Last night saw President Obama’s last State of the Union address, the first of many lasts to come this year.
In many ways, it was a typical SOTU address with a laundry list of things he wants to accomplish, but never will, because Republicans.
On the other hand, he spoke about the broken politics of Washington, and how it is natural for both sides to disagree, but they need to come together as they have done in the past. My favorite moment was when he evoked the space race saying:
“Sixty years ago when the Russians beat us into space, we did not deny Sputnik was up there. We did not argue about the science or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later we were walking on the moon.”
Republicans afterwards griped about what they saw as hypocrisy in the speech, essentially saying “Obama was telling us not to stop attacking each other…. and then he goes and attacks Republicans”. What a bunch of whiners some of those Republicans are.
First of all, Obama didn’t say to stop attacking each other. He said disagreement is to be expected. He just said those disagreements shouldn’t stand in the way of solutions.
Secondly, he didn’t call out Republicans by name. But if the shoe fits…..
But last night was notable for something else. The response speech from Governor Nikki Haley.
As with any SOTU response speech, she hastily dispenses with opposing views to Obama’s ideas (although to be honest, she was also hitting some of the same points, i.e., income equality). But then she pivoted:
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
It was clear to all that Governor Haley, herself a child of Indian immigrants, was making a pointed reference to Donald Trump and is bigoted xenophobic rhetoric. President Obama did the same thing, talking about how we should not blame an entire religion (a religion held by many of our strategically important allies) for the acts of extremists.
Now, Haley’s response speech was not something she had a complete hand in. You know that party insiders all contributed to it, or at least blessed it. Which is why her veiled attack on Trump (or Trumpism, if you like) was remarkable.
She predictably got his by a backlash from the extreme edges of the party, starting with the disgusting Ann Coulter:
Trump should deport Nikki Haley.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 13, 2016
And they a virtually apoplectic over at Breitbart. Rush Limbaugh thought that Haley’s rebuttal speech was “pandering to illegal minorities”.
Such is the strangeness of this election year. Somehow, Trump has worked his way into everything.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention the ambitious “moonshot to cure cancer” – a remarkable effort which Joe Biden is in charge of. It’s a footnote in the headlines this morning, but I think it will have greater significance historically.