Obama's State of the Union

Grungy Flag Billy Alexander

In case you missed it (and I did), here's what you (and I) need to know.

In a nutshell, the speech was polished and professional, delivered in Obama's typical, intellectual style. He said a lot of things we've heard before, and delivered the longest standing ovation in State of the Union history by introducing Army Ranger Cory Remsburg who was nearly killed in Afghanistan.

For those who like Obama, the speech was great. Polished and enthusiastic. For those who don't like him, the content consisted of general principles we've heard before (get the economy going, higher minimum wage), and lacked specifics that might make things better. Both would probably agree that he sounded stronger than he is (unfortunately).

In the beginning of the speech, he got the Democrats and Republicans on their feet clapping by praising what is good about America, and creating a strong impression and sense of celebration. In this spirit, he introduced his sworn enemy in government shutdown, John Boehner, son of a barkeep and now Speaker of the House, and mentioned himself, son of a single mother.

On the minimum wage, Obama pointed out that we don't need Congress to raise it; we can go ahead and increase the hourly wage of employees we might have. He introduced a few people who have already done this, and mentioned Costco being a leader. He also implied that he will act without Congress if necessary, and reading between the lines, this means making a decision on the XL pipeline, which wasn't explicitly mentioned in the speech.

Obama can, however, single-handedly require everyone who has a federal contract to pay a higher hourly wage to their lowest paid employees. And he can do this, in the time-honoured tradition of the president giving executive orders. And this can stretch to tens of thousands of people, from those building naval ships to those building highways using federal money.

Healthcare was, of course, mentioned, initially lightheartedly. Perhaps he felt this was possible now that 51% of the country supports Obamacare, his healthcare legislation, the first time it has had a majority. Anecdotally, he talked about a woman who became covered under Obamacare, and one week later, and a heart attack and needed a heart operation, which would not have been covered before.

Obama ended the speech triumphantly and patriotically, talking about how our involvement in the war in the Middle East is almost over, and introducing Remsburg. This was the standing ovation which was longer than anyone could remember (perhaps because there is a sense of relief that the fighting is coming to an end).

An optimist would say that Obama might have a better year ahead with Congress. Let's hope they're right.