what other people think

The State of the Union Fails to Unite the Nation’s Pundits

According to post-speech polls, President Obama’s State of the Union was well received by America. According to CBS, 83 percent who watched the speech approved of Obama’s proposals, while CNN showed that 78 percent of viewers had a positive or very positive reaction. But regular viewers don’t have blogs, or newspaper columns, and are therefore unimportant. Let’s take a look at what the nation’s professional pundits and commentators thought of the speech.

• Gail Collins says Obama was peeved and cranky. [NYT]

• Richard Cohen says it was Obama’s “demeanor, his poise, his supreme self-confidence that spoke volumes.” [Post Partisan/WP]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that “much of the speech was responding to frustrated independents and anger at Washington,” but there was “something for everyone.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• The Washington Post editorial board thinks Obama provided “a little something for everyone, sometimes conciliatory, sometimes combative, often sounding much like a campaign speech, only longer.” [WP]

• The New York Times editorial board liked seeing Obama “get tougher and clearer about going forward” in the face of Republican obstructionism. [NYT]

• The Wall Street Journal editorial board concludes that what Obama learned from Scott Brown’s election is “that he should keep doing what he’s been doing, only with a little more humility, and a touch more bipartisanship.” [WSJ]

• John Dickerson thinks it felt like a “relaunch,” with Obama returning “repeatedly to the themes he campaigned on — a call to end partisanship and special interest influence, and to create a government equal to the spirit of the American people.” [Slate]

• Nate Silver is “pleasantly surprised” that the speech “managed at once to recall why the majority of the electorate voted for him while at the same time demonstrating an awareness of the difficult situation in which the President now finds himself.” [FiveThirtyEight]

• Ezra Klein thinks Obama tried to get himself “on the side of those who are disgusted by Washington rather than letting him become one of the reasons people are disgusted by Washington.” [Ezra Klein/WP]

• Ross Douthat gets the impression that Obama “doesn’t know what narrative he’s selling. The eloquence was there, but the tone veered wildly — now self-critical, now self-justifying; now scolding, now conciliatory — and so did the substance.” [Ross Douthat/NYT]

• Andrew Sullivan saw “the president I supported and still support and will support because he alone is calling us away from the cynicism, the ideology, the rhetorical poison, and the red-blue divide that keep us from the reform we desperately need.” [Daily Dish/Atlantic]

• Joan Walsh believes Obama “showed more spine and fire than he has of late, mainly using humor to turn the GOP’s dourness back on itself.” [Salon]

• Mark Levin calls the speech “the most partisan, least presidential” State of the Union he’s ever seen. [Corner/National Review]

• Joe Klein calls it “Obama at his best” — “smart,” “funny,” and “drop-dead serious about the country.” [Swampland/Time]

• Eleanor Clift suspects that the “way Obama shamed Republicans and called them out to participate in governing had to warm liberal hearts.” [Gaggle/Newsweek]

• Michael Gerson claims Obama “lost his grip on reality.” [Post Partisan/WP]

• Yuval Levin thinks it was all “amazingly disconnected from the moment — treating and describing the public as downtrodden, depressed, but resilient, when the public mood seems more like fed up.” [Corner/National Review]

• Jennifer Rubin finds Obama’s conduct regarding the Supreme Court “repellent.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Greg Sargent is disappointed about Obama’s treatment of health-care reform. “While he urged Congress not to walk away from completing reform, the speech was notably lacking on specifics in terms of what he’d like to see Congress do resolve the current impasse.” [Plum Line/Who Runs Gov]

• Steve Benen thinks Obama gave health-care reform “a much-needed boost, and with some meaningful follow-up, the measure may yet succeed.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Jonathan Cohn says Obama didn’t save health-care reform, but “that’s only because there’s no way he could save it with just one speech. It’s too big a job. All Obama could do Wednesday night was to send some messages, about his expectations and priorities. And there I think he did pretty much what he needed to do.” [Treatment/New Republic]

• Kevin Drum wishes that Obama had “at least said something about the fact that we have a bill in place right now and then urged the House to pass that bill and the Senate to agree to changes.” [Mother Jones]

• Chris Cillizza thinks “the common thread was an appeal to the country’s shared values of what it means to be an American. [Fix/WP]

• Max Boot is stunned by “how little coverage national-security affairs received in this State of the Union.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Harold Meyerson thinks the speech was “jumbled” thematically, but “[t]onally, however, it was a masterpiece.” [Post Partisan/WP]

• Mark Thiessen felt the speech “quickly descended into scolding and condescension.” [Corner/National Review]

• Fred Barnes calls it “the least fresh State of the Union address I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard more than 30 of them.” [Weekly Standard]

• Karen Tumulty is struck by Obama’s “frank admission” that the process of shaping health-care reform “has turned off the American people.” [Swampland/Time]

• Howard Fineman calls Obama “nothing short of masterful.” [Gaggle/Newsweek]

• Matthew Yglesias was reminded “that Obama is fantastic at delivering formal speeches,” but “giving fantastic setpiece speeches has limits as a political strategy.” [Think Progress]

The State of the Union Fails to Unite the Nation’s Pundits