What You Missed From Last Night’s State of the Union

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(Photo via wikimedia)

By Justin Adams

Last night, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address from the nation’s capitol. If you didn’t happen to tune in, here’s what you missed.

The President was well aware of his status as a “lame-duck” president amid a nation focused on a Presidential election cycle. “I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa,” he said. Then, with a slightly smug smile, he added that he’d “been there before” and that he could give the current candidates advice on how to succeed.

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(Photo via wikimedia)

 

Looking Forward

In his last State of the Union address, it could have been easy for President Obama to use the opportunity to reflect on his legacy and accomplishments, and although that was certainly present, he chose to focus his address on the future. “I want to focus on the next five years, the next ten years and beyond,” he said.

The President insisted that in his final term he will continue to work toward “fixing a broken immigration system, protecting our kids from gun violence, equal pay for equal work, paid leave, [and] raising the minimum wage.”

Given a Republican-controlled House and Senate, how likely are those to actually happen?

Compromise

One of the more surprising developments of the night was that both the President’s speech and Gov. Nikki Haley’s official Republican response emphasized the importance of bridging the partisan gap. The President admitted that one of his biggest regrets is “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” even admitting in a moment of vulnerability that a President like Lincoln or Roosevelt could have “bridged the divide.”

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(photo via wikipedia)

That same vulnerability was shown by Gov. Nikki Haley when she said, “There is more than enough blame to go around. We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. And then we need to fix it.”

It remains to be seen whether either side is genuinely interested in fixing the political system or if they’re just paying lip-service to voters who are demanding more compromise.

On Donald Trump

There was one concrete subject that both President Obama and Gov. Nikki Haley agreed on, and that was opposing Donald Trump or, more specifically, his anti-Muslim anti-immigrant rhetoric. Although the Presidential front-runner was never mentioned by name, several lines of Obama’s speech and Haley’s rebuttal seemed to target Trump.

“When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer,” Obama said. “That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong.”

While the President’s opposition to Trump’s rhetoric is not surprising, the fact that Gov. Nikki Haley’s remarks were similar shows a lot about what the Republican establishment thinks about Trump at this point. “Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory,” she said. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.”

Mr. Trump, of course, responded with the kind of substantive counter-argument for which he is so well known.

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The Noticeably Absent

A few subjects were conspicuously absent from the President’s speech. Despite a recent push to strengthen background checks for guns through executive action, the President barely mentioned the subject of gun violence.

The President also didn’t comment on race relations, in a year when the news cycle was often dominated by stories of black men and women being killed by police officers as well as the investigations, court proceedings, and protests that followed.

If the President wanted his last State of the Union to focus on bridging gaps with political opponents, leaving these subjects out of his speech may have been a wise decision.

You can watch the President’s full address here:

(Hint: skip to 23:35 if you don’t want to see a bunch of old people awkwardly hugging and shaking hands.)

And here is Gov. Nikki Haley’s GOP response:

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