State of the Union speech: Jobs, guns and free trade – Barack Obama outlines his vision for America

David Usborne delivers his verdict

The words

It was, above all, about “jobs”. Mr Obama uttered the word 31 times in a one-hour speech as he placed greater emphasis than he did in his inaugural speech on finding ways to spur the recovery and lift the middle class and working poor. Bothered Republicans, though, will remember “dime” and “rubble”. Mr Obama said his serial initiatives to help the poor and boost the economy, including programmes to repair roads, introduce universal pre-kindergarten schooling and hike the minimum wage, would not cost the country one extra “dime” because of savings elsewhere. As for noting that America’s “rubble of crisis” had been cleared away, they thought: that’s right, blame George W again.

The delivery

Mr Obama is always a great speaker, and he was more chipper than we’ve seen him in a while. Yet the first 50 minutes were a bit flat – more a list of must-dos than a call to action. He saved guns for the very end. Look at the parents of dead children here in the chamber with you. Look at Gaby Giffords, shot in the head in her constituency, also in the room. Mr Obama had Congress and the country in the palm of his hand as he begged for action on guns.

The ideas

His address is already bearing fruit. Mr Obama said he wanted a free trade agreement with the EU. Yesterday European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced formal talks with the US that would create the biggest free-trade deal in history, with the potential to add 0.5 per cent to GDP on both sides of the Atlantic. Elsewhere he brought a Santa sack of toys for his liberal supporters: raise the minimum wage; pledge money to infrastructure spending; promise to open manufacturing “institutes” to bring jobs back to America; show steel on Iran, Syria and North Korea; accelerate the drawdown in Afghanistan; pursue immigration reform and gun control; and get serious on climate change. 

The response

We really shouldn’t be thinking 2016, but the Republicans were. Marco Rubio, junior Senator from Florida, is the “It” Boy of the party. And he could be its new face. Rubio is just 41 and looks younger. Best of all, he is of Cuban parentage and, while conservative on most issues, is not so far from Mr Obama on compassionate immigration reform. But the rebuttal to the State of the Union can be a poisoned chalice. It’s unfair, but most will remember Rubio’s effort for those startling few seconds when he attempted to reach stage-left for a bottle of water while all the time keeping his eyes locked on the camera and delivering his lines. The bottle was far away and it looked like he was playing Twister. “He seemed parched, shaky and sweaty,” Maureen Dowd averred in the New York Times.

What the pundits said

“A clear effort by Obama to nudge the nation’s politics to the centre-left,” said Glenn Rush of Politico; “Packed to the gills with clichés, promises, gimmicks,” complained Fred Barnes on the Weekly Standard.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee