7:11 PM. "The state of our union is strong" - told ya! An unusual but effective choice to CLOSE with this line, rather than open with it.
7:09 PM. The Chilean miners! Obama inspirational, Biden smiley, Boehner teary.
7:07 PM. Back to the American exceptionalism/"unity" thing. Vintage Obama. He seems really passionate about this theme tonight, and he did in Tucson as well. Mentions the American Dream and how that's the only way he, Biden and Boehner are up there tonight. Boehner getting a little glass-eyed again...
7:05 PM. Throwing in DADT reference. Standing ovation from the left; no clapping from the military. Maybe that's protocol? Also calls on opening college campuses to military recruiting and ROTC. That gets everybody up.
6:58 PM. Sticking with that July 2011 Afghanistan withdrawal date.
6:57 PM. Says the Iraq War - yeah, remember that? - is coming to an end. A bipartisan standing ovation. Time to get the fuck out of there. Also mentions that American Muslims "are part of our American family," accompanied by another standing ovation. Very nice to see.
6:54 PM. Says the Obama Administration is developing a proposal to "merge, consolidate and reorganize" the federal government within the next year. Pretty shrewd - and conservative.
6:50 PM. "IF WE TRULY CARE ABOUT OUR DEFICIT, WE SIMPLY CAN'T AFFORD A PERMANENT TAX CUT FOR THE WEALTHIEST 2% OF AMERICANS." YES!!!!
6:48 PM. Says we have to stop pretending that just cutting discretionary spending will be enough. Republicans always say, "Let's cut discretionary spending" - and that's it. Which is, of course, bullshit. Also brings up Bowles-Simpson, thankfully. He seems very serious on this issue, as he should be, and I commend him for it.
6:47 PM. Makes the point that the deficit began "a decade ago" - in other words, when Republicans were completely in charge. "Our government spends more than it takes in - that is not sustainable." Proposes freezing annual domestic spending for five years, and says it would reduce the deficit by $400 billion. Says it will require painful cuts. Sounded pretty moderate for a "big spending Democrat." Yet Boehner & Co. look permanently glum-faced.
6:45 PM. "Let's fix what needs fixing, and let's move forward." Still a lot of seated Republicans, though. How obstructionist can they be, seriously?
6:43 PM. Health care reform. There it is! The mixed seating makes it hard to see who's standing and who's not. "I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law, so let me be the first to say: anything can be improved." Directly calls on Republicans to work with him on health care reform-reform.
6:39 PM. Can't help myself: Chuck Grassley, what on earth are you wearing?
6:38 PM. Wants more investment in infrastructure. Yes, great idea. "Pick projects based on what's good for the economy, not politicians." Wants 80% of Americans to have access to high-speed rail in 20 years. And flying without the pat down. Woo hoo!
6:36 PM. High-speed rail! Yeah! Obama says our infrastructure used to be the best in the world, but not anymore. Before the conservatives start whining about "hating" America, I have news for you - he's right!
6:35 PM. Obama seems to have seized on the theme of his Tucson speech, about using the Giffords tragedy to make a better America the way 9 year-old Christina Greene would have dreamt it. I'm sensing echoes of that theme in this speech tonight. He started with a reference to the little girl and just had a big section tying in education to - obviously - the hopes and dreams of young children.
6:32 PM. "If you want to make the difference in the life of a child, become a teacher - your country needs you." And another standing ovation. My mother, an English teacher, is LOVING this speech.
6:31 PM. "What is this, some Republican thing?" -the words of a 13 year-old
6:28 PM. I'm encouraged by the pivot from a clean energy economy to educating young people. Obama, rightfully so, is being frank about the declining education standards in this country. He asks if we, "as citizens or parents, are willing to do what is necessary to see every child succeed." Says it's start in the homes - "making sure the TV gets turned off... It's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrating, but the winner of the science fair." I love it. Pretty good stuff, especially coming from an obviously-disappointed Chicago Bears fan.
6:25 PM. Obama wants one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. It's a start, I guess, but in a nation of over 300 million people that is one damn small benchmark. But, like I said, at least it's a start. You'd never hear Bush or McCain talk about that.
6:24 PM. Renewable energy. Coulda seen that one coming. This really is the new frontier of the world's environment and economy, and it's time this country started getting serious about it. Obama included an investment in green infrastructure in the stimulus, but we need more of it - and not just because of the jobs it will create; our planet is in peril!
6:19 PM. For the knuckleheads on the right who say that Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, this opening section is proving them wrong (they were, of course, wrong already).
6:17 PM. Biden, on the other hand, has the "seriously concerned" look glued to his face.
6:16 PM. In her first State of the Union, Pelosi had an infamous blinking problem. Boehner occasionally looks like he's trying to motorboat the air.
6:14 PM. "The stake is whether new industries take root in this country, or somewhere else." First (indirect) reference to the economy, as well as to China kicking our collective asses.
6:12 PM. "There's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause... Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are, or where we come from, each of us is part of something greater... we are part of the American family... we are still bound together as one people." Brings up "the dreams of a little girl in Tucson" - obviously Christina Greene.
6:10 PM. The obligatory Gabrielle Giffords acknowledgement. Obama has said two sentences and gotten two standing ovations.
6:10 PM. First prediction comes true: Obama acknowledges Boehner as the new Speaker. Should I drink?
6:08 PM. The President gets to the podium. Hey, whaddya know, there just so happened to be extra copies of the speech underneath the microphone! Who put THAT there?
6:07 PM. Obama thinks Hillary looks good too! OKAY SERIOUSLY I'LL STOP NOW
6:05 PM. In other news, I will try to refrain from commenting on clothing and appearances from here on out. Except to point out that hideously chartreuse suit worn by the woman who just kissed Obama.
6:04 PM. In comes Obama, in a dark periwinkle tie. It's gonna match with Boehner's!
5:58 PM. On the other hand, I like Hillary's hair - both color and style.
5:57 PM. I don't know how I feel about Michelle's dress per se, but I like the color.
5:55 PM. Who knew the ambassador of Djibouti was the "dean" of the diplomatic corps?
5:54 PM. Seeing Piers Morgan on the CNN panel is hilarious. If only he could judge the politicians tonight the way he judges the contestants on America's Got Talent!
5:51 PM (PST). CNN just showed Biden and Boehner speaking. I'll miss seeing Pelosi on that dais. However, the contrast between Boehner's purple tie and orange face is quite striking.