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January 13, 2016

THE DIG Reviews Last Night’s SOTU: The Good, The Bad & The Bartlet

Good morning to all you out there in Spin Alley! Last night was a bender, hopefully without too much of a hope-and-change hangover. With Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union in the bag, we’re headed straight to The Dig’s foolproof report card rubric to see how the President’s address — and Nikki Haley’s Republican response — stacked up!

Obama’s State of the Union Address

Going With The Gut Giving Zero Fs Zingers Quotables Bartlet Factor LOLs FINAL GRADE
B- B- A+ A+ C+ A A-

The Good

The President came out of the gate with copious laugh lines that had the whole chamber practically ROFLing. It’s true what they say: laughter is bipartisan, and even fusty old Paul Ryan couldn’t contain his giggles at 44’s zingers about going to Iowa, Sputnik, and extrajudicial killings. Look out Michael Che and the other guy — I think Obama is gunning for the job of SNL Weekend Update anchor!

As for the serious portion of the address, Obama mostly achieved what he needed to. He came out against Washington gridlock, finally putting to rest years of accusations and rumors that he actually loves gridlock. He chose to focus on the future instead of the past, as many Presidents have done to their detriment (see: Jimmy Carter’s 1980 SOTU “What Really Happened In Dealey Plaza?”). Finally, Obama found his inner toughness and sent a message loud and clear to the world: Obama is Obama again. With that, foreign despots and terrorists will be quaking in their jackboots. Look for some high-profile dictator resignations in the coming days; smart money says Bashar al-Assad.

Best of all, Obama took my Sorkin-esque advice to be more like Jed Bartlet, including a line from the West Wing in his speech! Thanks for reading, Mr. President!

Finally, Obama has buried the hatchet with Hollywood star Clint Eastwood by inviting his empty chair to the State of the Union. Thanks for being a class act, Mr. President.

The Bad

Obama failed in three critical areas. For one, he didn’t respond to the 10 US Navy sailors Iran captured with an alpha “there will be hell to pay” quotable. For two, he didn’t directly tell viewers that he is better than them, which is something they would respect. For three, he ignored the family court issue that will go down as the damning factor of his presidency. Similar to Franklin Roosevelt’s Japanese internment camps and Ronald Reagan’s infamous “where’s Japan” gaffe, Obama’s refusal to deal with the millions of men (many of us Polk-nominated journalists) facing the tyranny of judges who imprison their round progeny with their mothers will be an “if only” fly in an otherwise good ointment.

Yes, despite some tough talk, laughter, and logic, Obama seems to have embraced being a lame duck President, whose Simpson-Bowles entitlement reform is dead on arrival. Those of us pining for such a grand across-the-aisle compromise will simply have to wait for the next era of bipartisan cooperation that will flower under President Rubio or President Hillary.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s Response

Bipartisanship Well, Mr. Trump You Sir, Just Got A Heaping Helping Of Change FINAL GRADE
B C- C+ B B- B+ B

Governor Haley was up there for one reason tonight: she’s the opposite of Donald Trump. She talked about bipartisanship, about immigration, and she definitely gave the GOP a better visual image. She bragged about South Carolina’s ability to prevent riot, a clear message to Bernie Sanders’ band of neckbearded malcontent social agitators. With Obama’s powerfully funny and fallacy-proof speech, I can see Governor Haley riding the revived trend of logic, jocularity, and respect that is sure to sweep our nation now. While Middle Americans who are more dog than human may cling to fringe candidates like Trump or Sanders, I can see Nikki Haley pulling off a move worthy of Sorkin himself by becoming Hillary Clinton’s running mate and showing everyone that it takes a team of rivals at the end of the day. A team of rivals that still has time for happy hour, that is!

Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.