Opinion: State of the Union review: A dissenting justice and a critical Obama, who sure likes the sound of ‘I’


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First, a shocking admission:

The Ticket erred Wednesday morning predicting the dress color for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We said power red; she actually chose purple, as did Michelle Obama. But we got the Obama-Biden duo’s tie colors right; blue for the elderly VP, bright red for the boss.

The Ticket also reported here Wednesday morning on Republican Rep. Joe Wilson‘s promise to behave politely during President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night.

The South Carolinian kept his word. He saved his strong presidential criticism for a web video after the Democrat’s nationally-televised long address, live-blogged here. More on Wilson in a few paragraphs.


But someone else disagreed with the president during this speech, a surprising someone, though he expressed his disagreement far more discreetly than Wilson’s shouted outcry ‘You lie!’ during last September’s Obama healthcare speech to both houses.

Justice Samuel Alito was among only six justices who attended the joint session of Congress (see video below), where the chief executive rather bluntly....

...seized the opportunity of their presence to harshly criticize to their front-row faces the justices’ 5-4 decision last week to allow corporate and union contributions to political campaigns.

Here’s an interesting CBS News video. Listen to and watch Obama outline his critical interpretation of the court ruling and then watch Justice Alito’s reaction and read his lips. He’s sitting in the second row of justices on the near left end next to Sonia Sotomayor.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Clearly, the justice’s shaking head disagrees with the president’s description of the ruling, in which Alito was in the majority. And he appears to mouth, ‘Not true’ to himself.

A long-ago colleague, Pulitzer Prize winner Linda Greenhouse, also disagrees with Obama’s interpretation, as you can read here, that the court ‘reversed a century of law.’

Now, about Wilson, who polls suggest is headed for an easy November re-election in his home district.


He’s an avid user of social media with a Twitter page over here. But using his Facebook page Wednesday night, Wilson made a video rebuttal of Obama saying, among other things, “What the president proposed tonight would not truly create jobs. He is persisting on the wrong path of excessive spending.”

Two big names missing from the Capitol speech: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was at a diplomatic conference in London and Scott ‘I Turned the Political World Upside Down Last Week’ Brown remains Massachusetts Republican senator-elect until he takes his oath early next month.

Obama’s speech was a long one, even for State of the Unions, clocking in at 70 minutes. And full of what felt like downsized ambitions. We live-blogged both Obama’s and the GOP response ending here with Chris ‘I Get a Tingle In My Leg’ Matthews’ strange racial remark and working back through the evening.

According to one count, Obama used the words ‘my’ or ‘mine’ 18 times and ‘I’ 88 times, better than once a minute. As usual, we have the full presidential text right here. And the full Republican response right here.

In many respects Obama’s speech was a standard political checklist of talking points to provide cover for those Democrats who must run for office in November’s midterms.

Having signed earmark-laden legislation in 2009, Obama called for reforms in earmark legislation, which ain’t going to happen.

The speech did contain a tone of defiance, acknowledging only ever so briefly his party’s setbacks.


Clearly, Obama decided weeks ago to emphasize the economy, which polls had been saying since last summer was voters’ real top priority.

Obama, who’s been working in Washington for the last five years, is still trying to play the outsider’s role. At one eloquent point he was knocking both parties for playing political games there with petty daily scorecards that do not advance the people’s business.

Here’s part of what he said:

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.

At that very moment Obama’s own Democratic National Committee was sending out another of its carping ‘rapid responses’ pointing out that Republicans did not stand and applaud when Obama mentioned tax cuts for small business. In case folks at home are keeping score. Both parties do the same thing routinely daily.

But in at least one way both sides seem to agree -- and possibly have the same speechwriters. (Not really.)

Talking about education reform, Obama said,

In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.


In the Republican response, new Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, speaking from Richmond, said:

The President and I agree on expanding the number of high-quality charter schools, and rewarding teachers for excellent performance. More school choices for parents and students mean more accountability and greater achievement.

A child’s educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her zip code.

Well, it’s a start.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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