Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lefty's Staff Reactions: State of the Union

Tonight, the President of the United States delivered his first State of the Union address in front of millions of Americans. Progressive students at Notre Dame gathered together in the LaFortune Student Center to watch the speech. The attendance was excellent and served as a great reminder of how dedicated our progressive community truly is. The following are Lefty's staff reactions to the speech:

Henry Vasquez

The President showed us tonight that he is serious about addressing economic recovery and budgetary issues. He struck a chord with the American people with rhetoric that was populist, compassionate, yet highly substantive. I was impressed by some of his bolder promises- troop withdrawals, exports doubling, 1 million new jobs, repealing DADT. While some on the Left will criticize his approach to nuclear energy, or will say that he is Bill Clinton 2.0, or attack his persistence on bipartisanship, I think the majority of Americans will respond well to the SOTU. This is not to say that I am personally gung-ho with everything the President said. However, I recognize that he did not write the speech for people like me. He was extremely positive and optimistic, even funny at times. As cheesy as this may sound, the State of the Union has reminded us that "change isn't easy".

Grade: A-
Brendan (AKA ShamRockNRoll)

I went into the speech with low expectations. The developments over the past few weeks made me think the administration was beginning to give up. However, overall I thought it was a great speech. It was not entirely the speech I would ideally like to hear, but it was very effective. He stole many republican issues like taxes, and made them look silly when they sat down and acted like a bunch of grinches when the president spoke about very popular things like health reform and reigning in the banks. One of my favorite parts of the speech was the proposal to renew our focus on education--particularly improving the community college system and getting more Americans to take advantage of it. Some of you may know that I went to a community college before transferring to Notre Dame. Many people here are shocked to hear that, but we have an exceptional community college system in California that should serve as an example for the rest of the country. At one school people can get certificates in certain vocations, associates degrees, or complete their general education curriculum to transfer to a four-year university (saving tens of thousands of dollars in the process!). Many of our CCs have honors programs as well, which I took advantage of, that enabled me to be a competitive transfer candidate to places like UCLA and Notre Dame. It would be a great step forward for the nation if more states followed this model. Finally I loved the President calling out opponents to climate change by asking them if they want to come in 2nd place to China, India or Germany. An excellent strategy to back the "Amuricah-fuck yeah!" crowd into a corner.

Grade: B+/A-
Chris Rhodenbaugh

Democrats and our country needed leadership tonight and we got it.
The speech was an incredible balancing act between populism and
reason, liberal and conservative, anger and optimism, and defending
his successes while admitting his failures in the first year. Yet the
speech came across as an honest articulation of America's problems and
a clear guide to the path ahead. Thank you Mr. President.

Grade: A

I came in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Obama delivered a speech on par with his campaign speeches in the past and with similar enthusiasm that I haven't seen from him in a long time. It was good. If I could simplify this speech down to one word it would have to be JOBS. Obama has set his sights on improving on our dismal unemployment numbers, perhaps even forgoing his proposed progressive agenda (health care reform and cap and trade?) until some sort of stimulus directed at job creation passes through Congress. He took some shots at the banks without straying much from his financial regulation strategies from last year. I also noticed that he went out of his way this time to make concessions to the Republican Party, declaring an interest in investing in offshore drilling, nuclear power, and clean coal, talking tougher on Iran and North Korea and outlining past tax cuts and promising even more. I'm concerned about the proposed spending freeze for 2011. It seems that he's wagering his career on the economy turning around this year. Only time will tell.

Grade: B
Colfax Lodge

Don’t get me wrong, I know many people are getting very excited over what he said, and the manner in which he reached out to moderates and independents. I liked his decision to pivot to jobs and the economy…even if it may be a year overdue. It sounds good on the surface, but following up “I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” on health care without anything that really explains it to people will have them wondering why we’ve now “wasted” the past 9 months on health care. He really threw a bone to progressives with the call to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” but I feel that his energy policy played way too much to conservatives by basically conceding the same points of “Drill, Baby, Drill!” on oil and other nonrenewable energies like nuclear (surprising, but true), coal, and gas. The big worry that I have is that conservatives are already riled up for this election, while liberals aren’t, which gives Republicans no reason to be cooperative. If we don’t start getting some things done, this speech alone isn’t enough to avoid a free-for-all on seats come November.

Grade: B-
Kevin Casimer

The President quite skillfully wove together the nations lingering key initiatives such as healthcare and making sure the bank bailouts were worthwhile as well as previewing his next set of objectives as we begin a new year. Major kudos to the President for noticing Republicans' ridiculous display of partisanship (I'm thinking of when they refused to applaud the fact that taxes were cut for 8 million that are Americans paying for college) and then rubbing their nose in it so bad even John Boehner was blushing. Ironically (and admittedly hypocritically, as I make that observation in a very partisan way) the thing I think the President deserves the most credit for in his first year in office is that nobody really talks about is what he said tonight about "trying to change our politics" away from the bitter dichotomy and back towards a focus on governance (unfortunately the GOP has turned that goal into an obstacle for governing so far, but i digress). Overall a very solid SOTU with much more substance than the previous one. My only criticism is that the President should have ordered the Joint Chiefs to stand and applaud the initiative to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell".

Grade: A- (with with points deducted for letting the Joint Chiefs look like backwards, uninformed douches)

We would like to encourage comments and feedback. And, if you missed the speech or would like to review, you can read the full text here.

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ShamRockNRoll said...

I neglected to mention in my reaction that I was VERY pleased with the President's promise to get rid of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." I hope it happens quickly, and I hope that the LGBT community here at Notre Dame feels heartened by the president mentioning this in the SOTU, especially given the recent events on campus.

ShamRockNRoll said...

Kevin, I agree with most of your comments, but you think the President should have ordered the Joint Chiefs to stand and applaud??? Seriously? I wish they would have, but I like the idea of living in a country where the head of state doesn't order people to praise him like some petty dictator.

Kevin Casimer said...

It was a joke, but I actually did sorta mean it. If the President announces an initiative during the SOTU address its a pretty big deal. You would expect Kathleen Sebelius to support the President's major HHS initiatives, Steven Chu the major DoE initiatives etc. so it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect the Joint Chiefs to stand behind one of their commander's significant initiatives for the armed forces. Military officers follow the code of military justice and the chain of command and if Congress and the President repeal DADT they will have to welcome able glbt servicemen and servicewomen to serve openly in the armed forces or face courtmartial. My point is that even if repealing DADT wasn't the great idea that it is, in the military world it is unprofessional to undermine the objectives of your superior, especially publicly which they did by remaining seated and stoic amidst a standing ovation.

ShamRockNRoll said...

I get your point, and I thought you might have been joking I just wasn't quite sure.

Gregory said...

I thought it was some sort of rule or tradition that members of the military don't applaud during the speech. It's not like there's any evidence that they were singling that policy out. If anything it would be weird to applaud a minor thing and not applaud at all those bigger policy ideas.

Bill said...

I'm pretty sure that's true. Also the the Supreme Court isn't supposed to stand and applaud either

blakey said...