What to take away from State of the Union address

The State of the Union is the political junkie’s version of the Super Bowl and the Oscars combined. It’s when the president fulfills his constitutional duty to inform Congress of the “state of the union” and announces his political agenda for the year. Here are the major points to take away from tonight’s speech:

  • This year, President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union emphasized taking action — the theme was “America does not stand still — and neither will I.”
  • In accordance with this idea, the president announced he will issue executive orders to require federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 to “help families” without creating any new federal bureaucracy.
  • The president also emphasized the need to restore unemployment insurance after Congress allowed those benefits to expire: “Give these responsible, hard-working Americans this chance,” he said, a line which prompted many in the House chamber to stand up and clap.
  • There is sometimes a difficult choice for State of the Union attendees: to get to their feet and applaud the president or not? For members of Congress and guests of the first lady up in the gallery, it’s up to their discretion. The members of the Supreme Court or the Joint Chiefs in attendance, rarely, if ever, seem to acknowledge anything the president says. Ever since Associate Justice Samuel Alito drew unwanted attention for appearing to mutter “not true” when the president criticized the Court for its decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case in 2010, Supreme Court justices have sat stony-faced throughout the address.
  • State of the Union addresses are always dense, and cover a vast array of topics. Of course, the political spectators have a tendency to focus on superficial aspects. A quip about “Mad Men” sparked the largest Twitter moment.
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., delivered the official Republican response to the State of the Union, while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delivered one of three other responses.
  • #SOTUsilence: The president did not manage to bring up several pressing issues. He talked around immigration reform but failed to mention his deferred action programs. He mentioned unemployment insurance but failed to talk about restoring the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. He very, very briefly brought up student loans. There was no mention of the debt ceiling or the upcoming midterm elections.
  • The president’s approval rating is 43 percent, a relatively soft number. When President George W. Bush gave his State of the Union address in 2006, his approval rating was also 43 percent. While any jump in approval ratings directly after a State of the Union address will likely be small and disappear very quickly, it will be interesting to compare the post-speech approval ratings of Presidents Bush and Obama.

Here are the best tweets of the night:

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

  
Reach the columnist at skthoma4@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @SavannahKThomas