Thursday, January 26, 2012

State of the State of the Union

On Wednesday, the conventional pundit wisdom (cpw) changed a little on the State of the Union, as available evidence came in that non-pundits liked it.  (Even Andrew Sullivan reconsidered and recanted some.) 

For example, the results of a CBS News poll: 91% of viewers surveyed approved of the policies President Obama proposed and discussed.  The pool for the poll was 45% Dems, 25% Rs, the rest presumably that amorphous group discussed as if it were a real identity: Independents.  Since Dems were more likely to watch the Dem prez, this rating suggests the base is solid, but this was statistical verification of anecdotals on various sites that suggested that the speech had broad appeal, even to some conservatives.  The poll details are full of good news for Obama, with big jumps in approval for his approach to the economy, jobs, even his health care law.

A couple of other followups: it became part of the cpw today that Obama said nothing about health care.  It's true he didn't single it out, but he also never mentioned the Recovery Act by name--just its effects.  He also mentioned the first effects--being felt now-- of the health care law, much of which hasn't yet taken effect.  And he did so in a context that said he was resisting the calls for its repeal: "I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men." 

But in my summary last night I left out one conspicuous and important set of statements: where President Obama explicitly described the accomplishments of his administration.  And these were some of the most effective passages.  They told Democrats that he was going to defend his record, and that he could effectively communicate that narrative.  They told people who had been under the spell of the FOX version of reality that a lot has been accomplished.

It's seemed to me that the obfuscations and outright lies told by GOPer pols and their media overlords provided an interesting opportunity for the Obama campaign, once the country is paying attention.  If Obama and his campaign could tell the story of his accomplishments, of the promises kept, then to much of America it would be a new story, an eye-opening one.  So I consider the State of the Union a preview, and a boost of confidence to Dems, because President Obama clearly can tell that story effectively.

And as it turns out, so can Joe Biden, who summarized it in tweetspeak: Osama bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive.

But it turns out the evening wasn't complete. Before the speech, President Obama made the decision to send in a Navy Seal team to rescue two hostages from Somali pirates.  The opportunity was there, and the health of the Danish man was deteriorating.  The team was parachuted in, they engaged and killed the captors with no injuries, and the hostages were helicoptered out.

The mission was underway during the speech, although the rescue itself had apparently happened, because President Obama was seen congratulating Secretary of Defense Panetta. After the speech, when the mission was completed, President Obama (with Michelle at his side: see photo) phoned the father of the American woman who was rescued, to tell him his daughter was safe.

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