UWG political science professor Paul Rutledge offers his opinions on President Barack Obama's State of the Union address:
I think President Obama did his best to connect with the American people in several ways. First, he really stressed jobs and programs such as cutting student loan payments and expanding the child tax credit. He was very forthright and honest, taking responsibility to some extent for "Change we can believe in" not coming fast enough. To his credit, I think he took too much of the blame for this, simply because the type of change he is referring to, fixing an economic disaster, will take much longer than one year. He was willing to call out his own party to continue to govern as the majority and not "run for the hills". He called upon the Republicans to do more than just say no, and invited them to the table with serious proposals. This was part of an effort I think to distance himself a bit from Washington, a typical political strategy that cannot hurt on main street. I think all of these things have a chance to restore some of the public confidence in his administration, although what seemed to be a mea culpa for not delivering fast enough really could go either way. Might be a Republican soundbyte for 2010?
There were a few things that I found odd. In a speech where he is attempting to draw Republicans to the table, rise above the partisan bickering that is currently crippling our nation, and gain the faith of the American people that he is still working to change Washington, he reverted in part to pointing fingers. I found his "setting the record straight" on several occasions to be contradictory to his other efforts throughout the speech mentioned above. This is especially true of his discussions relating to the previous eight years. Blaming President Bush, even though everything he said he inherited is based in fact, will not gain him support from Republicans or go far towards convincing the American people he is trying to change things. This is even more true when at another point in the speech, he said (and I paraphrase here), "We have tried the Republican policies (after listing several party platform items), it didn't work." Who knows if the public will pick up on such contradictions, but if so, it certainly will make what was strategically a very important speech less effective than it could have otherwise been.
I think overall the State of the Union was very effective. President Obama delivered precisely what he needed to at this stage in his presidency.
Additionally, I thought his greatest strength may have been the last few moments of the speech. He was very captivating and energetic, something that is traditionally a strong point for Obama, and something that connects with the public very effectively.