Obama’s First State Of The Union Speech

President Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address last Wednesday night to a packed House chamber and large television audience. His speech lasted for well over an hour and was the longest since the Bill Clinton era.

The president told those in the chamber that he would continue to fight for ambitious overhauls in health care, energy and education although he has had some big setbacks. “Change has not come fast enough,” Obama acknowledged, “but I don’t quit.” He vowed to get millions without jobs back to work also.

President Obama tried to change the conversation from how his presidency is stalling due to the health care debate, a bad economy and errors that led to a barely averted terrorist disaster on Christmas Day to how he is taking the proper actions. However, he was speaking to a nation that has double digit unemployment and federal deficits at a record $1.4 trillion, and to fellow Democrats who hoped his popularity would help them in this fall’s elections.

Republicans applauded the president when he entered the chamber and welcomed the first lady when she took her seat. But the warm feeling of bipartisanship disappeared early.

Democrats rose to their feet on several occasions during Obama’s speech and applauded. One occasion was when he said he wanted to impose a new fee on banks. Another was when he mentioned the economic stimulus package passed last February. During this time Republicans just sat and looked at him.

President Obama said he would work to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military this year, but made no commitment to suspend the action or set a deadline. The military’s present policy is don’t ask don’t tell.

Obama urged Democrats to not abandon their efforts to overhaul the health care system and to go forward with important bills that would create more jobs, effect education and so on just because they had lost their 60 vote margin when a Republican won the Massachusetts Senate seat held for many years by Democrat Ted Kennedy.

In the Republican response to the president’s speech given by Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia it was made plain that his party would not give in to Obama on important issues. McDonnell reflected the anti-big government sentiment during his time before the camera that had helped Republicans in some recent key wins. He said that what government should not do was to increase taxes, set more regulations and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class.

Both senators from Georgia are Republicans. “It’s pretty obvious the stimulus package did not help reduce unemployment, so we need to go in another direction,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss said after the president’s speech.

Sen. Johnny Isakson said, “The American people expect us to spend their money like they spend their money. Sitting around the kitchen table, establishing priorities, not going into debt, spending money only where it should be spent.”

U.S. Rep. Lynn Moreland of Georgia said, “He’s talking about fiscal responsibility and more jobs, yet his proposals all call for bigger government, more regulation and higher taxes.”

In his speech President Obama had hoped to rekindle the energy of his historic election in the late fall of 2008. We will just have to wait and see if his first State of the Union speech did that.