Presumably, some of you care what I think about the State of the Union.  I didn't actually watch much of it for a few reasons.

1) There was a Duke basketball game on simultaneously.  Duke won.  I checked in on the speech at half-time and commercials.

2) I actually hate watching the SOTU.  All that clapping drives me crazy.

3) Also not a big fan of all the (presumably necessary) political pandering even in a speech and from a president I generally like.  E.g., Obama bragging about all his tax cuts.  I hate the way that lets Republicans drive the narrative.  When we are in our current long-term fiscal situation, more tax cuts are not the answer.

4) Most importantly, what I think doesn't matter at all.  What matters is the media narrative.  What do all the talking heads, journalists, and editors think?.  What will develop as "conventional wisdom"?  These are the things that matter.  If I pan the speech, but the Post and Times love it and the inside-the-beltway wisdom is that this was a great speech that changed the political dynamic, that's what matters. 

Still, I have some thoughts on the matter, of course…

5) That said, preliminary indications are good.  In a way, I think the media looks to Obamato respond with a good/great speech in political tough spots (as this most definitely was), and so long as he produces with a good speech, they are happy and that drives the narrative for a while.  I would have really liked it to be more forceful on health care (e.g., not "working together" to pass legislation, as we know it is a fairy world where Republicans vote to pass good health care legislation), but the health care gurus I look to seemed to be happy enough. 

6) In the end, it still is just a speech, and my favorite response is Jon Cohn's.  Sure, this was a good speech, but what matters is the follow through.  What matters is what Obama does on health care now.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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