Six things we learned from the State of the Union

1/28/14
 
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By Carrie Dann,

from NBCNews,
1/28/14:

President Barack Obama may have made sweeping statements about his unfinished agenda on Tuesday night, but, when it came to specifics, the president used a scalpel rather than an axe when delivering his State of the Union message.

The president put forward a series of relatively modest policy proposals that offered plenty for Democrats, but suggested little in the way of legacy-making ambitions. And he pulled some punches when it came to big ticket items like immigration and voting rights.

Here are six takeaways from the big night:

Carrots and sticks: It’s no secret that the president is frustrated with Republicans in Congress, whose resistance has foiled his plans for everything from immigration reform to the extension of long-term unemployment insurance. That exasperation was more than apparent in some parts of Obama’s speech, but he also urged cooperation and an optimistic outlook for solving the gridlock. Opponents likely heard his tone as patronizing and pained; fans probably heard patience and maturity.

Looking to 2014: As his party prepares for tough midterm elections, Obama offered plenty of items — outside of Obamacare — that Democrats can run on in 2014.

But, mostly small ball : While Obama did make sweeping statements about issues like climate change and gun violence — hardly fertile areas for bipartisan compromise in an election year — most of Obama’s “concrete, practical proposals” to help the economy were small in scope.

Advertising, not apologizing, on Obamacare: After the disastrous launch of the HealthCare.Gov site last year, Obama held a lengthy and almost agonized press conference to apologize for the rollout. But that conciliatory tone was gone Tuesday night, with the president instead taking the opportunity of the big television audience to push Americans — particularly young people — to sign up for Obamacare. “Moms, get on your kids to sign up.

A gentle approach on immigration: As House Republicans prepare to consider a set of “principles” on the issue this week, Obama devoted only a paragraph of his 20-page speech to the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, his top second-term domestic agenda item.

A transcendent moment for an American hero: The most memorable moment of the State of the Union, by far, was Obama’s callout to Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, a wounded veteran who was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama. The lengthy and emotional standing ovation from every person in the chamber provided one powerful data point to back up Obama’s message that unity is still sometimes possible. But it also made the annual pomp and circumstance around what was a very modest State of the Union feel awfully small.

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