I’m not going to comment on President Obama’s State of the Union address except to say that I thought it was a very fine speech. I just want to make one small observation. Did you watch Speaker Paul Ryan during the speech? The Republican leader of the House never, ever applauded the president. He didn’t even stir himself for the most anodyne, feel-good applause lines the president could throw out. What does that tell you? Surely, Ryan knew that he would stir up a storm of protest within his own House caucus if he could be photographed apparently liking anything—anything—the president said. Another small piece of evidence of Republican craziness: Ryan, a genuinely radical right-wing ideologue, must heed the power and fury of the fanatics within his own party who suspect him capable sometimes of something resembling moderation.
OK, that does lead me to one critical comment that I just can’t help making: I almost gagged when Obama said that he regretted that he hadn’t been able to bring the parties together, that a more gifted uniter—a Lincoln or a Roosevelt—might perhaps been able to succeed. What a gratuitous concession to a Republican Party that has consistently made “compromise” a dirty word! Not to mention a weird interpretation of history: Lincoln was the president whose election brought on the civil war and Roosevelt was one of the most polarizing presidents of all time. (I assume Obama meant FDR, but TR was himself hardly a champion of kumbaya.)