What a waste of pomp and circumstance. The State of the Union had all the customary dignitaries, ritualistic applause, prime-time pre-emptions on broadcast TV — and even less interest than usual.
The checklist of the Obama presidency is clear enough: We’ve got the august trappings of imperial power. We’ve got the smack talk of ruling through “pen and phone.” We’ve got the distaste for the niceties of inconvenient laws and impatience with institutional checks and balances.
Yes, this imperial president has it all, except new or big ideas.
The fight against inequality, which was supposed to be a generation-defining struggle and consume the rest of President Barack Obama’s presidency as of a couple of weeks ago, barely rated in the State of the Union. The president used the word “inequality” all of three times.
His pollsters must have let him in on the fact that Americans don’t naturally resent other people’s good fortune. So he shifted ground to emphasize opportunity instead of inequality. This is a welcome change, but it robbed the speech of any ideological charge. Instead, it was a lumpy bag full of hoary chestnuts, leftover proposals from prior State of the Union addresses, and microinitiatives so small they are barely visible to the naked eye.
It often felt like the interminable in the service of the insipid, but Obama was conversational and upbeat. It may be that pointlessness suits him.
Arguably, the big-ticket items were extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage. Those aren’t exactly towering policy proposals, although they loomed large compared with the president’s other items.
He announced that he’s launching six more hubs for high-tech manufacturing. This was a bold doubling down on his announcement of the launch of three more manufacturing hubs in last year’s State of the Union.