Rich Galen

It was a pretty good speech. In fact it was a very good speech. The President touched all the right notes, in the right order, with the kind of delivery which is second, in my lifetime, only to Ronald Reagan's ability to deliver a line.

The highly touted Kumbaya Seating appeared to be less than advertised, if only because Republicans and Democrats look pretty much like one another and, without "Hi! My Name is Billy (or Sally), What's Yours?" name tags it was hard to tell them apart.

The embargo for releasing the speech was busted by the National Journal which posted it on its website at 7:14. NJ apparently got it from a White House insider and promptly posted it on its website. When the President hugged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Good speech," he responded, "Yeah, I don't have to give it now," acknowledging that it had been on the web for nearly two hours.

There are obvious policy differences between what the President wants and what Republicans are willing to give him. Indeed, there may be even greater policy differences between the President and House Democrats.

Republicans will not like the President's proposal to freeze certain discretionary spending for the next five years at current levels. The GOP wants the freeze to be at 2007 levels. Most Democrats may not want to freeze spending at all.

Republicans will not like doing away with the tax preferences enjoyed by the oil and gas industry. Democrats will not like lowering corporate tax rates across the board.

Democrats applauded the President's call for 80 percent of our electricity to be generated using alternative energy sources. Many of those same Democrats cringe at the notion of vastly increasing the number of nuclear plants to help get there.

The most important element of the President's speech was its optimism.

He challenged Americans to "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."

He reminded younger viewers how, in spite of the Soviet Union having beat the United States into space with the first artificial satellite - Sputnik - we beat them to the moon. We did that by inventing the tools to get to the moon and, in the course of that "we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs."

True.

Mr. Obama had a pretty difficult first two years. Sixty-three Republican freshman facing him from the pews in the House Chamber attest to that. So, he swept the White House staff, which had served him for the first two years of his Administration, out onto the front lawn with all the emotion of Cinderella emptying the dustbin.

Barack Obama didn't get to be President Obama by ignoring tectonic changes in the political landscape. The Political Pangaea which greeted him with those huge majorities in the 111th Congress has disintegrated into distinct and discrete continents: Republicans in the House; Democrats in the Senate; new Governors and much changed state legislatures.

Gone from this speech was the angry Obama: The challenge to the Justices of the Supreme Court sitting just a few yards away. Replacing it was a call for students to celebrate the "winner of the science fair" not just the winner of the Super Bowl.

As expected the President called for putting "more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges." That promise is fraught with code for another massive infusion of Federal spending - much of it under the Davis-Bacon Act which requires local, county and state governments to pay union wages even if non-union workers are used.

As a sop to the House Democrats, he called for tax increases on "the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans" by not making permanent the tax rates he agreed to in December.

The President backed down from the infamous 1099 rule which would have required every small business in the nation to issue a 1099 form to every vendor paid more than $600 in a year. That rule was put in because the IRS claimed it would recover taxes owed on billions in unreported income and that was one of the gimmicks used so Democrats could claim the health care legislation didn't add to the deficit.

The 6,789 words - pretty cool that it was 6789 but that's how Microsoft counted the words in the advance text - were well written, well delivered and, for the most part, well received by the Members of the House and Senate in the Chamber.

I didn't like everything in the speech, but I like a lot of it. I liked the sound of it. I liked the tone of it.

After the glow of "prom night" in the Capitol dims, we'll see whether President Obama is as willing to talk to, and work with, the Congress, or whether he reverts to the arrogance and over-confidence of his first two years in office.

And, we'll see whether Republicans measure ideas on whether they are in the best interests of the nation, not if they meet some rigid ideological test.

As the President said at the end of his speech:

"It is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong."

Amen.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.