Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SOTU Night in America: Live-blogging the 2013 State of the Union address

(Updated frequently -- in real time. Scroll down.)

So the gang's back together tonight. When was the last time we live-blogged? It was the election back in November, wasn't it? And before that the debates. Oh, what a good time that was... well, except for that first debate. Remember that one?

And what are we live-blogging? It's the Papal Election 2013! Woo-hoo!

Wait, what? It's not the papal election? So why the hell are we here?

Oh, right, the State of the Union. Alas. It's strong, isn't it? So what's the point of all this? Can't we go back a century or so, back to pre-Wilsonian times, when the president just sent the damn thing up to Capitol Hill in writing?

Yes, Wilson changed things in 1913. Before that, no president had delivered it in person, as a speech, since Jefferson, who ended the tradition in its infancy.

That's the first page of Washington's notes for his 1790 address. Pretty neat, huh?


But okay, here we are. Let's make the most of it. (I was on my own for it last year. Should be more enjoyable with the guys joining me tonight.)

I've generally avoided pre-SOTU commentary this week.

For one, I find most of it dull, dim-witted, and pointless.

For two, I know enough to know that the focus will be on the economy (and on jobs specifically), as well as on the upcoming sequester negotiations; that the president will talk about Sandy Hook and the need for meaningful gun control measures (which Republicans will block); that immigration will be a focus (with Obama stressing the urgent need for bipartisan reform); that foreign policy will be an afterthought, though the president will no doubt tout the coming end of operations in Afghanistan; and that there will absolutely not be any sort of honest reckoning of the human (and civil liberties) costs of Obama's drone war.

(But right-wing asshole and conservative hero Ted Nugent will be there, so there's that.)

Anyway, we'll get started in half an hour or so. I just hope it's a better speech than last year's, which I found unimpressive and uninspiring, if admittedly quite effective, at least in hindsight.

Be back shortly...


FM: The word is that Obama is going to focus on jobs and the economy tonight. I hope that's the case, but let's face it: there is never much to the SOTU speech. But it does provide some idea of where the president wants to lead the country. As I recall in the 2005 address, Bush brought up his great idea, "I know you all voted for me because I said I'd get the fags, but how about I just privatize your Social Security?! Yee-haw!"
Although I will be happy to hear the president discuss jobs, it is a little late: in his first term, he was AWOL on this issue. In fact, during the first two years, he was pushing the conservative fallacy that in bad times families have to tighten their belts and so therefore the government should do the same. Let's face it, during those early years, the president gets an F in Econ 101.

And now, what can the Democrats really do? I'm afraid at this point, the best we can hope for is that Obama will be able to stop the Republicans from doing real damage to the economy. 

9:01 pm - By the way, when there's a timestamp, that's me, MJWS. I'll use initials to identify the others.

9:02 pm - And for the record, I'm drinking 1792 Ridgemont Reserve tonight. A decent Bourbon, not not great. Lovely rye and oak, but not much staying power or depth.

FM: Lots of "no gun law reform" senators are wearing green ribbons to remember Sandy Hook. Because nothing says you care about mass shootings like, "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers!"

9:04 pm - It's the video games, Frank, not the guns. If people would only stop playing Angry Birds there wouldn't be any of these mass shootings! Dammit. 

TMCB: Man, Rubio is going to doing some serious lying following this speech. 

9:07 pm - And this would be different from any other night because...? 

TMCB: I wonder if Obama will mention the the $3-billion budget surplus posted for January.

FM: Angry Birds! Once we kill all the pigs, then we'll disarm!

FM: Was that Elvis in the audience?! Oh, that's right: Joe Biden invited Bruce Campbell as his guest. Something about guns being represented but nothing for chainsaws. Man, we have the coolest vice president!

TMCB: Imagine that was Mitt Romney walking in right now.

9:12 pm - I really don't want to imagine that. But wouldn't there be 5% unemployment by now?

9:13 pm - So Maddow is going on and on about how Democrats and Republicans are sitting together in pairs. Is this supposed to make us ejaculate in wonder?

RKB: I'm generally not nervous when the president comes into the room, but Ted Nugent is somewhere nearby. No?

TMCB: Do those NOT wearing green ribbons NOT support Newtown?

9:15 pm - That's right. They support al Qaeda instead.

9:16 pm - Obama: "There is much progress to report." Okay, so we're good.

FM: Hey guys, is Alito not there? I haven't seen any news on it, but I didn't see him. If he isn't there, that's bad. But I remember him threatening.

9:18 pm - And because Americans are the least self-aware and most delusional people on the planet (okay, maybe second to the North Koreans), Obama says the state of the union is strong

RKB: Obama has been around long enough that the mimics are starting to nail him. This seems a bit like an SNL routine so far.

9:19 pm - Good point. If you turn your head away and don't look, doesn't it sounds like that guy on SNL? What's his name? Jay Pharaoh?

9:20 pm - Ah, the old bipartisan drivel. Thanks, Mr. President. Appreciate it.

9:21 pm - Wait, the two parties have worked together on cutting the deficit? Really? Does he actually believe this? Or is he just backing the Republicans into a corner by claiming that they're on board with him?

FM: Biden put on his reading glasses. At least an hour to focus on Fifty Shades of Grey!

9:23 pm - I'll give him this. He's confident and he's in command. (And Boehner looks really small behind him, like he's sinking down in his seat.)

9:24 pm - "A balanced approach to deficit reduction" means, of course, caving in to Republican hostage-taking and meeting them way out on the right. Just to be clear. (But yeah, sure, he has to play this above-the-fray card, or so he thinks. I get it. At least he's going after the rich and special interests along the way.)

TMCB: We need a split screen of Ted Nugent's reactions while Obama speaks. 

FM: I can never hear Obama speak without thinking of Digby's constant refrain that the "shared sacrifice" is the elderly eating cat food and the rich providing part of their tip money. His call for "reform" of Medicare is just pandering to the right. And what will he get for it? Nothing!

9:27 pm - None of us will get a hundred percent of what we want. That's why I'm giving 75 percent to the Republicans.

9:28 pm - I can't be all snarky, though. Obviously I agree with his points about keeping government up and running and making sure the debt ceiling is raised so that the country can honor its debts. That along puts him strongly in opposition to the Republicans.

RKB: Check out the beard on Tom Coburn. He looks like an extra in a spaghetti western.

RKB: Um, is anyone else noticing that Joe Biden is smiling at inappropriate times?

9:31 pm - Oh please, Apple isn't moving much of its production back to the U.S. It's just one of its lines, and a small one at that. Manufacturing isn't coming back! But okay, promoting next-generation manufacturing is a good idea. But it requires a level of investment that the private sector won't make and that is impossible in this time of right-wing Republican extremism, general anti-government sentiment, and austerity as Beltway CW.

FM: Joe's smiling because Fifty Shades of Grey is a great read. Boehner really needs a cigarette. And then a drink.
Obama said, "Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan." That's a good line. Better would have been, "Deficit reduction is not at all an economic plan." 

9:34 pm - Climate change. The most pressing issue of our time. Not even an "issue." A crisis. But it's not enough just to talk about it, and about science. And Congress won't act because Republicans don't think it's real and/or humans' doing. (Yes, cap and trade once had strong Republican support. But as on so much else, the GOP has moved further and further to the right, into ever darker realms of ignorance and stupidity.) So the president had better get going on doing what he can do through executive action.

TMCB: I feel like I am watching Reservoir Dogs. The three of them: Mr. Pink, Mr. Black and Mr. Orange.

9:38 pm - Hilarious.

RKB: Climate change. That's interesting. Gotta love second-term Democratic presidents. They're not afraid of anything.

9:39 pm - Well, if he follows through. But second-term Democratic presidents like...?

TMCB: Does Boner realize what he is clapping to? He just clapped for solar energy. 

9:40 pm - I do like how forward-looking this speech is.

9:41 pm - Obama wants to equip citizens with skills. Republicans want to equip them with AR-15s.

9:42 pm - Ba-zing. 

FM: The speech is pretty good. But off camera Bruce Campbell is chasing Ted Nugent with a chainsaw.

9:44 pm - Okay, as I'm listening to his discussion of education, it's pretty clear. This guy's fucking smart. He gets it. He cares. He's a leader. It's just too bad he isn't so determinedly progressive when it comes to getting things done.

FM: Let's save $60 billion per year by breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks!

9:48 pm - Oh yes, there's the reprehensible Lindsey Graham. Let's not forget he's threatening to block all of the president's national security nominees over Benghazi.

9:49 pm - Yes, Republicans, do you stand against violence against women or not?

TMCB: When a Republican is president these speeches are filled with rhetoric and simple statements like yellowcake, mushroom clouds, and steroids. You listen and you know these things are going to come to pass because the bar is set so low. When a Democrat speaks, I hear lofty goals and complex initiatives. For some reason I just don't feel optimistic about any of it. It's weird and a bit depressing.

(MJWS takes another big swig of Bourbon.)

9:51 pm - The minimum wage in the U.S. is so generous you can afford to buy (no-name) ketchup to put on your toenail clippings for dinner. 

TMCB: How anyone can listen to these sensible talking points and just sit there staring back with blank stares? It makes you wonder how we are going to get anything done.

9:53 pm - We're not. 

RKB: One of the reasons I left the Catholic Church is that I could never figure out when I was supposed to stand up or sit down. I wonder if any of these people tonight have the same problem. Some seem to be looking around to get their cue.

9:54 pm - Karl Rove is feeding instructions into Eric Cantor.

FM: Scott, you're killing my buzz!

FM: I like the mention of the minimum wage. It is a good idea. Conservatives will counter that it costs jobs. In fact, the data say otherwise. The truth is that people doing minimum wage jobs are usually critical to an operation. $9 isn't enough, but it is a start.

9:56 pm - What's this? Foreign policy? International affairs? Oh right, we're just going to kill those evildoers. 

9:57 pm - Bullshit, Mr. President. Fucking bullshit. You didn't even use the word "drone." And no one can seriously believe that engaging Congress on this will make it right and just. You're authorizing killing, including of American citizens, with significant civilian casualties. That's the point.

TMCB: But make no mistake, when out troops return home they will not have health insurance!

FM: We need a Constitutional Amendment to limit these speeches to a half hour!

10:00 pm - And he hasn't even gotten to Sandy Hook yet. 

RKB: I don't have any booze, but I am playing the mandolin as I watch the speech. 

RKB: I'm not a grammar Nazi, but when did it become okay for presidents to drop their Gs?

10:01 pm - You're so old, Richard. Go back to your Mumford & Sons.

10:02 pm - I'm glad he called it Burma. It's not Myanmar -- that's the name given the country by the fascist military junta.

FM: Why is it when I hear the president call for cyber security, all I hear is "invade your privacy"? I feel certain any new laws will just harm young people and won't do a damned thing about any real problem.

10:03 pm - How many black helicopters are hovering outside your window, Frank?

10:04 pm - And here comes the jingoistic militarism... What is this, the 2012 Democratic National Convention? 

10:05 pm - Okay, okay, wrap it up. Please. Enough.

TMCB: There's the shout out to Israel. I can hear FOX "news" now: "Obama waited almost an hour to mention Israel."

10:06 pm - By the way, speaking of Israel, that SNL skit that was cut from the show the other night is fantastic. Make sure you all watch it.

10:08 pm - And now... Newtown. And gun control.

10:09 pm - Hey, come on, what do the police know about guns? I mean, just because there's broad support law enforcement officials for significant restrictions... 

10:11 pm - Very effective here. The victims of gun violence deserve a vote...

FM: I can't wait to hear what Charles Krauthammer thinks of the speech!

10:12 pm - I can. (Big government! Anti-freedom!)

TMCB: "They deserve a vote." -- That's powerful stuff.

10:13 pm - Very good. Voting rights. Let's not forget, because the president won't mention this, that Republicans all across the country are engaged in voter suppression activities, and that the targets are largely Democratic voters, and especially those of color.

10:15 pm - And that's it. Not exactly the moving rhetoric at the end one has come to expect from Obama, but still pretty good. And it's not like SOTUs really lend themselves to such rhetoric anyway.

TMCB: This was really a great speech. It touched on all the points eloquently. 

10:17 pm - I'm not sure I'd go with "great," but like last year's it was effective, but in a different way. He wasn't laying the groundwork for his re-election bid, he was setting the stage for his second term. So I can't say I was unimpressed, like I was last year. Overall, quite strong.

FM: Alright. I admit it. I got choked up when he did the shout out to the people. And in any fight, I want Desiline Victor on my side!

RKB: Okay, I'm switching to Fox News now. I need a good laugh.

10:19 pm - I have no interest in the post-speech commentary tonight. Yes, you can pick and this or that, whatever. But he did what he had to do, combining achievable goals and unrealistic aspirations, and setting it all within the context of needing to get to work now to address the country's urgent needs and longer-term problems. And really, it changes nothing.

TMCB: I love that Nugent was not shown once. I am sure he was on FOX, but on CBS it was a Nuge-free zone.

FM: Krauthammer said the speech was "effective" and that Obama "hit hard." He did complain that he didn't seem to care enough about the debt. You know Republicans: they care deeply about the debt when a Democrat is in the White House. The woman on Fox said raising the minimum wage is a job killer. Again: this is not true! She also claimed that Democrats are saying that deficits don't matter. That's not true. No Democrat that I know of says that deficits don't matter. They say that it isn't the most important issue right now. And it isn't.

10:24 pm - Are you saying that Republicans are spewing typical Republican bullshit in response to the speech? 

FM: Krauthammer said that Democrats in red states must be concerned about gun control talk. Because, you know, only 90% of the people are for universal background checks. 

FM: Am I saying that republicans are spewing their usual bile? Yes. In fact, Fox News just noted that their focus group was most unhappy when Obama discussed global warming. Funny that! After years of anti-science propaganda their audience doesn't believe in global warming.

10:39 pm - I can't be bothered to pay attention to Rubio. It's just more of the same that we've come to expect from Republicans, except coming from someone who looks a bit different and has a different sort of name.

TMCB: I'm gonna scream. I just kicked my TV. This fucking guy is so full of shit, I can't stand it. (Solyndra? They're still talking about Solyndra? Jesus.)

10:41 pm - Relax, patriot, it's not worth it.

FM: Marco Rubio is worth over a million dollars. And yet he just paid off his student loans. Because they were low interest rates and he was making more elsewhere. It is hard to watch this guy. Scott is correct: he's full of shit.

FM: My final statement: I thought you had to be older than 14 to serve in the Senate. I don't just mean that Rubio looks young; he acts young. His speech sounded like things I heard in speech club in high school. And it was in no way a response to the president's speech. What does he mean that the president thinks that the free market is bad and all that crap? Here we see the problem with American politics where the Democrats have become the Republicans and the Republicans have become the Nazis. Obama not only isn't a socialist, he isn't even a liberal. The fact that our media accept conservatives complaining the Democrats are liberal is a big problem. We need a real liberal movement in this country so that the conservatives can have something real to complain about.

TMCB: Hear, hear. I agree. It's getting that the response is just blind talking points that he would have said no matter what Obama said. I think Obama even put some things in his speech knowing what Rubio was going to say to make it sound even more hollow. Alas, many people will still watch Rubio and think that what he said was counter to Obama because really they only hear and see an imaginary socialist. 

10:47 pm - Okay, that's it for us tonight. Overall, I think we all think it was pretty good, and certainly it was fun to do this. Thanks, guys! See you all for the papal election!

10:48 pm - And thank you all for stopping by. Good night, everyone.

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