After all the countless GOP debates, last night we really needed to see someone
act presidential and remind us why this whole campaign process is important.
And who else but a president can reassure a nervous country about its
well-being, its economic stature, its place in the world?
In an address whose major themes were fairness, equity, and working together,
President Obama delivered a unifying populist speech that I can’t imagine any of
his Republican opponents would know how to give.
Romney? Gingrich? Santorum? Paul? You kidding?
You could have given any of those guys the podium last night, and I doubt any of
them would be as inclusive, or as hopeful, or as broad-based in his appeal to
the nation as the president.
Asian Americans also showed up last night.
With a campaign that has taken us so far to states with scant Asian American
populations (that only accentuates our political invisibility), we did earn a
spot in the State of the Union address.
Asian Americans always get at least one speech cutaway (a shot of Energy
Secretary Chu last night) and one mention, usually in what I call the “unifying
Last night it came near the end. The President framed his speech with the end of
the Iraq War and the capture of Osama bin Laden. But for the litany he kept up
the war cry and put us all—those in Congress and everyone watching–in battle
“Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the
service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re
black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal;
rich, poor, gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for
the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the
fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.”
It was probably the most important appeal in the speech. The President used his
State of the Union address to put us all in the fight for America’s future, with
an appeal to work together.
Just like all those military men and women and the Navy SEALS.
The President did it unveiling what I call his “Fairness” vision. We do it by
spending the money saved on the war to rebuild America and create jobs. And then
use the principle of fairness in everything from taxes, to protecting investors
from fraud, to allowing people to refinance without undue obstruction from
banks, to comprehensive immigration reform.
Without mentioning it by name, he all but said he would sign a DREAM Act. Not a
watered-down military-only one (that Gingrich is for, and coincidentally, so too
is Romney now)—but one for any undocumented person in college in America.
Not surprisingly, Republicans cried “Foul,” and refused to be drafted into “Si
Se Puede 2.0.”
Newt Gingrich this morning commented how he “liked the rhetoric.” But he said
Obama was just waging a “left wing populist” campaign based on the idea that
“government can do it better than free markets.”
Gingrich’s response is the basic Republican view. Indeed, when Gov. Mitch
Daniels gave the official Republican response, he seemed drab and morose by
comparison. As if he didn’t hear the same speech all the rest of us.
Hope? Not from the GOP. Daniels said Obama was offering “trickle down
government,” which I guess is the opposite of the “trickle down economy” of the
wealthy. Of course, that’s what got us in the trouble we’re in now, leaving
social policy and jobs creation to the whims of the rich.
But the President anticipated all that. In his speech, after suggesting the
Buffett Rule, where millionaires lose deductions and are taxed at an effective
rate of 30 percent, he showed he was prepared for a fight.
“Now, you can call this class warfare all you want,” the President said. “But
asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most
Americans would call that common sense.”
Some people may have been hopeful to see Obama trumpet race more effectively in
his administration. But we all know how careful he’s been on that score. Race to
Obama doesn’t make political sense. But class does. Class is a much safer,
broader place to come from, especially after the recession, which definitely
believed in diversity.
Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, or Paul, President Obama seems ready for the fight.