early and often

What You Missed in the 2015 State of the Union

Photo: Alex Wong/2015 Getty Images

Why deliver a State of the Union address when you’ve already spoiled most of it? Since he already unveiled his “checklist of proposals,” President Obama kicked off his speech on Tuesday night by declaring he would “focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.” Thus, much of the speech felt like the climax of an ‘80s movie, with plenty of inspirational monologues and sassy one-liners about Republican inaction. Ultimately the whole thing was a plea for Americans — and particularly members of Congress — to look past their differences and realize that each one of us is a frustrated House speaker, a corrupt senator, a future Fox News pundit, and a hopelessly idealistic lame-duck president. In case you can’t catch a rerun on cable, here’s a recap.

Lines Obama Should Have Shouted With a Boom Box Over His Head:
“It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come.”

You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.”

Story Most Likely to Inspire a John Mellencamp Song:
“Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way. They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that. ‘If only we had known,’ Rebekah wrote to me last spring, ‘what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.’”

Most Biden-y Moment:

Best Congressional Shaming:
“We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.”

To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.”

That’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our [climate change] efforts.”

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for —  arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fund-raising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.”

Sassiest Prewritten Presidential Moments:
“Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.”

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what  —  I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and NOAA and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate … 

Sassiest Ad Lib:
“I have no more campaigns to run,” Obama said, sparking unexpected applause in the chamber. “I know because I won both of them,” he shot back.

Most Feminist Moments:
“It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.”

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.”

Best Use of a Prop:
Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, who waved a pencil when Obama referenced the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Most Defensive Moment:
“You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America  —  but a United States of America … Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws  — of which there are many  —  but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided and naïve and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.”

Best Attempt to Suppress a Laugh:

Worst Line Contributed by Malia and Sasha:
To astronaut Scott Kelly, who’s about to embark on a yearlong mission in space: “Good luck, Captain  —  and make sure to Instagram it.”

Most Ambitious Proposal That Might Actually Happen:

“Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a reenergized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars.”

Most Ambitious Proposal That Will Never Actually Happen:
Obama’s vision of “a better politics” in which “we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values and principles and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”

Clearest Sign That Republicans Aren’t Buying Into Obama’s Vision of Bipartisanship:

Most Genuine Audience Reaction:
When Obama mentioned Alan Gross, the American contractor who was just released after five years in a Cuban prison.

Most Genuine Boehner Reaction:

Least Rebellious Break With Tradition:
Instead of saying, “God bless America,” Obama closed with, “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.”

Most Rebellious Break With Tradition:
If you stick around after the State of the Union, the president might sign your tie … even if you don’t ask him to.

What You Missed in the 2015 State of the Union