Jonathan Chait

Blogging the State of the Union

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Hi everyone--Mike Crowley here. I'll be blogging throughout the State of the Union tonight. Not liveblogging, exactly (Update: I succumbed), but refresh this thread for regular updates on the latest Speech of Obama's Life. Then, stay tuned to tnr.com for more fully-baked reactions from your other TNR favorites. (Click here for a transcript of Obama's speech and see below to read Jonathan Cohn's live Twitter coverage.)

9:13pm Black Tuesday tested the courage of our convictions? Hmm. But important to remind people how dire situation was a year ago.

9:14pm It is just HDTV or did Geithner not shave? Guess he had a long day.

9:20pm A good defense of the bank bailout, plus an assault on the banks. Obama's winning smile and sense of humor give his explanation a likeable sheen. He should have done more of that by now. (Geithner still looks, in a friend's words, "like he got hit by a truck.")

9:23pm Harry Reid caught yawning.

9:24pm I'm not sure that was the most persuasive defense I've heard of the stimulus bill. It came and went fast--a bit dependent on micro-anecdotes that won't persuade many Americans who think it was a pork fest.

9:25pm Key soundbite: "That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight." This would be what they call a pivot.

9:29pm Democrats have been vowing to end the overseas tax business break since at least 2004. Why didn't it happen last year?

9:30pm Read the full speech text here.

9:32pm "How long should we wait... Washington has been telling us to wait for decades." This is reminiscent of campaign rhetoric--the fierce urgency of now.

9:33pm John Cohn is live-tweeting here.

9:35pm Quite a few passages in this speech that reflects insecurity about America's place in the world, the risk of falling behind big competitors. For instance, Obama's very effective call for a climate change bill:

But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation. 

9:41pm Is it me or does every State of the Union address include a call to expand Pell Grants?

9:45pm From the bank bailout to the stimulus to health care, Obama has done a nice job of defusing thorny issues with a wry, self-deprecating smile.

9:48pm Health care: "As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve propose." I think it's quite possible that, once people get some perspective on CoakleyGate, they'll be willing to return to the bill. And I bet that's what Obama's thinking.

9:51pm Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Obama's presidency is how screwed up America was when he took office. Tonight is a fine opportunity for him to remind a short-memoried public of that reality.

9:56pm Conservatives complain that Obama spends too much time blaming everything on Bush and the GOP. But to my ears this line still has punch: "The problem is, that’s what we did for eight years. That’s what helped lead us into this crisis.  It’s what helped lead to these deficits.  And we cannot do it again."

9:59pm I feel like the public can't get enough earmark-bashing. Although it can fairly be asked why Obama hasn't done a better job to date of curtailing them, I'd say.

10:02pm A bit of triangulating: "But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people." Pelosi didn't seem to love that one.

10:05pm It took Obama about an hour to utter the word "terrorist." This is not a George W. Bush SOTU. I do think he glossed over the security gaps exposed by the underwear bomber a bit quickly, it felt like he didn't want to be talking about it at all.

10:10pm I find the foreign policy section a bit pat. Granted, Obama gave a long speech about Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. But he might have done more to weave his commitment into the Big Picture for America.

10:11pm Overall, I find this to be a strong, fluid speech--it's accessible, not too wonky, some memorable light-hearted moments.

10:13pm "America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity." I'm not entirely  sure how to square that with cozying up to a dictator like Egypt's Mubarak, or downplaying human rights in China. Those decisions may be understandable from a geopolitical perspectivc, but let's not pat ourselves on the back too much.

10:15pm I'm a little surprised by the gays in the military vow. You know Rahm still has nightmares about Clinton's experience. The generals were notably stone-faced.

10:17pm The riff on cynicism--with its long pregnant pauses--is quite powerful. Obama has the chamber in his hand. This is why millions of people fell for him.

10:20pm I agree with Clara Jeffery: "Even Republicans look moved by this bit."

Maybe also with Marc Ambinder: "I think this speech helps Obama. Not sure if it helps his party."

But parties rise and fall with their presidents. And I'm guessing that most Democrats in Congess are pretty pleased right now.

(Click here to read E.J. Dionne's reaction to Obama's speech.)

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