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US View: Rating the State of the Union

Matthew Davis | 07:57 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

President Obama's State of the Union address is poured over by US commentators, coming as it does at the end of a difficult year for the nation, and for the president.

Writer Verdict Score
New York Times
"We respect Mr Obama's deliberative nature. But too often in the last year he lingered on the sidelines, allowing his opponents to define and distort the issues and, sometimes, him - as happened last year in the health care debate. His speech Wednesday was a reminder that he is a gifted orator, able to inspire with grand vision and the simple truth frankly spoken. It was a long time coming." 4 stars
EJ Dionne,
Washington Post
"There was an unexpected poignancy to the moment. Barack Obama, who once strode across the political landscape as a master of the persuasive arts, found himself needing to prove that mastery all over again...
"It was clear that the Obama who addressed the nation on Wednesday also understood that he confronts a Republican Party that sees unflinching opposition as blazing a path to victory. And he offered himself as a president ready to do battle. 'We don't quit,' he said. 'I don't quit.'"
3 stars
Ron Fournier,
Associated Press
"Humility. Check. Bipartisanship, debt reduction, populist anger. Check. Check. Check. More jobs? On it. President Barack Obama checked every political box needed to restart his troubled presidency Wednesday night, but that may not be enough to consider his State of Union address a success. Did he strengthen his connection with the American public? Or did he sound like a politician with a stack of prescriptions for his political ills?" two stars
Katie Connolly,
"Obama Unleashes His Inner Tough Guy...
"He threatened vetoes, refused to pass problems on, he scoffed at suggestions of his naivete, foreshadowed consequences for Iran and made it powerfully clear that he won't accept second-place for America on the world stage."
four stars
Kevin McCullough,
Fox News
"As far as expectations for the State of the Union the president's speech was a sizable failure...
"It was messy, incoherent, disorganized, and most regrettably defiant.
"Which I guess when you think of it, defines the state of our union pretty well."
1 star
National Review
"Everything changes except President Obama. His agenda doesn't change. He has had no second thoughts about the wisdom of his health-care policies, or any of his policies; resistance is always and only a reason for redoubling.... All in all, though, our impression was of an administration that has no real understanding of the political straits in which it finds itself and thus no way to escape them." 1 star
Arianna Huffington,
Huffington Post
"The president, we were told, spent a good deal of time in the days leading up to his State of the Union address, going over it with a fine-toothed comb, making changes and additions in longhand. But judging from the speech, he also spent a lot of time going over the results of focus groups and polls. Indeed, the speech, despite its charm, humor, and occasionally impassioned rhetoric, had the feel of being focus-grouped within an inch of its life. There was a decidedly paint-by-poll-numbers air about it." 2 stars
Joe Klein,
"He almost seemed to be having fun up there; he delivered the speech in a free, almost informal manner. It was easily digestible, user-friendly...but it was also a fighting speech. Certainly, he stuck the needle time and again into the hides of the recalcitrant elephants in the room. It started early in the speech when he recounted the numerous tax cuts that had been passed in the past year as part of his much-distorted Stimulus Plan, to applause from Democrats and silence from Republicans, and he ad-libbed, staring at the Republican side of the room, 'I thought I'd get some applause on that one.'" 5 stars

The scores assigned to the candidates represent the BBC's interpretation of the writers' comments. One star indicates that they judged it a poor performance; five stars an excellent one.

Links in full

New York TimesNew York Times | The second year
Washington PostEJ Dionne | Washington Post | Obama shows he's a conciliator
MSNBCRon Fournier | Associated Press | Humbled Obama checks boxes
NewsweekKatie Connolly | Newsweek | Obama unleashes his inner tough guy
Fox NewsKevin McCullough | Fox News | Obama's sorry State of the Union speech
National ReviewThe Editors | National Review | Statist quo
Huffington PostArianna Huffington | Huffington Post | More a State of the Focus Group
TimeJoe Klein | Time | State of the Union
CNNCNN | Half of speech watchers have very positive reaction

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