NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Liveblogging the 2012 State of the Union

Wel­come all to NPI’s 2012 cov­er­age of the State of the Union address. We’ll be updat­ing this post peri­od­i­cal­ly through­out the Pres­i­den­t’s speech.

Var­i­ous dig­ni­taries are cur­rent­ly fil­ing into the House cham­ber, and Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords (D‑AZ) just entered the cham­ber to a stand­ing ova­tion. Gif­fords looks radi­ant. Her hus­band, astro­naut Mark Kel­ly is a guest in the First Lady’s box, along with War­ren Buf­fet’s sec­re­tary and others.

We’ve learned that the des­ig­nat­ed Cab­i­net mem­ber this evening, who will not be attend­ing the State of the Union, is Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Tom Vil­sack. One Cab­i­net mem­ber is so des­ig­nat­ed each time the Pres­i­dent deliv­ers the State of The Union Address, in case of a cat­a­stroph­ic event and to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity of government.

Fol­low­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gif­fords, the Supreme Court Jus­tices and Mrs. Oba­ma made their entrances. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is not far behind.

UPDATE, 6:10 PM (Ken): Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has entered the House cham­ber to sus­tained applause, stop­ping to embrace Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gif­fords and shak­ing Chief Jus­tice Roberts’ hand, among oth­ers’ as he makes his way up the aisle. In a few moments Speak­er John Boehn­er will intro­duce the Pres­i­dent and he will begin his remarks.

UPDATE, 6:20 PM (Ken): The theme of the President’s speech thus far appears to be the Amer­i­can Dream and the promise of our nation. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is strik­ing a pos­i­tive tone, with the aspi­ra­tional lan­guage that we’ve come to expect .

Think about the Amer­i­ca with­in our reach: A coun­try that leads the world in edu­cat­ing its peo­ple. An Amer­i­ca that attracts a new gen­er­a­tion of high-tech man­u­fac­tur­ing and high-pay­ing jobs. A future where we’re in con­trol of our own ener­gy, and our secu­ri­ty and pros­per­i­ty aren’t so tied to unsta­ble parts of the world. An econ­o­my built to last, where hard work pays off, and respon­si­bil­i­ty is rewarded.

[…]

The defin­ing issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No chal­lenge is more urgent. No debate is more impor­tant. We can either set­tle for a coun­try where a shrink­ing num­ber of peo­ple do real­ly well, while a grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans bare­ly get by. Or we can restore an econ­o­my where every­one gets a fair shot, every­one does their fair share, and every­one plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues or Repub­li­can val­ues, but Amer­i­can val­ues. We have to reclaim them.

The Pres­i­dent is in his ele­ment and at his best when he dares his fel­low Amer­i­cans to dream and believe in the promise of our great nation.

UPDATE, 6:30 PM (Patrick): Oba­ma talked about increas­ing spend­ing on edu­ca­tion and mak­ing it hard­er for stu­dents to be pushed out of our edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem and increas­ing stu­dent aid. He also called on states to make high­er edu­ca­tion a pri­or­i­ty. This is beyond good, con­sid­er­ing the pol­i­cy of divest­ment states have pur­sued in regards high­er edu­ca­tion. He also men­tioned some of the trag­ic changes to the Pell Grant and stu­dent loans which were added to the omnibus spend­ing bill passed at the end of the year.

UPDATE, 6:40 PM (Ken): Here’s a few obser­va­tions about the Pres­i­den­t’s speech so far.

The first of the President’s guests for the speech has been men­tioned: Jack­ie Bray, a sin­gle mom from North Car­oli­na. Judg­ing by her reac­tion to the President’s remarks, it’s obvi­ous she was unaware what he was going to say about her.

Ronald Rea­gan, begin­ning with his 1982 address, is cred­it­ed with estab­lish­ing the tra­di­tion of hon­or­ing spe­cial guests seat­ed in the gallery (com­mon­ly known as the President’s box).

Vice-Pres­i­dent Biden and Speak­er Boehn­er have almost iden­ti­cal stone faces behind the Pres­i­dent, with only Biden tak­ing the time to applause from time to time. At least Boehn­er isn’t cry­ing again.

When Pres­i­dent Oba­ma men­tioned the need for com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, Sen­a­tor McCain looked like the cat that ate the canary and had a sly grin on his face. Depend­ing on whether or not it’s an elec­tion year, McCain might be for immi­gra­tion reform. Dur­ing elec­tion years he’s as reli­ably anti-immi­grant as any con­ser­v­a­tive Republican.

The Pres­i­dent just rein­forced a con­ser­v­a­tive frame by using the words “tax relief” with regard to small busi­ness. Fur­ther enforc­ing Repub­li­can dog­ma, Pres­i­dent Obama’s ener­gy pol­i­cy seems to include more drilling for oil, despite fol­low­ing up with words about nat­ur­al gas and renewables.

Over the last three years, we’ve opened mil­lions of new acres for oil and gas explo­ration, and tonight, I’m direct­ing my Admin­is­tra­tion to open more than 75 per­cent of our poten­tial off­shore oil and gas resources. Right now, Amer­i­can oil pro­duc­tion is the high­est that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on for­eign oil than in any of the past six­teen years.

Per­haps the Pres­i­dent needs a reminder about the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon dis­as­ter.

UPDATE, 6:50 PM (Patrick): Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Ray LaHood perked up when Oba­ma talked about issu­ing an Exec­u­tive Order to speed up con­struc­tion projects. Oba­ma then went on to say that those project need­ed to be fund­ed, and that we need to “[t]ake the mon­ey we’re no longer spend­ing at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-build­ing right here at home.” He def­i­nite­ly try­ing to come out strong for the year on the jobs front.

UPDATE 6:55pm, Ken: Here’s an overview of some of the new pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives announced by the Pres­i­dent dur­ing his remarks tonight.

  • A call for states to require all stu­dents to stay in high school until they grad­u­ate or turn eigh­teen. While cer­tain­ly laud­able, this pol­i­cy would­n’t be prac­ti­cal for some stu­dents whose cir­cum­stances in life may keep them from school so they can sup­port their families.
  • Direct­ing the Admin­is­tra­tion to open more than 75 per­cent of poten­tial off­shore oil and gas resources for explo­ration and drilling. See Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon dis­as­ter ref­er­ence earlier.
  • Allow­ing devel­op­ment of clean ener­gy on pub­lic lands to pow­er three mil­lion homes.
  • Sign­ing an Exec­u­tive Order to reduce the bureau­cra­cy that slows down con­struc­tion projects. As most con­struc­tion projects deal with state and local reg­u­la­tion, we’re curi­ous as to the word­ing of this order and how it will affect our state and municipalities.
  • Leg­is­la­tion to Con­gress for a plan that will give home­own­ers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to save about $3,000 a year on their mort­gage, by refi­nanc­ing at his­tor­i­cal­ly low inter­est rates. There would be a small fee on large finan­cial insti­tu­tions will help pay for the program.
  • Pres­i­dent Oba­ma asked Con­gress for a bill that bans the deplorable prac­tice of insid­er trad­ing by mem­bers of Con­gress, which is cur­rent­ly legal, and he pledged to sign it. NPI ful­ly sup­ports such a reform.

The Pres­i­dent also ordered fed­er­al agen­cies to elim­i­nate rules that don’t make sense.

We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farm­ers to spend $10,000 a year prov­ing that they could con­tain a spill – because milk was some­how clas­si­fied as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth cry­ing over spilled milk.

The Pres­i­dent pledged to estab­lish a Finan­cial Crimes Unit of high­ly trained inves­ti­ga­tors to crack down on large-scale fraud and pro­tect people’s investments.

He also said that he has direct­ed Attor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er to cre­ate a spe­cial unit of fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors and lead­ing state attor­neys gen­er­al to expand inves­ti­ga­tions into the abu­sive lend­ing and pack­ag­ing of risky mort­gages that led to the hous­ing crisis.

UPDATE, 7:15 PM (Patrick): The Pres­i­dent is spot on when he talks about shared respon­si­bil­i­ty. Tying togeth­er his ear­li­er point about the eco­nom­ic gains of the post-World War II era (where the mar­gin­al tax rate for the wealth­i­est was 90 per­cent) to the fact that since then have cre­at­ed a rad­i­cal­ly more unequal tax code today), he framed the issue in stark terms: “Now, you can call this class war­fare all you want. But ask­ing a bil­lion­aire to pay at least as much as his sec­re­tary in tax­es? Most Amer­i­cans would call that [un]common sense.”

UPDATE, 7:20 PM (Ken): Pres­i­dent Oba­ma just wrapped up the State of the Union on a high note, with hope­ful, inspi­ra­tional rhetoric echo­ing the begin­ning of the speech, when he ref­er­enced the cap­ture and death of Osama bin Laden. The con­clu­sion was vin­tage Oba­ma and the Pres­i­dent, as usu­al, nailed the delivery.

One of my proud­est pos­ses­sions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mis­sion to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democ­rats. Some may be Repub­li­cans. But that doesn’t mat­ter. Just like it didn’t mat­ter that day in the Sit­u­a­tion Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates – a man who was George Bush’s defense sec­re­tary; and Hillary Clin­ton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mat­tered that day was the mis­sion. No one thought about pol­i­tics. No one thought about them­selves. One of the young men involved in the raid lat­er told me that he didn’t deserve cred­it for the mis­sion. It only suc­ceed­ed, he said, because every sin­gle mem­ber of that unit did their job – the pilot who land­ed the heli­copter that spun out of con­trol; the trans­la­tor who kept oth­ers from enter­ing the com­pound; the troops who sep­a­rat­ed the women and chil­dren from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mis­sion only suc­ceed­ed because every mem­ber of that unit trust­ed each oth­er – because you can’t charge up those stairs, into dark­ness and dan­ger, unless you know that there’s some­one behind you, watch­ing your back.

So it is with Amer­i­ca. Each time I look at that flag, I’m remind­ed that our des­tiny is stitched togeth­er like those fifty stars and those thir­teen stripes. No one built this coun­try on their own. This Nation is great because we built it togeth­er. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of tri­al, there is no chal­lenge too great; no mis­sion too hard. As long as we’re joined in com­mon pur­pose, as long as we main­tain our com­mon resolve, our jour­ney moves for­ward, our future is hope­ful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Thanks for fol­low­ing along with us tonight. We’ll post a roundup of SOTU analy­sis worth read­ing lat­er tonight or tomor­row morning.

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