CLEAR-EYED AND BIG HEARTED

1. It’s Wednesday, January 13, 2016. Winter is one-quarter over.

2. I don’t care who’s President, I love the State of the Union speech. It, or a text version of it, is a Constitutional requirement. The President has to tell the American people, through its Congress, how our country is doing.

Of course, those of us who are journalists do that all the time. And the President, no matter which party he and someday she represents, is going to put a shiny veneer on their accomplishments. So be it. We have all day today and probably a few days after to point out any flaws in the vision. It’s good for the country.

With that in mind, here are my thoughts after last night’s edition:

—We are going to be spoiled, I fear for decades, by Barack Obama’s ability to give a speech. He knows how to move his voice around, he can ad lib when he has to, and he brings a colloquial touch to even the most formal occasions.

Last night’s speech lasted about an hour. I never looked at my watch the entire time. I suspect most people didn’t, either. He keeps you involved, whether you like him or not.

—Obama also tends to be honest. Yes, there are times when he is tooting his own horn. But for the most part, he gave the nation a true picture of its strengths and vulnerabilities. He did what a chief executive is supposed to do for the people he represents.

The best example of that came in his discussion of the terrorism threat. Yes, nutcases who are willing to die for their cause can do terrible things. September 11 and Paris in November remind us of that.

But the United States is not weak. These people can’t attack us head on because they know they’d be annihilated. We spend more on defense than the next several nations ranked behind us combined.

I’m not sure his attempt at reassurance works in the face of the constant red-and-yellow danger graphics that people see on Fox News. But he tried.

— Kudos to both the President and, especially, the GOP responder, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Both criticized Trump and his divisive presidential campaign — and did so without giving him his erotic thrill of hearing his name.

Again, in a cable TV news world in which the squeaky wheel gets the grease, it’s hard to know what impact they’ll have. But at least they tried.

We can’t ignore this crap any longer. Trump — and, to a similar degree, Ted Cruz — are an embarrassment. That 47% of Iowa Republicans, according to the latest poll, think either of them has any business being President is sad.

— Which is bigger, the number of dollars in the Powerball jackpot or the number of places Paul Ryan would have rather been last night? It was painful to watch him not react — positively to negatively – to the President he’s sitting behind.

— CNN, I love you, but you’re part of what the President was getting at the end of his speech. While Obama was speaking, CNN was showing its pulse polling of how Democrats, Republicans and independents were reacting.

As if it matters. As if I, as a Democrat, should care that my fellow Democrats like a certain point, or that Republicans don’t like it. Am I supposed to change my view about what he’s saying because that’s what a Democrat or Republican touching some device believes?

The President’s point was that people should – every once in a while – just listen. Listen to what he says, think about it, and then decide if it’s what you believe or not. Listen to what his opponents say, think about it, and then decide if there’s any merit to the criticism.

We don’t do that, in part because we look at charts telling us what we’re supposed to think even as we’re listening to the point.

Fortunately, CNN didn’t show the pulse polling through the entire speech, otherwise I would have turned off the network for which I worked 16 years.

Let the President and his opponents finish making their cases. Then let’s discuss it. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

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