President Obama’s State of the Union address started as a robust call for a more activist federal government, a warning of overconcern about the deficit at the expense of economic growth and a push for all sorts of issues like gay rights and immigration reform that have in the past been defined as liberal.
But the speech’s second half was its emotional part, as he drew standing ovations when he introduced the 102-year-old voter who waited six hours in line at the ballot box and recited all of the cities that have been the sites of horrific mass gun shootings. The challenge was for Republicans who have so long opposed his agenda to not step up, stand up and clap. House Speaker John Boehner did clap as Obama urged Congress to bring gun legislation to the floor — “they deserve a vote” — but much was made of the fact that he didn’t stand for the centenarian voter.
As ambitious as the State of the Union speech was, the divisions in Congress cast doubt that much of what Obama proposed will actually come to a vote, and despite the emotion as Obama talked gun control, the odds still point to an uphill battle for an assault weapons ban and maybe even the expanded background checks and restrictions on magazine clips. All the more sobering is that, just as Obama was starting to talk about gun violence, the news was coming in that the body of Christopher Jordan Dorner may have been found in a burned out cabin in Big Bear, an end of a tense standoff throughout the day that included a gunfight and the death of one police officer. The news networks did not do a split screen — some of the local L.A. stations kept with the Dorner coverage — but the State of the Union didn’t really need a reminder of the sensational juxtaposition.
I can’t help but think that Obama isn’t so much laying the groundwork for getting much of his legislation passed in this Congress, but creating enough of a popular movement for a future one, even after he is out of office.
Photo: Tony Bennett, a guest of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, tweeted a photo tonight of him meeting with Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. Bennett quoted Obama’s call for a vote on gun legislation. Also getting plenty of attention, after the speech, on the floor of Congress: Ted Nugent.
Obama’s full speech is below: