How did president Barack Obama do in his State of the Union address Tuesday night? Guardian reporters and editors were watching, and have graded him on how he addressed some key issues in his speech.
Obama’s take on the current economy is too optimistic, putting a too-positive spin on unemployment, housing, and the chances that CEOs will fix anything. However, his proposals this time are specific and reachable, so that’s a big change from previous years. If he fails on any of these, he won’t have far to fall.
– Heidi Moore, finance and economics editor
Foreign policy and national security: D
Obama’s getting credit in the media for saying the bare minimum of things on foreign policy, like taking America off “permanent war footing”, but all he’s shown that to mean is winding down ground wars, one of which he massively escalated. All the authorities for global war, unbounded by time and space, remain. Obama missed a big chance to make a case to a hostile Congress that a diplomatic settlement with Iran is overwhelmingly in the US national interest, preferring a cautious defense of an interim Iran nuclear deal. He’ll have to move heaven and earth in Congress if he’s to pull off what would be the US’s biggest diplomatic breakthrough in 25 years.
– Spencer Ackerman, national security editor
Advocates of stronger gun policy can only be deeply disappointed in Obama’s address. It is not as if the central theme of the speech – income inequality – is unrelated, after all. The mass shootings the president referred to in his one mention of the issue may grab headlines, but activists know that it’s suicides and everyday gun violence that make up the vast majority of gun deaths – and, on a city-by-city basis, unemployment is the strongest predictor for high levels of firearm homicides. Waiting periods and stricter licensing could curb those tragedies, but neither are on the president’s agenda at the moment.
– Ana Marie Cox, political columnist
Obama virtually glossed over the subject, pointedly failing to mention his main objective: a pathway to citizenship for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
– Ed Pilkington, US chief reporter
Climate change and energy: C
Obama re-committed to his climate change plan of using the EPA to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and gave a forceful defence of climate science. But he undercut those moves by pushing the expansion of natural gas – which is also a fossil fuel. Recent studies have shown much higher emissions of methane, which is 80 times more powerful than CO2 over 20 years, undercutting its climate benefits. There are also real concerns that pushing natural gas will make it harder for renewables like solar and wind to find a bigger market share.
– Suzanne Goldenberg, environment correspondent