What appears to be the fiery finale to Christopher Dorner's violent rampage across Southern California nearly upstaged President Obama's State of the Union address. As the seconds ticked down to the start of the speech, it seemed as though Anderson Cooper and the folks at CNN were awfully reluctant to break away from the burning cabin near Big Bear where the disgruntled, unhinged ex-cop from the Los Angeles Police Department appeared to be holed up.
Nevertheless, the cable news organizations did their duty and switched from the sensational to the substantial. They were rewarded with an unusually news-making speech from Obama. As police officials appeared close to confirming that the deadly Dorner saga had ended, the president was confirming that he is just getting started on an aggressive agenda for the coming year. He said he intends to take action on climate change, gun control, immigration, infrastructure repair, the minimum wage, early childhood education and ending the war in Afghanistan.
The most dramatic moment in the address came near the end when Obama, pushing his firearms safety legislation, cited the multiple victims of gun violence in the audience and to rising applause -- significantly, not from Republicans -- repeated, over and over, "They deserve a vote!"
If that rhetorical flourish had the feel of a political convention, the Republican response from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as the tea party rejoinder delivered by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, smelled like stale leftovers from the 2012 campaign trail. Much of Rubio's speech was a personal slap at Obama. The rest was a boilerplate slam of "big government," even as Rubio oddly cited government programs that had helped him achieve success, as well as the Medicare coverage that had made life easier for his parents.
Tuesday was a big night for news. One story was like a action-packed cop show straight from Hollywood, the other was a bit like a political melodrama we have seen many times before. Still, the president gave a good performance and earned whatever audience he was able to grab from the police showdown in the Southern California woods.