The 2014 State of the Union Address

by Dave Schuler on January 29, 2014

I watched the bulk of the State of the Union address last night and the balance on Youtube this morning. Also, as is my practice, I went back and re-watched a substantial portion of the speech with the sound off. I recommend that for picking up the paralinguistic message of the speech.

So far I’ve been disappointed with the professional commentary on the speech. Where you stand definitely seems to depend on where you sit. Overall they give the impression of having been written a couple of days ago. If you run into any really insightful commentary, I’d appreciate knowing about it. I’m particularly interested in supporters of the president who didn’t care for the speech or opponents of the president who liked it.

As usual, Joe Gandelman has a solid round-up of commentary from the professional media and the blogosphere.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

michael reynolds January 29, 2014 at 9:16 am

Overall they give the impression of having been written a couple of days ago.

Yep. Everyone had his narrative going in, and mere reality was powerless to alter it.

I don’t do the sound off trick, but a variation in which I try to step out of frame and see what a “civilian” sees, by which I mean someone not obsessed with politics. (The other 99%.)

I almost wondered at times whether the speech was constructed by its writers with the image of John Boehner written in as a cast member. You had the “Barkeep” shout-out to Boehner, drawing focus to him early on, demonstrating that Boehner is physically capable of smiling, and then you had visuals of him looking dyspeptic and indifferent as Obama reached out to women, minorities, the working poor. There was something “screenplay” about it. More exterior than the novel version would be. It was Mr. Young, Charming and Optimistic vs. Mr. Acid Reflux.

Cstanley January 29, 2014 at 10:35 am

I just tried watching a portion with sound off. He seems much more combative that way. Sharp movements, stern facial gestures. Chin out. He also does one particular movement often- he finishes a line, bites his lower lip while simultaneously folding his hands and flicking his arms out at the elbow. Annoyance is how it reads to me.

He seems weary at times too (who can blame him for that?) looked like he was trying to energize himself by coming off the ropes fighting.

Big difference though, without audio vs. with- and even more so between the video and the text. The words had far more warmth than the way he delivered them.

steve January 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Never watch these speeches. Not that masochistic.

Steve

jan January 29, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Last night the drizzle and fog (welcomed in drought- ridden CA) kept us home. Consequently, we did watch the SOTU address. I think CStanley’s take on the President’s body language was spot-on — especially noting that jutting chin — a common facial attribute of his, making him appear arrogantly combative. However, Obama’s tone was less hostile than expected. Instead of fist-like words to the Congress, he seemed more to be chiding, sometimes even cajoling, them into compliance with his long but rather substance-free proposals and agenda. And, although, he looked tired, I thought his actual delivery was energetic and full of as much economic optimism as anyone could be expected to find.

Of course, for most listeners, fact-checking his numbers and assertions was impossible to do at the moment they were spoken. However, later there were numerous exaggerations and misnomers brought up by those with direct access to the real facts. But, by then it’s too late, as polls are usually taken on people’s first impressions. And, in the case of this speech, they were rated as more positive than negative.

While the President’s performance numbers may show a slight improvement, in the immediate future, I don’t think much will change in DC because of this address to the nation. Democrats and republicans will continue to maintain their stances — only the indies may be swayed more one way or the other. However, IMO, last night’s ideas and assurances weren’t enough to recapture these less ideological block of voters back into the democratic fold….yet.

Furthermore, like many political pundits, I thought the President’s verbiage on foreign affairs was sparse. Even though he has taken all the credit for ending two wars, it’s a known fact that most of the departure agreements were made by his predecessor, Bush. One of the major Obama accomplishments in these efforts, though, was a failure to reach a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, which has now led to the chaos undoing earlier military accomplishments. The same post-war turmoil is now on the brink of being duplicated in Afghanistan, under this administration’s continuing weak negotiating skills.

Also, the only mention of Obamacare in the SOTU address was late into the speech, and seemed more centered on ‘marketing it’ than giving an honest assessment of it’s operation and paid enrollment numbers It was more ‘happy’ talk than straight talk. The new idea about retirement savings accounts for lower income people was notable too, in how devoid it was of structural information, including it’s cap of $15,000, or how it’s federal guarantees would be financed. Even the minimum wage EO, submitted right before this speech, failed to say how many people would be effected. So far, the tallied number is estimated to be around 200,000, and not going into effect until 2015.

Generally, I didn’t see anything significant or robust in the ideas put forth by Obama. It’s goal seemed to be one attempting to put a well-orchestrated verbal cork into the dike, in order to prevent anymore slippage of faith from the people — basically, a public pep rally. And, with that measurement in mind, I believe the mission was accomplished.

jan January 29, 2014 at 2:34 pm

BTW, the stock market is always brought in by Obama and his acolytes as a positive indicator of the economy turning around under his policies. Why then did it then drop so precipitously after his SOTU speech?

... January 29, 2014 at 2:45 pm

jan, the drop (today) is because the Fed is cutting out another $10 billion a month in support for the markets. So we’re down to $65 billion a month in Fed props to the market.

... January 29, 2014 at 2:47 pm

It’s amazing what a quarter trillion dollars a year in free money can do for a market.

jan January 29, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Ice,

I saw the news about the Fed cut. However, it appears the SOTU wasn’t able to at least buffer the Fed’s action, by giving a plausible perception of competing good news relating to an improved business agenda ahead in 2014.

However, I agree with you about the positive illusion this stock market has given, being on such an extended intravenous drip of money.

jan January 29, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I was most curious about the TV ratings the SOTU speech attracted.
According to the Nielsen figures it was the lowest since Clinton’s 2000 speech, which has held the all time low that viewer participation was measured. Apparently, Obama’s SOTU audience has been going down with his poll numbers — each year getting lower. However, many people may simply be defecting to their computers by streaming such events over the internet.

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