How aggressive was the first State of the Union of President Barack Obama‘s second term in office? The answer to that question lies in the frowns, sighs and other varying expressions of displeasure from Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH).
As Obama spoke of greater investment in infrastructure and education, called for gun control and a democracy that bothers to make it easy for its citizens to vote, and stressed a higher minimum wage so that working Americans might have a fighting chance at bypassing the poverty line, Boehner sat there looking like his heart was full of salt and his nostrils fueled with the stench of a dozen rotten eggs.
Meanwhile, many of Obama’s supporters thus far have been more excited about the president laying out a remarkably ambitious second term agenda (read the State of the Union in full here). If Obama were to have his way, the federal minimum wage would be $9; every four-year-old in the country would have access to preschool; the government would work with private industry to ensure that our decaying roads and bridges were upgraded; background checks would ensure that felons would face a much harder time obtaining access to gunsl and undocumented workers would enjoy a much easier path to citizenship. Moreover, a bipartisan council would recommend ways in which voters would no longer have to wait in line for several hours in order to exercise their right to vote.
Say, voters like 102-year-old Desiline Victor, whom President Obama saluted for waiting in line for hours to exercise her right to vote. Staying true to (pathetic) form, Boehner couldn’t be bothered to stand and salute Victor for her commitment to our process. I can’t help but take that as a sign of what he makes of much of Obama’s vision for moving the country forward.
Rather one agrees with his politics or not, Obama deserves some credit for being more direct with his challenges to Congress, urging them to tackle his domestic agenda and stop engaging in pointless political games.
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He warned Boehner and his minions in the House of Representatives: “Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act…I urge the House to do the same.” He also added, “I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts.”
When it came to the issue of gun control, Obama made an impassioned plea to Congress to at least allow the measures to have their day, regardless of what the outcome may be. Indeed, Obama argued, “If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote.” He went on to remind us that “the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”
As for climate change, Obama declared: “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”
Watch State of the Union 2013 below:
Finally, Obama invoked the rampant gun violence plaguing Chicago, including 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who after performing at the inauguration, “was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house” a week later.
The president added:
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
And for those exhausted by the decade-plus long war in Afghanistan, Obama noted, “Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan.”
Still, some of tonight’s statements harkened back to our last president. I agree with Obama when he said, “What makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.” However, I hope this doesn’t lead to some President George W. Bush inspired initiative to promote marriage among the poor. That program already proved to be a failure and doesn’t need a repeat performance.
Not to mention, the following quote only made me think “drone, baby drone” when I heard: “And,where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest.”‘
Overall, though, Obama was successful in deviating from the often quickly forgotten State of the Union address to remind Congress: “It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few.”
That said, it remains to be seen whether or not anything will come of it. Indeed, as Obama delivered his speech before Congress, Speaker Boehner released a statement about Obama, condemning his remarks as “little more than the same stimulus policies that have failed to fix our economy and put Americans back to work.” So while Obama’s tone may have changed, he’s still got his work cut out for him in getting the rest of Washington to follow suit.