Blog Buzz: State of the Union Was an Ambitious 'Laundry List'

Reactions from around the blogosphere to the ambitious second term agenda laid out by the president in Tuesday's speech.


President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress. The speech focused heavily on the economy and job creation, topics critics say were noticeably absent from his "liberal manifesto" of an inauguration speech. Here's a roundup from around the blogosphere in reaction to Obama's plans for the country:

The Daily Beast's David Frum observes that as a whole, Obama's State of the Union was consistent with his speech three weeks ago, saying that "second-term Obama has come to peace with his inner liberal. Last night's State of the Union address confirmed the message of the second inaugural: the Obama economic agenda will be firmly and aggressively state-led and state-directed."

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

The Fix's Chris Cillizza calls the economy—"kind of"—one of the biggest takeaways from the address. But he said the lack of concrete proposals won't do much to solve the country's looming budget crisis or high unemployment:

Yes, the bulk of the speech—in terms of words spoken—dealt with the economy. And, yes, he urged Congress to avert the sequester and not shut the government down at the end of next month. But the devil, as always, is in the details, and Obama didn't offer many of them. With Republicans already on record as opposed to any attempt to bypass the sequester, it's hard to see how the Congress finds a way to do so. Yes, President Obama talked about the economy. But it's hard to say he moved the debate forward. At all.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Ezra Klein of Wonkblog calls Obama's agenda "incredibly ambitious." He notes that the president hasn't laid out such bold plans since 2009:

Imagine, for a moment, that President Obama managed to pass every policy he proposed Tuesday night. Within a couple of years, every 4-year-old would have access to preschool. The federal minimum wage would be at $9—higher than it's been, after adjusting for inflation, since 1981. There'd be a cap-and-trade program limiting our carbon emissions and a vast infrastructure investment to upgrade our roads and bridges. Taxes would be higher, guns would be harder to come by, and undocumented immigrants would have a path to citizenship. America would be a markedly different country.

But, he crucially points out: Democrats don't control the House, and many of Obama's plans are not likely to become law at this point. The Economist's Democracy in America notes the same, as Republicans "abhor" the president's standard policies on higher taxes for the right, tighter gun control, and action on climate change, and aren't likely to support other items he laid out Tuesday night:

To his past demands Mr Obama added some new suggestions which are bound to be unpopular with Republicans, such as raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. He also talked about making it easier to vote, not a popular cause on the right. On top of all this came various proposals which, while not especially controversial in themselves, sounded rather expensive. The president said he wants to ensure universal access to pre-school, and to expand vocational training in high school, and to set up a network of institutes promoting manufacturing and to create a tax credit for hiring the long-term unemployed, among other new schemes. All of this, he promised, would not add a dime to the deficit, although he provided no details of how it would be paid for.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

This presidential wish list is standard protocol for the State of the Union, says Hot Air's Ed Morrisey, but this is hardly the main gripe to be had with this yearly "laundry list event:"

No, the problem with this and nearly every SOTU is that it reads like Congress is Santa Claus, the President is the greedy kid, and all the rest of us are the elves in the workshop. Almost without exception for every President in memory, the SOTU is a dressed-up version of a campaign platform filled with "I wants" and "you'd better bring mes," interrupted only by mindless applause and standing ovations for the most mundane of rhetoric. That didn't start with Obama (we should only have been so lucky!) and it won't end with him either. The result is a themeless, pointless, and unmemorable ramble through the arcane fighting points of the day, and no coherence whatsoever other than "gimme."