Tag Archives: State of the Union

#SOTU: Obama uses a wounded Army Ranger to unite the country; It’s not corny if it gets us to some common ground and makes us realize the state of our union is much stronger than any of the petty politics in Washington would have us believe

The state of the union still isn’t so great, but the speech by the president was as good as a State of the Union address can get.

And we have Sgt. Cory Remsburg to thank. But first, let’s address that speech.

President Obama was critical of the gridlock and how it hurt the American people, and said he was ready to act on his own, and take executive action.

It was a ballsy threat of action. Let’s hope in this final term, Obama  actually takes some. Especially on immigration. Maybe Ju Hong, the San Francisco activist was right when he disrupted the president’s speech in November. The president can do more without the Congress, if he can only summon up the political will. Maybe the president has found some. When you’re on your way out, what do you have to lose?

There were a few specifics about some things like the MyRA  retirement accounts, energy policy, equal pay for women, job training, pre-school and minimum wage proposals. But we still don’t know if any of that will amount to all that much in the end.

So for now, this speech will have to be about how it made us feel. And that’s’ where the president struck gold when he introduced us to Sgt. Remsburg, the wounded Army Ranger, who couldn’t walk or hear or see, but never gave up on his own recovery to the point where he could sit in the gallery and watch the State of the Union.

A little bit of drama through a meaningful cameo never hurt a State of the Union. Especially when one needed some rallying emotion. Normally, the president has a paragraph, what I call the “litany of diversity,” where he names every race in the Census. But this year, he talked in general terms about all of us, when he said “we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.”  He was in the military section of the speech, including a cheering portion about the Olympic team, that incited a “USA” chant.

But it was just a lead up when he personified it all by talking about Remsburg.

In Remsburg’s  story, the president found common ground for us all, above the b.s. of politics. It was one of the few times in the speech where  Biden and Boehner could be seen both standing up and applauding behind the president. Indeed, Remsburg, gave the president the night’s biggest applause (about a minute and 45 seconds, and that’s with the president inserting himself to stem the roar).

Again, it played right into the president’s plan. About Remsburg, the president said: “My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” 

He could have been talking about himself, the country, all of us struggling in our present day America. That’s what we all need to remember, that we’re all in this fight together, and when we start fighting each other (like when the governing class loses its mind and shuts down the government) it’s just not the American way.

The end of that speech was like a call for the best in us all, the good of government, and our country. It’s why we send our children to war, and why we can, with all our differences, in the end, stand together as one.

Forget about specific policies you may or may not have heard. After hearing dozens of these, SOTU addresses are about the “feel good.” And if how you felt about Remsburg is the only thing of substance that you remember tomorrow, or next week,  then the minute or so of applause he got did the trick.

That’s what Obama needed to do with this SOTU address. As our leader he had to remind us that despite it all,  the state of the union is really much stronger than we think.

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S.F. Mayor Ed Lee works overtime for #SOTU: Maximum Asian, minimum wage in the land of inequality; updated 3:42PDT with preview excerpts

Some observers might think San Francisco must be on President Obama’s “Do Not Call” list after that embarrassing incident during his last visit. That’s when one of the handpicked invitees who stood behind Obama spoke out and disrupted the president’s speech.  ( http://aaldef.org/blog/yelling-stop-deportations-an-undocumented-asian-american-stands-up-and-obama-stands-down.html ).

But Obama is merely showing how you can’t let a little thing like that spoil your good attitude. We’re not talking Chris Christie here.

Obama is moving on, because Ed Lee can help him.

So instead of a “shunning,” the president is shining a light on the San Francisco mayor.

Lee fills a number of purposes for President Obama at the #SOTU.  If anyone asks,”Is there an Asian American in the house? ” Well, now there will be.  (They won’t be in the bomb shelter). As Michelle’s guest, Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco in the nation’s most Asian American state.

But Lee’s real purpose may be to be the bureaucratic face and prime working example of an elevated minimum wage. SeaTac in Washington has a $15 minimum. But SeaTac is not San Francisco, and Obama needs to show a major city example. That’s SF, with the next highest minimum wage at $10.55 an hour.

Obama wants to raise the fed minimum to $10.10, up from $7.25.

At a time when inequality has become Obama’s “here-and-now”  issue, having Lee there is critical to show everyone that $10.10 is do-able. SeaTac is struggling with $15. But new studies show SF’s businesses haven’t been hurt by years of an elevated minimum wage, well above $7. In fact, even conservatives like Bill O’Reilly are coming around to embrace the issue of raising the MW.

Maybe that’s because minimum wages mean conservatives can feel good about finally taxing the poor.

But really, what’s $10.10 an hour?  Multiply that by 30 hours (because then bosses wouldn’t have to pay benefits). Then work for 50 weeks and voila. You’re barely above $15,000 a year.

Shack up with another minimum wage earner, don’t have kids, and live in your parent’s trailer, and you can survive on $30,000 a year combined. Sure, why not. (You want to eat too? And have clothes? Wow, no one told O’Reilly that).

No, of course it’s do-able.

You won’t be among the One-percent though.

Maybe this is Obama’s way to discourage future immigration to the U.S.?  Land of opportunity?

No, America is the “new”  land of inequality.


Preview excerpts from President Obama’s SOTU  address– (Second to last graph (bolded) is perhaps the most direct in terms of president’s intention to by-pass Congress if he needs to get things done).
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together.  Let’s make this a year of action.  That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.


Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows.  Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.


Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.


Our job is to reverse these tides.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” 


“Opportunity is who we are.  And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”

(End of excerpt).




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