Our breakdown of last night’s wild State of the Union Address!! (And by wild we mean extremely subdued and surprisingly respectful.)
Is it weird that one of our writers dreamed last night that in the middle of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the joint session of Congress broke out to sing Graduation by Vitamin C as Obama just floated away?
You know what, pretend we just didn’t write that…
Anyway, here are our thoughts on President Obama’s last State of the Union Address.
If there was a word to describe last night’s State of the Union Address, it would have been “throwback.” President Obama went back and took pointers from a freshman Illinois senator that still hadn’t become America’s first Black president quite yet. It was a speech that showcased soaring rhetoric and looked more towards the future, looking past the 2016 election cycle, yet never completely forgetting it either.
It was an interesting speech, because it really wasn’t the usual State of the Union “laundry list” talk. It echoed of a speech that Senator Obama gave quite often, a speech appealing to our better selves.
Whether you agree with President Obama’s policy initiatives or not (which we’ll get to in a moment), it’s hard to deny the impressiveness of his final SotU Speech. This was a legacy speech for President Obama. He wanted everyone to know that whether you agree with his vision of America or not, he would like to be remembered as one hell of an orator.
Which for the record, he most definitely is.
Trump’s Yelp Review on President Obama’s Last State of the Union Address
The #SOTU speech is really boring, slow, lethargic – very hard to watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2016
Just the (Policy) Facts
Even though this State of the Union Speech had very broad policy initiatives, they’re still worth talking about. Here are some of the more important policy points from last night’s address.
- Cancer Research: While President Obama’s goal of irradiating Cancer is a daunting one, his actual policy pertains to beefing-up resources to programs that already exist. The two ways the Obama administration has said they hope to achieve this is to increase funding to institutions researching the disease and create better systems so various institutions are able to communicate their research better to one-another. Two very practical ideas.
- Criminal Justice Reform: Even though the criminal justice system was mentioned briefly in yesterday’s SotU it’s one of the few aspects that both the Obama administration and a GOP Congress can agree upon. The Senate bill allows an ease on mandatory sentences and makes the appeals process easier for those that are currently incarcerated. Even though this bill would only cover those that are prosecuted by the federal government, never the less it’s a start.
- Higher Education: It’s an idea that President Obama had issued in last year’s SotU Address, to make community college free for everyone through a federal-state partnership. While it has gotten little to no traction in Congress, the Obama administration is starting to introduce that idea to local and state governments in hopes of being embraced there.
- Guantanamo Bay Prison: If there is one thing President Obama would LOVE to do before he leaves office, it would be to finally shutdown Guantanamo Bay Prison. But considering the GOP controlled Congress refuses to budge on the issue and the recently passed Defense Bill has provisions to keeping the prison open for the foreseeable future, this looks unlikely.
- Gun Control: With all this talk about the #EmptySeat, gun control was talked about very little in his SotU Address. In reality, gun control is one of those issues that look to be a priority with President Obama in his final days in office. Along with his recent executive actions on gun control, don’t be surprised if you see more tweaks to current gun laws.
- Energy Policy: President Obama made it very clear; he looks at sustainable/clean energy as the industry of the future. That means a continued push to leave energy options like crude oil and coal behind. This could be hard considering many American businesses rely on those industries. Specifically what programs the Obama administration looks to introduce in its final year, we’ll just have to wait and see.
- Cuba: With last year the Obama administration announcing that it would once again establish diplomatic ties with Cuba, it opened the door to the possibility of the over five-decade old Cuba Embargo to finally be lifted. Considering American businesses are starting to make deals with the once isolated island nation, the lifting of the embargo looks very likely.
- Conflicts in the Middle-East: For those that were looking for the Obama administration to take a more active role in the Syrian Civil War, they were gravely disappointed last night. In no uncertain terms, he warned about America’s involvement in “nation building” and stressed a continued approach that didn’t include the deployment of troops to the region. But he did ask for an extension on war powers to continue the US’ fight with ISIS. Whether Congress actually extends those powers is another story entirely.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: A Tidal Wave of Emotion
So. Much. Emotion.
Building Bridges That Continue to Burn
It was always going to be Nikki Haley.
It just makes too much sense that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley would give the Republican Response to the State of the Union Address. She’s the child of Indian immigrants that now is one of the GOP’s rising stars in a traditionally segregated Red State. Oh did we mention she’s also South Carolina’s first female governor? That of course only sweetens the pot. And of course the Republican response would be translated in Spanish for a Hispanic audience. After all, how else are you going to show the Hispanic bloc that the GOP still cares?
All this happened last night, because that’s where the Republican Party is at right now.
The GOP is a party that has a lot of bridge building to do from now till November. Last night’s Republican response was the first step towards that. A speech that echoed President Obama’s SotU Address more than they would even like to admit. Sure there were GOP talking points about fighting terrorism and a smaller federal government, but it also talked about welcoming of immigrants to US shores and renouncing “siren call of the angriest voices” (which she confirmed was a subtle jab at Donald Trump).
Last night was to show the world that the GOP is not out of touch with minority and women voters. It was the first signs of an olive branch we have seen from the GOP since the hostile rhetoric had started in the Republican primaries.
The problem however?
The Republican primaries are still going on. Whether it’s Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, they want to attract a particular base within the party and that means the tough rhetoric on immigrants will continue. These primaries however will eventually end and the groundwork for the general election will begin. If last night is any indication, the GOP is hoping that there are bridges left to build after these primaries end.
(Photo Credit: Google Images, WhiteHouse.gov, ABC News)