, a “part of something greater,” and he expressed hope for a new era of cooperation. He asked for America to continue to be the “light of the world.”
If there was a main unifying thrust to the President’s words on domestic issues, it was a call for education and an emphasis on technology. He said we must devote ourselves to an investment in the future; an investment in the students of science and mathematics; a dedication to clean energy, and ever advancing technology, and to the further development of as yet undiscovered technology, including advancement in the technologies that allow people to share knowledge. In that regard, he said a fireman at a fire site should be able to view the internal structures of the burning facility on a hand-held device.
He called for 100,000 new teachers and said we should reward innovation. He said the student who excels at a science fair should be as praised as is the student on the sports field. He called for a familial investment in learning, wherein parents applaud their studious, hard-working, and dedicated children. In the area of technology, he called for one million electronic vehicles to be on our roadways by 2015.
As to clean energy and new technology, he plans to cut subsidies, which have in recent years exceeded one billion dollars, for oil companies, which do well without these subsidies. He asked Democrats and Republicans to work together to “make it happen.” He touched on the needs of the children of undocumented aliens, children who have done no wrong, and who can be a valuable resource for America.
On the matter of health care, he continued to promote rules that will prevent insurance companies from exploiting patients. He said that pre-existing conditions must be covered. He called for coverage of prescription costs.
At that point, the President moved on to the matter of the national deficit: “A government that spends more than it takes in is not sustainable.” He says we cannot tolerate excessive discretionary or annual domestic spending; such spending, he says, should be frozen for the next five years. He continued that annual domestic spending only accounts for 12 percent of the growing problem. We must cut tax breaks and loopholes, while strengthening Social Security for future generations. Within the coming 12 months we need see transparency in earmarks and lobbying. He once again calls for internet listing of lobbying operations. Our government, he stated, must be competent, efficient, and open.
Turning to the matter of our conduct of foreign affairs, Obama praised what America has done in Iraq. He views Iraq as a triumph and says we are continuing to improve. He said we must defeat our determined enemies. We must establish coalitions. We must promote American leadership. We will continue to “take the fight” to the Taliban, to al-Qaeda. He mentioned too that we will begin to bring our troops home from Afghanistan in July. We will continue our interest in Pakistan, and “We will not relent.”
We are determined, he said, that North Korea abandon its program for nuclear weapons. Again he called for a strengthening of coalitions. We must, he says, combat corruption.
The President declared that we will stand with the people of Tunisia, as they yearn for the freedoms of democracy, a yearning inherent in each of us.
The President gave great praise to our military: Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim…and to the gays in our nation and in our armed forces, he stated that we will not discriminate against individuals based upon “who they love.”
The President concluded with the moving story of an American businessman and business owner, Brandon Fisher, who designed a device to free the miners trapped in the Chilean mine collapse a few months ago. He told of how Fisher began to fashion the needed equipment, then went himself to Chile, and there his designs and plans were used to free the trapped miners. The President used the term the innovator used, “plan-B,” and said, “We dare to dream.”
As the assembled statesmen, legislators, executive staff members, and Chiefs of Staff rose to applaud on many, many occasions, it was clear that the road to “reaching across the aisle” might begin with the aisle’s elimination.
The Republican response to the State of the Union Address was delivered by Republican Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin. The Representative lacked luster, and spoke in a monotone, restating Republican positions long held.
To the contrary, Michele Bachmann, Republican Representative from Minnesota, doubtless won some new support for the Tea Party, now taking a stand apparently as an American third party, making a break from the Grand Old Party of the Republicans. Her speech, energetic and well delivered, concisely stated Tea Party principles. On the negative side, Representative Bachmann’s speech seemed to have been fashioned prior to the release of the Presidential oration; some of the points she made had just moments before been made by President Obama.