President Obama is known as a good speechmaker. His State of the Union speech Tuesday night took a while to get revved up, but when it did, the president confirmed his status as a politician who can put a crowd on its feet.
The issue that pulled many in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber out of their seats was gun violence. I won’t seek to persuade anyone on whether the president is right or wrong on his proposed solutions to ending gun violence. Indeed, many in the House — both House members and senators — disagree vehemently with Obama’s view on gun regulations. In fact, somewhere in the chamber reportedly was noted gun-rights advocate and rock musician Ted Nugent, who attended the speech as a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas.
But the president spoke to the need to put gun-violence measures to a vote in Congress. They’ve been stalled by procedural delays. The president talked Tuesday about background checks he said would make it harder for criminals to purchase guns, about ways to limit the size of high-capacity magazines and other measures he said would continue to honor the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
He singled out heroes, such as Police Officer Brian Murphy, who braved hostile fire in rescuing those who were attacked in a Sikh temple. Murphy, who attended the speech, “deserves a vote,” said Obama, repeating the chant as he spoke of the teachers in Newtown, Conn., who also were present at the State of the Union, while also invoking the memories of victims of massacres in Aurora, Colo. and Blacksburg, Va. And, of course, he singled out former Rep. Gabby Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was grievously wounded in January 2011 by the gunman in Tucson, Ariz., who killed six bystanders, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.
The public television viewing audience listened to almost precisely one hour of the usual State of the Union fare. Lots of program detail and promises to do the right thing on a whole host of issues came forward. And as is the custom at these events, those who belong to the president’s party cheered at every opportunity, while those of the other party sat on their hands.
I got a kick out of watching for the occasions when both Vice President Biden and House Speaker Boehner clapped. You couldn’t go wrong when talking about middle-class prosperity, saluting our troops who serve in harm’s way or taking note of the murderers who’ve been killed in our ongoing war against international terrorism.
Hey, if you missed it live Tuesday night, take a peek on http://www.pbs.org. The speech is being carried online.
For my money, Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union speech — and his first since being re-elected — offered Americans a smashing civics lesson.