There was a slightly surreal context to this year’s State of the Union. First, some North Korean general had accidentally sat on a big red button and put the communist dictatorship in to the nuclear age. Second, America’s attention was diverted by the murderous rampage of a deranged ex-cop. Third, Ted Nugent had scored an invite to the speech despite having threatened the President on Twitter. To avoid breaking the laws of Washington DC, the Right-wing rocker left his weaponry at home. He complained to reporters of feeling “naked” – “I even turned in my knife! I feel like a little girl. I’d have to protect you with the leg of that table if something were to happen. I do have my flashlight.” Fortunately, Ted wasn’t forced to use any of his sweet moves on Tuesday night.

The State of the Union repeated a lot of the same themes of the past few years. That’s because a lot of Obama’s promises remain unfulfilled and are still reliant on slipping them through a hostile Congress. Take his signature pledge to raise the minimum wage to $9, which he insisted will stimulate the economy and create jobs. Back in 2008, Obama said he’s raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011. Likewise, we got a retread on cutting the deficit, slashing unemployment, investing in education etc. Some achievement, some disappointment but always an air of “promises, promises.” The one that will be most sceptically investigated was his insistence that “nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.” Perhaps. But that claim seems tough to justify considering all the new spending that he proposed and his argument that “We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.” Obama wants America to tackle the deficit with a mix of “spending cuts and revenue” –  “revenue” being a Washington word for “Your tax dollars.” [And while the minimum wage increase wouldn’t add to the federal budget, it sure will to those of employers.]

But the rhetorical emphasis of this speech wasn’t on healing the nation but on hitting the opposition hard. Obama constantly asserted that he was talking about “bipartisan” issues that require a “bipartisan” solution. And because he’s all for bipartisanship (after all, he uses the word a lot), any failure to be bipartisan must be the sole fault of the GOP. Only Obama could make a plea for partnership sound like a string of insults. Why would the Republicans want to cede any ground to this man other than because they have no choice? Take the section on the environment:

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change … We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late … I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

The message here is that anyone who questions the link between wildfires and global warming is a) anti-science and b) doesn’t care about children or the future.

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