From the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk blog:
So the State of the Union played out something like a slowly deflating balloon—robust and shiny in the beginning, a shriveled afterthought by the end, all leaky air in the middle. After just minutes, the metaphors felt forced, the proposals felt old, and with Republicans sitting collegially alongside Democrats, there wasn’t even the usual drama of the divided standing O to keep my interest piqued (oh ludicrous theater, how I never thought I’d miss you!). As Melinda Henneberger wrote at Politics Daily, “it neither soared nor stumbled, while reminding us that everyone needs an editor.”
That seems to be the universal view today, at least, of the performance, with headlines like “Stirred, but not shaken,” and “That old familiar SOTU.” The rhetorical flourishes just don’t seem to be doing it for anyone anymore. But where the content is concerned—the stuff in between those big thudding “we do big things” and sputniks and whatnot—the president gave the pundits much to muse over.
The question most are grappling with this morning is how the president is repositioning himself: what his calls for a spending freeze and a ban on earmarks, his defense of health care, his sharp line on tax cuts, and his promises of “investment” say about where the president is directing himself politically. Is he continuing the posture of veiled liberal? Or is he genuinely moving to the center? Will he enrage or delight the left? Will he welcome or shun the right?
One common suggestion is that the president last night returned to the themes and style of his 2008 election campaign. That’s Matt Bai’s take in The New York Times today, arguing that after a two-year period in which the former senator dug deep into the policy machinations that propelled his agenda along, he is digging out, and returning to the vague themes of unity and togetherness on which he rode into the White House. Bai writes that “the most profound shift in the speech turned out not to be a move from left to center, as some had predicted, but rather a move away from legislative priorities in favor of telling a broader American story.”...MUCH MORE